A few years ago on my birthday, I decided to drive to Vancouver for the day. I was staying in Blaine for work, and Vancuver is a one hour drive from Blaine. I was so excited to take this trip. I thought it would be fantastic. As it turned out, I felt stressed out for much of that day. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do everything and to enjoy doing everything. I saw the Museum of Anthropology, Granville Island and Stanley Park. My Facebook post and Instagram story made it look like I had, in fact, had an amazing day. But I encountered terrible traffic, got lost many times, was extremely hungry and unable to find a restaurant, and generally felt grouchy much of the day. It’s one thing to have a bad day when I’m home not doing anything special. It was worse to have a bad day on what was supposed to be an awesome day.
In addition to being disappointed, I judged myself for not being grateful for the opportunity to be in Vancouver, and not experiencing more joy on my birthday. These judgments created an added layer of unnecessary anxiety.
As I told the story to trusted friends, I was able to laugh about the situation and let go of my worry that I had not enjoyed the day as much as I should have. Yes, I had been stressed, but I could let it go and move on with my life. I could also learn from my experience. Now when I take vacation days I am more mindful to give myself a lot of down time and not try to pack too many activities into one day.
This week I listened to a podcast and read a newspaper article that offered new insight into my experience in Vancouver. The podcast is “Dare to Lead” with Brene Brown, with Episode title “Brene with Amy Cuddy on Pandemic Flux Syndrome.” The article is “Why this stage of the pandemic makes us so anxious” in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/08/11/pandemic-anxiety-psychology-delta/
Amy Cuddy talks about “affective forecasting errors.” The article states: “That phrase…refers to the human tendency to be reliably inaccurate when predicting the intensity and duration of our emotions after significant possible future life events, such as serious physical injuries, financial windfalls, or — let’s say — emerging from a global pandemic.”
I was very inaccurate in predicting how happy I would feel about visiting Vancouver for my birthday. I was expecting it to be transformatively satisfying, and when it wasn’t, I felt discomfort. The article explains that these kinds of letdowns can cause us to feel discomfort, and the discomfort can lead us towards anxiety and depression.
Just knowing about the idea of “affective forecasting errors” helps me feel more prepared to deal with the ups and downs of my emotions as we emerge from this pandemic. I hope it is a helpful idea for you also. Knowing that this pandemic is taking a toll on collective mental health can remind all of us to extend grace and kindness to one another.
Wherever you are in your emotional journey through the emergence from the pandemic, please know that you are not alone. You are sacred and worthy just as you are, and you are part of a loving and caring community. Remember to be gentle with yourself and one another. Remember to put on your own oxygen mask and practice self-care in the ways that you need. May we feel our loving connections to one another, and to something larger than ourselves, and may these connections sustain us through the ups and downs of our lives.