Why you should stop pressuring yourself to always have a good time in 2022

Last year I went to a festival where some of my favourite bands were playing. Day one was great, and day two – the day I’d been most excited for – fell flat.

My mood was slightly off, I felt unwell, I had lost my friends, and I was shaking from the cold and a poor outfit choice.

Sometimes, things don’t work out how you expect.

Pressure to feel good at the times you ‘should do’ or are ‘meant to’ can come from all angles: questionable friends, family, and even yourself.

Even if on paper the circumstances align with having fun, that doesn’t mean it’ll always match up to expectations.

The new year, for all its joys, will also bring bad mental health days, illness, inconveniences, work stress, overwhelm, anxiety and arguments.

So why not make this the year you relinquish the pressure to be, forever and always, having a good time?

I felt frustrated with myself once I came home from the festival. How could I have let those minor things ruin a day I’d been so looking forward to and that should have been excellent?

My memories of that day are as grey as the sky was – but that’s okay.

Caroline Plumer, psychotherapist and founder of CPPC London, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘There is absolutely nothing wrong with looking forward to something – in fact it can be a necessary way of motivating yourself to get through a difficult day, week or even year.

‘However, as soon as we begin putting unnecessary pressure on a situation, we can start to focus more on how we want to feel at the event (something we can’t always fully control), and forget to just be present and enjoy it as it happens.’

Counsellor Louise Tyler says this comes down to ‘predicting’ how things will go, rather than simply planning the logistics – one sets you up for more disappointment.

She says: ‘Remember that planning is different to predicting.

‘Predicting can go both ways – we can either fantasise about having an unrealistically perfect time, or catastrophise that things will go terribly wrong. Neither are realistic.      

‘Think about what is in your control: an organised plan, arranging when/where to meet friends, transport arrangements.

‘Predicting on the other hand is thinking about things over which you don’t have control, such as how amazing something’s going to be.’

How to get grounded:

Try these techniques when the pressure starts to mount.

Tapping

Hilda Burke, a psychotherapist, couples counsellor and author of The Phone Addiction Workbook, says: ‘It’s natural that we have certain expectations particularly around what we imagine as “peak” events – it could be a dream holiday, an engagement, graduation.

‘But sometimes how we feel on these occasions falls short of how we imagined we’ll feel. It’s not even necessarily that something “goes wrong” – everything could go spectacularly well but the emotion we experience as a result might not be how we expected to feel.

‘Tapping or the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), is a technique I share with my clients which is helpful to ground and stay present, accepting both the positive and negative of any given situation.

‘Tapping is best described as “emotional acupuncture” and can be done solo without a therapist or coach. There are many tapping videos on YouTube that can be useful to pick up the basic techniques.’

Mindfulness

Caroline Plumer, a psychotherapist, says: ‘Subtly focus on noticing and slowing your breathing.

‘Try breathing in for seven counts, then out for 11 counts a few times, followed by looking around and counting five things you can see, five things you can hear and five things you can feel – for example, your feet in your shoes, your watch on your wrist. This is a really great trick for focusing your attention back in the room.

‘If you’re out at a social engagement, really savour whatever you’re eating or drinking, and try to actively listen and engage with your companions.’

The last two years haven’t been ‘normal’ by any means, so there might be more pressure you’re applying on yourself to ‘make up for it’ or live up to fun post-lockdown expectations – especially if others around you are.

Andy Jones, from London, tells us: ‘I think social media and friendship groups constantly taking pictures can slightly remove the fun of a lot of nights out.’

Seeing a grid full of happy faces can intensify the urge to always be feeling good and make you question why you’re not on the same page.

It can be helpful to approach real life without hyping up the outcomes – where social media falls short.

Caroline says this can ‘mitigated potential disappointment’.

‘Weddings are a prime example of this,’ she says, ‘We are unhelpfully told that it should be the best day of our lives – and for some it truly is.

‘However, for many it’s a high stress day with lots to organise and lots of family politics, making it very difficult to have a great time. People don’t tend to share this side of it.

‘Equally if you attend an event but just aren’t feeling it for whatever reason, be kind to yourself about it.

‘Try and acknowledge that you aren’t always going to be in a great mood, and it’s not your job to be.

‘You have been to events that you’ve really loved before, so the evidence shows you’ll go to events that you’ll really love again, but in the meantime, you’re allowed an off day here and there.’

Louise says poor mental health can enhance these feelings and concerns, because someone with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, or other wellbeing issues, might see external happenings as direct reflections on themselves.

She adds: ‘Often those whose mental health isn’t robust, tend to personalise things. That means they feel responsible for others’ feelings and experiences, as well as make presumptions that other people’s behaviour is personal to them.

‘This can place high expectations on oneself.

‘Instead of seeing a night out as an external event, they may question everything. This can cause us to feel negative about the experience from the start.

‘It’s good to realise that most people’s behaviour is about themselves, they too are “surviving” the social experience in their own way (for some people that involves a veneer of overconfidence).’

Happiness is fleeting, as is sadness – and all of the emotions in between.

When you’re not having a good time over various points in the year, but it seems as though everyone else is, don’t beat yourself up over it.

Enjoying every second, while a noble pursuit, simply isn’t the human experience.

Switch up your thinking style:

There are positive and negative thinking styles – that latter being less helpful during times things go wrong, or even making it more likely that our moods will be off.

Louise Tyler, a counsellor, shares the styles you should both look out for in yourself and the ones you should try.

Positive thinking styles:

  • Looking for the grey area: People or situations are rarely all good or all bad. You’ll have great days and ordinary days.
  • Pattern recognition: Instead of generalising with statements such as ‘things always go wrong’ or ‘I’m a worrier’, start noticing patterns, such as ‘when I take on too much I tend to worry more’, or ‘when I’m tired I tend to catastrophise’.
  • Rainbow thinking: Instead of seeing things in black or white, rainbow thinking can be seen as taking a more flexible approach – accepting another person’s different perspective, agreeing to differ, not always getting an answer, having mixed feelings and emotions.
  • Balancing Fight/Flight with Rest/Digest: Many of us live our lives in ‘survival’ mode, racing from one life task to another, constantly calculating what needs to happen next or dwelling on what we could have done better. In fact, our performance actually suffers if we don’t allow ourselves downtime, rest and fun.
  • Strength based thinking: We worry about ‘what if’, but time and time again when faced with adversity we actually know exactly what to do.

Negative thinking styles:

  • Black and white thinking: ‘If it’s not perfect I’ve failed’. ‘Either I do it just right or not at all’. ‘They love me or they hate me’.
  • Disqualifying the positives: Only focussing on negative events. Minimising successes and strengths.
  • Fortune telling: Predicting overly negative outcomes, ruling out all the more likely realistic or positive outcomes.
  • Generalising: The story you tell yourself – ‘I’m always unlucky’ or ‘nothing ever goes right’ – despite evidence to the contrary.
  • Catastrophic thinking: Foreseeing the worst case scenario rather than the more likely less dramatic outcomes, such as ‘I’m going to completely mess up’, rather than ‘I’ll probably do okay’.
  • Low tolerance: Believing the tolerable is intolerable – underestimating own resilience, e.g. ‘I can’t cope’, ‘I’ll fall apart’. 

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