Have you ever hoped life would turn out differently? Has something you’d hoped for not panned out? We’d guess that most, if not all, of us are right there with you. Life is full of disappointments, large and small. In her new book, Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Life, and Love, life coach and author Christine Hassler gives a name to this phenomenon that occurs after you’re drunk on dreams that never materialize.
An “expectation hangover,” she explains, is the discomfort we experience when our reality does not match the expectations we attached to it. Whether you recently lost a job (or your dream gig isn’t that great after all), the man you thought was “the one” turned out not to be, or a pregnancy you wished for doesn’t happen, you’re likely to feel extremely unsettled, sad, and even hopeless. The key to overcoming and thriving after these tough times is how you deal with the “expectation hangover” you’re left with, Hassler says—and downing a greasy egg sandwich is not the answer.
Instead of continuing to feel emotionally hungover, you can break the cycle and use those tough times as a catalyst for change, Hassler explains. That’s not to say you can’t grieve over a loss or express disappointment: Allow yourself to be human, don’t judge yourself, and don’t feel like you need to “fix” things right away, she says. “But when life throws you a curve ball, you can learn from it and ultimately grow from it.” Here are three common scenarios that Hassler has seen—and has experienced herself—and how to cope with each.
1. A Relationship Ends
First of all, realize that no one else can be the source of your happiness, Hassler says. "The post-breakup period is a very important time to work on yourself rather than out-source that responsibility to someone else." Second, take off the rose-colored glasses. "A lot of people put their past relationships on a pedestal," she says. "But if a person breaks up with you, you don’t want to be with that person." And we know it’s tough, but you should stop all contact with your ex (unless you have children together).
"Relationships have expiration dates, just like the yogurt in your fridge," Hassler explains. Women tend to have these expectations that we are meant to meet someone, be chosen, be proposed to, and when that doesn’t happen, we feel like a failure. But that’s not true—you learned what you were supposed to learn from that person, you didn’t do anything wrong, but it was just meant to end. And remember: "A breakup is always a transformational door that opens to improve yourself and nurture your spirit."
2. A New Job Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be
At 25, Hassler had climbed the ranks in LA's entertainment industry, ending up in a big job with a big office, an assistant, an expense account, and power lunches. But she was miserable every day, and finally she quit, and eventually discovered her passion as a life coach. Ask yourself: If I don’t feel like my work is meaningful or it’s not making me feel the way I want to, how can I change it? It’s in your power to redirect your thoughts and action. Take someone who works at Starbucks: They could hate the drudgery of it and the early hours, or they could appreciate the aroma of coffee and the fact they get to connect with people all day long. “It’s all in the way you look at that, and you need to be proactive about it," she says.
3. You’re Not Reaching Your Health Goals
If you’re trying to lose weight, you know how frustrating it can be when the scale doesn't budge, or you skipped your workout (again). To overcome this pessimistic mindset, be mindful of the “story” that you’re telling yourself, Hassler says. “When people try to lose weight, they tend to have a negative self-image. They’re eating right and working out, but their negative self-talk is still weighing them down.” Plus, a big part of losing weight isn’t only physical—you have to heal your heartache or emotional baggage before you can make other physical changes, she notes.