As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise across Canada, the impact of the pandemic is being felt more deeply every day.
At least part of everyone's work, school or social lives has been changed significantly, and the uncertainty about how long these disruptions will last has caused profound fear and anxiety for many people.
Psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang joined CTV Morning Live on Thursday to talk about ways to cope with stress and negative emotions, and the importance of staying connected to loved ones while socially distancing. This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Jason Pires: What are you hearing from your patients?
Dr. Shimi Kang: Anxiety and fear is everywhere. It is natural and normal, and it's OK to feel scared for sure. But you also have to recognize that if you just stay in that emotion, it reduces our immune system, it makes us more susceptible, and it takes us out of our thinking brain into that reactive brain, which we don't want to be in right now. We need to be strategic and calm. So fear is going to be normal and we need to experience it but then let it pass and then work towards trying to stay calm.
Keri Adams: Everybody is feeling a sense of anxiety. But how do we know what a normal level of anxiety is?
Dr. Kang: Our bodies will really help us out here. So when we start to feel anxiety in our body, our heart rate gets going. We feel shaky, nervous, and symptoms of fatigue. Just generally really feeling overwhelmed, and tired or poor concentration. A lot of those are signals that we are probably taking on too much, and it's time for some self-care. Time to unplug from the topic or the news and really just take care of ourselves. Our body and mind are connected. So when we take care of one, we take care of the other.
Jason Pires: It's hard to figure out what the new normal is because things are changing on a daily basis. Whether to walk outside, is it safe? So how do we approach that mentally?
Dr. Kang: When it comes to social distancing, what we're looking for there is called physical distancing. We need to physically be separate, but we are social beings. We cannot be healthy and strong without social contact. So we do need to look at each other. We need to hear each other's voices. We need to connect in meaningful ways. We need to have fun together. This is all part of what keeps humans healthy. Thankfully we have technology that can help us do that. If you're living with a family or loved ones, then it's time to spend more time interacting with them in meaningful ways. And call your friends and families and to keep up that social connection.
For more of Dr. Kang's tips on how to deal with anxiety during the pandemic, including breathing techniques and how to use technology to stay connected with loved ones, watch the full interview: https://bc.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1924990