Angry about COVID? Here’s how to cope

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By WVUA 23 News Reporter Jacyn Abbott

Between booster shots, vaccines, mask mandates, social distancing and ever-changing guidelines, you’re far from alone if hearing or seeing anything related to COVID-19 sends you into a mental tailspin.

UAB Clinical Psychologist Dr. Magan Hayes, who works with COVID-19 health professionals and front-line workers, hosted a question-and-answer panel regarding pandemic anger and burnout management Tuesday.

Hayes said anger is common among those who have survived the disease and those who are fighting it. That anger is valid, as is the feelings of frustration, fear and hopelessness.

“One thing I wanted to do was validate that it’s been a long haul,” Hayes said. “I think all of us thought things would look different by now. I think everyone was feeling hopeful in June, and with the most recent Delta surge it has been really hard on the health care professionals I work with, as well as the patients and their families.”

Just about everybody is struggling these days, she said, but there are some strategies you can use to help you cope.

  1. Realize it’s okay and even useful to be angry. Anger is an emotion, not a behavior, Hayes said. Its purpose is telling us when something isn’t right, but you can learn to respond to anger instead of reacting to it on pure emotions.
  2. Take a moment to respond instead of reacting. Hayes said behaving aggressively and bottling up the anger are linked to high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. When you get upset, take a moment and walk away. Find a small activity that allows you to be silly, creative, productive or active instead.
  3. Avoid continued rumination. Anyone facing an overload of information and misinformation is bound to get stuck in a quagmire. Hayes said she recommends using social media and the internet sparingly, because apps like Facebook are designed to make you want to spend more time on them.
  4. Remember to be thankful. Gratitude is the antidote to anger, Hayes said. It may not fix the situation at hand but will remind you that there are things to be grateful for.
  5. Practice radical acceptance. It is not agreeing with what is or has happened, but instead is accepting the uncontrollable. Set boundaries with family members and friends who have contradicting opinions and stick to them.

“I think that something that is really encouraging to those on the front line is that they have already made it through so much,” Hayes said. “Whether you are a front-line worker or a layperson, I think we have all experienced anger and frustration with this still going on.”

Lastly, Hayes said it’s important to realize you’re not alone and help is available if needed. Phoning a friend or family member to vent is perfectly acceptable, she said, as long as you return the favor some time.

Professional help is also available. Ask your doctor for a referral, or visit the emergency room if you believe you are a danger to yourself or others.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can help via online chat or over the phone. Call 1-800-273-8255 or click here.

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