In view of the COVID-19 crisis, CSPL is committed to providing short and practical papers, podcasts and possibly webinars. All will be available on the CSPL website in a special COVID-19 section. Useful national and international links will also be available on the website. Info overload is the last thing we need, so we will keep it short, minimal, and although everything will be evidence-based, we will keep references to an absolute minimum. If you have specific needs, please let us know. Stay well, and be kind.

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COVID-19 cannot take away our freedom to choose

J. Van Aerde, MD, PhD, FRCPC

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl explains that, although Nazi captors could control his entire environment, only he could decide how it was going to affect him. Despite the external situation (stimulus), he had the freedom and power to choose his response (Fig. 1). He had response-ability, the ability to choose, the human freedom that no one can take away. This short bulletin explains how we can apply this concept during the COVID-19 crisis.

As leaders, we can be proactive or reactive. Proactive leaders consciously choose their response-ability. Reactive people do not recognize that ability and are often affected by their physical environment, including what others might think about them. External conditions or stimuli control them, their thinking, feelings, and behaviour.

Reactivity and proactivity are often reflected in our language (Table 1). Reactive people seem to talk as if they are absolved from any response-ability, while proactive leaders use language that encourages self and others to look at other possibilities.

Reactive language can become self-fulfilling when people believe they are trapped in a particular paradigm or situation and then produce the evidence (in their mind) to support that belief. This increases a sense of inadequacy and helplessness and a feeling of being victimized, without control over one’s life and destiny. As a result of reactive language and behaviour, people blame themselves or others for the situation and adopt accusing attitudes.

In contrast, proactive people subordinate those feelings to values and purpose, creating possibilities for action. It is important that we use proactive language, not only for ourselves, but also for those we work and interact with during this COVID-19 crisis. Only then will we continue to see creatively what else is possible.

How to discover what you can control, what you can influence, and what you should let go of is the content of bulletin 4.

Johny Van Aerde, MD, PhD, FRCPC, is editor-in-chief of the Canadian Journal of Physician Leadership and executive medical director of the Canadian Society of Physician Leaders.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl explains that, although Nazi captors could control his entire environment, only he could decide how it was going to affect him. Despite the external situation (stimulus), he had the freedom and power to choose his response (Fig. 1). He had response-ability, the ability to choose, the human freedom that no one can take away. This short bulletin explains how we can apply this concept during the COVID-19 crisis.

In contrast, proactive people subordinate those feelings to values and purpose, creating possibilities for action. It is important that we use proactive language, not only for ourselves, but also for those we work and interact with during this COVID-19 crisis. Only then will we continue to see creatively what else is possible.

This COVID-19 Physician Wellness podcast is part two of the first of a series of podcasts aimed at assisting physicians cope in this difficult time. Dr. Curtis Johnston, Edmonton Zone Deputy Medical Director, and Dr. Debrah Wirtzfeld, Associate Chief Medical Officer, Physician Health, Diversity & Wellness, speak about the impact social isolation and social media can have on wellness.