I have found that one of the best techniques I have learned with dealing with extreme stress or anxiety is placing no expectations on anything. When I made a conscious effort to stop doing that, I realized how often we live our lives with an idea of how things should go. Even if it is simple as picking up coffee or doing laundry, I try to not expect anything to happen.
In order to recognize how many expectations you have you must know what a true expectation is. An expectation is a strong belief that an event will go a certain way. For example if you study for a long time, you expect to receive a good grade in that class. Or if you go to Starbucks you might expect that they will spell your name right. This is A to B thinking. If I do A, then B will happen. However, as anyone who has lived on this earth long enough can tell you, many things do not go as planned. I have done terrible on tests that I've studied for hours on. One time my name was spelled as "Louse" instead of Lauren. But with A to B thinking we become upset when the results give us a C or a D instead of that B.
This is where the problem with A to B thinking occurs with our expectations. Those who suffer from any mental illness or even just regular self doubt can turn this into a downward spiral. For instance someone with depression could easily say, well if I had done A better I would have gotten B. Or if I was better I would have been able to do this better. It is easier to turn on themselves and blame personal failings as the reason they did not get the results they had wished for. Those with anxiety or compulsive thinking may instead repeatedly do action "A" to gain the results, "B." Oftentimes, this way of thinking means it takes a longer time to accept that B will not always be the end result. However, I am not trying to say that if you first fail you must give up.
When it comes to anything in life, and especially when you are constantly striving for something better, giving up is not even one of my considerations. However a few years ago I came to the conclusion that "B" does not always happen because of "A." Sometimes, no matter how hard I try and work things will not live up to my expectations. I stopped expecting my birthdays to be amazing. I stopped expecting to always get an A in classes. I stopped expecting the barista to know how to spell my name. Instead I let things just happen. I treat them as surprises, and if I was hoping for one thing or another, I try not to be upset with the results. In a way I'm like a kid again, I never know what's going to happen next.
By leaving behind my expectations I feel as if I am able to enjoy things more often. I don't have the pressure of always getting the results I think I deserve. Now when I study for my big test or rewrite my papers for the 12th time, I don't do it expecting an A. I try to take pride in my work and enjoy what I'm learning and not trying to get the highest grade. I stopped trying to play to win, and just play. Letting go of expectations has allowed me to stop blaming myself for things out of my control. I can watch a new movie and not be upset when it was not very good.
I still get disappointed at times, however it is easier for me to not automatically assume fault when bad things just happen. I highly suggest this technique for anyone who struggles with feeling they don't have control over their life, or that they are constantly being disappointed, or that even that they themselves are a disappointment. The magic behind no expectations is freedom.