Anger in the time of COVID-19
Mamta Gautam, MD, MBA, FRCPC, CCPE, CPE
There seems to be more tension as frustrations turns into anger, as if people are “fraying at the edges.” To some extent, anger is normal, natural, and perhaps even necessary. However, it is not always helpful or healthy. Top
Understanding the anger
There are many reasons why people are feeling angry during the current pandemic. It helps to understand that physicians may be experiencing any or all of the following.
Managing your anger
Although anger is an understandable response to the pandemic, too much is damaging and disruptive to you and those around you. Use my ABCs — allow, burn, calm — to settle down.
o Understand where they might be coming from.
o Give yourself permission to be angry. Studies show that 20 minutes is long enough to feel emotions, process them, and let them go.
o Express feelings safely, by “venting” to a trusted person or privately writing them out.
o Try the four-letter technique. Write a letter (that you will not send) to whomever you are angry at to let out your feelings. When the feelings bubble up again, write a second letter as if you had not written the first, then a third and fourth as needed. Remember, these are not letters that you will ever send.
o Resist the urge to express your anger on social media.
Managing the anger of others
As a leader, people come to you to share how they feel and to seek your help when they are frustrated or angry. The following tips may help you approach this situation effectively.
Agree with what you can; find a fact that is true or agree that they are feeling.
Acknowledge the impact of this on them.
Apologize for the situation they are experiencing.
Act with compassion to help address the underlying issues or need.
As leaders, the ability to manage our anger and that of others, master our responses, and lead in a thoughtful and balanced manner helps our team feel supported and secure and creates a culture of safety that is especially critical during this time of uncertainty.
1. Gautam M. Dealing with anger: the four As. Can J Physician Leadersh 2015:1(4):10-2.
If you’ve been feeling surrounded by more angry people lately, you are not alone. As the initial intensity of preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated enthusiasm and adrenaline settles, I am also noticing a rise in anger. In the past week, I have been approached by five hospitals across the country to help deal with conflicts. Surgeons are angry in the OR because it is taking longer to prepare, set up the OR, and don PPE. Colleagues are angry with peers who fear exposure to the virus and are resisting return to work. Physicians are angry because the new schedule appears to favour the scheduler and their friends.