How to Manage Anger During the Coronavirus Crisis
With COVID-19 impacting our routines and turning daily life upside down, it’s easy to get angry at the present restrictions. How can we manage anger during the crisis?
Turn on the news. Scroll through your favorite social media platform. Talk with your family and friends. It won’t take too long until you notice some anxiety. Maybe some uncertainty and gloomy predictions. Every once in a while, some encouragement and good news.
Then, all of a sudden, there it is:
Maybe it’s from you. Maybe it’s from others. But it probably exists in everyone right now—in one way or another.
Is it really unexpected though? Are these joyous and happy realities?
- Losing our job for the foreseeable future and having to rely on unemployment benefits (if we can get them).
- Taking a pay cut or significantly changing how we do our jobs for the foreseeable future.
- Seeing news updates showing national and local elected officials all arguing about what’s the best thing to do, and all blaming each other for making things worse.
- Having to take on the role of primary educator for our children, when we were happy having the professionals in that role.
- Having friends and family say we shouldn’t take this all so seriously. And having other friends and family say we should take this all more seriously.
- Being restricted by stay-at-home orders that limit social contact and weekly routines to the point that children are climbing the walls … going stir crazy … feeling cabin fever. (Personal experience here.)
- Realizing that events like this are weathered fairly well by the “haves” and are generally catastrophic to the “have nots.”
- Being unable to visit loved ones in nursing homes or get together in groups with friends.
- Needing essentials like toilet paper and hand soap, only to find that the closest store with these essentials in stock is in a small town in the middle of Montana.
- Oh, and adding this deadly new contagious virus to the flu and all the others we already knew about.
The list surely goes on. Can realities such as these be dismissed merely as complaining and whining? Perhaps yes for some (who have the resources to ride this out), but no for others (who don’t have those resources).
For the majority of us, though, these realities are enough to make us … well, mad (at least at times).
Ways to deal with anger during the crisis
What do we do with the anger that comes from the overwhelming helplessness of being at the mercy of an invisible virus, confusing media coverage, government orders, a besieged economy and panic hoarding?
Here are some things we can do:
1. Broaden our perspective of what we can control and how we think about it.
With so much we cannot control, proactively doing more that we can control aids in battling the helplessness that can lead to anger. This does not mean hoarding physical supplies such as toilet paper (which asserts control in a selfish manner). It means finding what we can do more of to regain some of the control that we have lost. Here are some examples:
- Set up new routines you can control. Instead of retreating to anger (or addictive/compulsive behaviors, which are also aggravated by feelings of helplessness), set up new routines that foresee and deal with what might lead to anger (Proverbs 22:3). Some ideas of things to do include:
- Scheduling some “alone time” for thought, meditation, study, etc. (especially with everyone sticking around the house a lot more than ever before).
- Allowing yourself a specific amount of time (but no more) each day to research things you are concerned about. Don’t allow a large percentage of your day to be consumed by TV news coverage of the situation—which largely just repeats and talks about the same facts over and over again.
- Reframe the “negative” experiences of this crisis into “positives.” The apostle Paul tells us to “rejoice always” and “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18). We can apply Paul’s words through this crisis. We can fight anger with positive thoughts like these:
- I can finally use the free weights collecting dust in my basement and start getting in better shape.
- I have time to make small home repairs that I’ve been putting off.
- I can text, email, call or video chat with old friends and family I haven’t communicated with in years.
- I can use the extra time to read a book I’ve been meaning to read for months (or years). I have time to go through clutter that has been accumulating in my closets and basement and get rid of it,
2. Accept and acknowledge that none of us can control everything, but God can.
What about the stuff we cannot control? By putting the first point into practice, we can focus on the positive things we can control. However, there are still plenty of things we will have absolutely no control over. How do we deal with the anger that comes from feeling so powerless? Here are a few ideas:
- Remind yourself that nearly everyone else is in the same situation, experiencing the same frustrations and limitations. Unrighteous anger can sometimes make us think “everything happens to me!” But, in fact, everything happens to everybody (1 Peter 5:9). Everybody has a story about loss, about misfortune, about tragedy and especially about how COVID-19 is negatively affecting them. This doesn’t invalidate our feelings of helplessness, but can guide us into seeking support and a warm listening ear from people who understand what we are going through, but maybe in a different way.
God is fully aware of the situation and understands our frustrations and our strong emotions. We can practice the wisdom Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” There is no better way to deal with anger.
We can use this as a perfect opportunity to practice the virtue of patience and imitate Jesus Christ. This is a time when exercising character is important.