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Opening the Doors to Healthier and Stress-Free Living

A Column by Alice Abbott-Moore,
Content Access/Information Delivery Teams, Ekstrom Library

Breathe Easier with Realistic Expectations

Stress can occur at any given time. It waits ever so patiently. A lot of stress is self-imposed with our own expectations and with so much going on. Setting realistic expectations and using proper breathing techniques can relieve a lot of stress.


What kind of expectations do you have of yourself? How well do you know yourself? Are there areas of your life that you expect the best of yourself? No one feels great about himself or herself all of the time. Everyone has his or her "ups and downs." A realistic expectation of who you are and your positive characteristics can offer hints to the good aspects of yourself. No one is perfect. Anyone expecting perfection will inevitably be disappointed. Set realistic expectations by knowing yourself, listening to your own messages and communicating with others.

Some of us carry around parental messages of who we should be. Sometimes these messages are negative and can hinder us as we strive to reach our potential. The best a person can do is to be honest about expectations. This can be very difficult since it is hard to separate parental messages from our own because over time they can become so enmeshed. However, with practice, such separation and awareness become easier.

Do you expect a lot from others? One of the biggest problems with having expectations of others is failing to let them know what we expect. We assume that others will read our minds and know what we expect from them. Good communication is the key; we must let people know what we expect from them.

Make a list of your positive attributes. Are you interested in other people? Do you listen well? Do you have a sense of humor? Do you try to learn new things? Do you have a lot of patience? By becoming aware of your positive traits and setting realistic goals, you can strive to do your best and expect the best from yourself.

Deep Breathing

When life gets too much for your and stress sets in, it sure helps to relax. When one is stressed, one’s muscles become tense and breathing becomes shallow and rapid. One of the easiest and best ways to stop such activity is to breathe deeply and slowly. It sounds so very simple, but most people do not breathe deeply under normal circumstances.

Our stress response stems from the days of prehistoric humans when they were in danger of attack. When such danger occurred prehistoric humans’ muscles tensed and their breathing became rapid and shallow. This type of response is called "Fight or Flight." The high level of tension prepared out ancestors for whichever route they chose to survive. Today, our causes of stress are different yet we have the same type of stress response. Since we do not usually respond to such tension by running or fighting, the tension builds. With no release, we because "stressed out." One way to counter act the stress response is to breathe deeply and slowly.

Breathing this way is not natural for most adults, but it is natural for babies. If you watch a baby sleeping, you see that the area beneath the chest goes in and out. Most adults breath from the chest; this is shallower breathing which requires less oxygen. As a result, the blood is forced to move through the system quickly so that enough oxygen can get to the brain and organs, causing higher blood pressure. Deep breathing can reverse these effects and can be done anytime of the day. It helps to have loose fitting clothing and can be done sitting, standing or lying down.

Deep breathing:


So get to know yourself, reassess your expectations, and breathe deeply. Your life will be much less stressful.

Caritas Peace Center, "Expect the Best: Setting Realistic Expectations." Emeryville, CA, Parlay International, 1989.

Caritas Peace Center, "Take a deep breath…and relax." Emeryville, CA, Parlay International, 1989.

Please note that this article is not intended to replace any medical, psychological or spiritual care.