It’s late on a Tuesday night, and you go through your usual routine. You go through your social media, blocking anyone who has posted an ecstatic selfie. You check and double-check your state’s eligibility requirements. Perhaps you are monitoring your state’s daily immunization count; maybe you have the page bookmarked.
If this describes you, you may have symptoms of craving for vaccine. This condition is characterized by jealousy, anger or frustration at the fact that so many people – but not you! – have already received vital protection against Covid-19. Yes, President Biden announced that all Americans will be eligible for the vaccine by May 1. But after a year, waiting for the last few weeks or months seems to be the most difficult of all.
Being stressed is a normal response. Psychologists call this “painful uncertainty”. It is a unique aggravating condition associated with life changing situations where you have no control over the outcome. It’s also quite common, as anyone who’s been waiting for a positive pregnancy test or a job interview reminder can tell you.
Dr Kate Sweeny is a psychology researcher who runs the Life Events Lab at the University of California at Riverside and studies on hold in painful uncertainty. “Many aspects of this pandemic have been fraught with uncertainty,” she said on a phone call to WIRED. “While it doesn’t necessarily sound like waiting for a medical test result, uncertainty is uncertainty, and it’s hard to deal with. The vaccine article just added another layer of uncertainty to what was already a very large sandwich of uncertainty.
Manage your expectations
Most people believe that managing your expectations means choosing to be optimistic or pessimistic – that one can only believe in a positive outcome or be prepared for bad news. But you don’t have to do either. You can do both at the same time or change how you feel over time. Techniques for dealing with positive and negative expectations have their advantages.
Positive management of expectations, or optimism about when you might get the vaccine, is the strategy most of your friends and family hope you will pursue. If your hopes are high, you will probably continue healthy behaviors, like eating well and getting in shape for a summer of sun, biking and barbecues. However, if these positive expectations are disappointed, you might feel worse than before.
“People tend to change their expectation management strategy over time, and it’s a good thing when we do that,” Sweeny said. “When you’re far enough away from a moment of truth, people are pretty optimistic on average. As we get closer, people start to prepare for the worst. “
Everyone lives in their own pandemic, with their own family situation, their work and the directives of the state. But at this point, it is certain that you will have the vaccine in a few months if you want to. If you start to get worse, it’s for an understandable reason. “It feels pretty bad right now because we’re nearing the end,” Sweeny said.
Look for social support carefully
Effective vaccines can predict the end of the pandemic. But there is still uncertainty: will you be able to get an appointment? Will you suffer from side effects? When will children get it and when will herd immunity be achieved? As a social human, I turn to my fellow human beings when I am in distress. However, when you wait in painful uncertainty, it’s hard to know what help you need.
Your friends and family may be able to help you when you are grieving or share your joy when you are happy, but waiting in painful uncertainty does not have an accepted social scenario. Do you want your friends to be upbeat and upbeat? Or would it help to make them more realistic as to when you will get the photo? Poor social support can be ineffective or worse.