Patients' efforts to manage their expectations can help calm anxiety. Asking your surgeon how long you can expect to experience pain following a procedure helps prevent you from wondering and worrying about why you are sore or how long your pain will last.
But what if nobody can predict what's going to happen or how you are going to feel? Pushing your physician to predict the unpredictable is an exercise in futility. Instead of calming your anxiety, your efforts may exacerbate your distress.
Your inability to predict doesn't mean you are powerless. In these cases, managing your expectations -- preparing yourself psychologically and emotionally -- can be achieved by being prepared for anything.
When I submit a manuscript for review, instead of trying to predict the response, I prepare myself for anything from glowing praise to criticism that puts the kibosh on the project.
If being evaluated for a medical problem, I don't waste time and energy trying to predict the test results. Instead, I help myself with self-talk that revolves around, "Wendy, be prepared for anything."
Sometimes that attitude meant taking steps to help prepare for the various outcomes. For example, I'd ask friends to be "on call" to care for my children in case my doctor visit lasted longer or was more upsetting than expected. If everything went well, we celebrated. If not, my preparations freed me to deal with my situation without worrying about my children.
Healthy Survivors manage their expectations in healing ways.