Addressing pandemic anger: a Presbyterian psychiatrist’s perspective

Frank Alexander Clark
Photo by James Adams on Unsplash

Family and friends, we live in extraordinary times. The pandemic wilderness of Greek alphabet variant soup is palpable and unrelenting. The global carnage seems to be breaking news daily, leading to periods of desensitized hearts. Avoidance has become our friend. Science is tainted with political greed that is highly virulent. The mental health struggles of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation present themselves in droves. It’s no wonder why our souls have become insulated with the colloquial term “pandemic anger.”

Anger is a natural human emotion. I experienced it recently after learning that three of my family members tested positive for COVID-19; My worst fear as a healthcare provider during this pandemic became a reality. As a psychiatrist, I witness firsthand the physical and psychological sequalae of this deadly virus. My favorite coping mechanisms of prayer, writing poetry and exercise help me to process these feelings, but I still feel exasperated at times. Even those with the healthiest coping mechanisms are not immune to the contagious, infectious variants of pandemic anger. We are all perfectly imperfect and in need of God’s antibodies of grace, mercy and forgiveness.

I would like to touch on one of the more prominent variants of pandemic anger that we have been exposed to recently: poor frustration tolerance. It is not uncommon to have a short fuse these days. Our stress levels are like cups that have overflowed. We may see this play out in our relationships at home, in the workplace and in our faith communities. I have observed that communities struggling with poor frustration tolerance are unable to validate each other’s perspectives and life experiences, agree to disagree respectfully, practice cognitive flexibility and meet people where they are.

So how can we achieve herd immunity from pandemic anger? I propose the following CDC (Compassionate Devoted Collaborators) guidelines/safety protocols to help in our healing:

Be mindful of your emotions/feelings and respond accordingly. (Ephesians 4:26)

Be open to the power of someone else’s narrative. Be respectful of people’s choices, even if they don’t align with your belief system. (James 1:19)

Be conduits of love and unity while deliquescing division. (Romans 8:38-39)

Be faithful prayer warriors in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Be clothed with masks that capture droplets of love and kindness. (Colossians 3:12)

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of epic proportions. It will continue to replicate and make its presence known. I pray that we remember that God hears our moans and cries. God is faithful and will transform our wilderness of anger into a harvest of unwavering reflection.

May the God of love rid you of the variants of anger that plague grieving hearts. May the Holy Spirit breathe particles of hope for fatigued lungs. May the Prince of Peace serve as the beacon of hope for flummoxed minds. Amen.