Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice empowering patients Healthy Living Relationships

This pandemic has put our relationships to the test

by Davidicus Wong, M.D. February 21st, 2021

The pandemic has put many of our relationships to the test.

To reduce the spread of infections, we’ve had to connect with our friends at a distance, virtually by phone, text, social media or video. 

The elderly have been hit hard by both the virus itself and the social isolation required to reduce its spread. 

Many in our community feel shut in. Family and friends may be able to drop off groceries at the door, but the close presence of others for those hours we once took for granted are sorely missed. Some have no family nearby to help. Many have become depressed, missing the last remaining pleasures of a long life. 

One thing my wife (and our dog) have appreciated most is that our kids are home all the time. They’ve been able to study and work from home. No matter what my workday brings, I’ve enjoyed our family dinners, evenings and weekends together.

But I know, this has not been a blessing to others, who may feel trapped in their own homes. Difficulties in family relationships may be amplified by confinement at home. 

Others struggle to find shelter during these cold winter days and nights. The homeless are more vulnerable to mental and physical illness in addition to COVID-19. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with relationships or difficult emotions, talk to your family doctor who can support you and connect you to resources in our community. Burnaby Family Life offers counselling to women who have experienced trauma due to abuse and violence and to children and youth who have witnessed domestic violence or any type of abuse. Check their website at burnabyfamilylife.org or phone (604) 659-2200.

Cameray Child and Family Services is a community-based agency committed to the strengthening of individuals and families through a spectrum of services including counselling, education, outreach and advocacy. Check their website at cameray.ca or call (604) 546-9449.

Burnaby Neighbourhood House offers a wide range of programs, services and events (vitually during the pandemic) bringing together community members of all ages and backgrounds in a positive and supportive environment. Check their website at burnabynh.ca or call (604) 431-0400 for South Burnaby and (604) 294-5444 for North Burnaby. 

In Burnaby, our community organizations have been are working together throughout the pandemic through our Primary Care Network. To discover a variety of resources available for those in need, check burnabycoronavirus.com.

I’ll be giving a free online talk on The Positive Potential of Our Relationships at 7 pm on Thursday, February 25th, 2021. As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program, I’ll be sharing practical ways to foster healthy relationships and social connections during this pandemic and beyond.

For more information, please check https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients or email Leona Cullen at lcullen@divisionsbc.ca

Categories
empowering patients Friendship Growth Happiness Love Parenting Relationships

What We Learned From The Pandemic: Relationships Matter Most

One day (that I hope will be soon), we’ll be together with dear friends and family, sharing long overdue embraces. We’ll catch up on all that we’ve missed and share stories of how we survived. 

Someone will ask, “What did you learn during the pandemic?”

What will you say? What have you learned?

“I learned how to wear a face mask.” “We learned that we should have been wearing them all along.” 

“I learned how to wash my hands – over and over and over again.”

“I learned how to shop and order dinner online.”

“I learned to Zoom.” “I learned to unmute myself when I had to speak, and I learned to mute and turn off my camera when I had to go to the bathroom.”

“I learned that my colleague wasn’t having a bad hair day when her camera was off throughout our strategic planning session. She was catching up on emails.”

“I learned how well I could look after my patients by phone and video, while recognizing that virtual health is no substitute for a thorough physical exam.”

“I learned that video is terrible for looking at rashes and that most people can’t take focused photos of the moles they are worried about.”

“I learned that my coworker has a cat.”

But the most important lesson of this pandemic is the recognition of what really matters in our lives. What have you missed the most?

Sure we missed celebrating holidays, dining out, going to parties, window shopping, going to the mall, travelling to new places, eating popcorn in a movie theatre, dancing and attending live entertainment. 

But what really matters – what we’ve missed the most – are the people who make life itself enjoyable and meaningful. 

When this pandemic is finally over, the world will celebrate and we will party even more than we did in 1999. We will have each compiled an impressive post-pandemic “to do” list.

But we will have learned that our new priority will be our “to be with” list.

At the end of the day, at the end of this pandemic and at the end of life, what matters most are the special people in our lives. The relationships we’ve neglected and taken for granted for many years deserve our attention each day.

Our distractions have changed as we’ve coped with this global crisis. My hope is that we will never forget the greatest lesson of the pandemic. 

We need one another. We each need to feel understood, valued and loved. We need to express our love by being present, listening well, speaking with kindness and acting generously. We need to embrace our loved ones.

I’ll be giving a free online talk on The Positive Potential of Our Relationships at 7 pm on Thursday, February 25th, 2021. As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program, I’ll be sharing practical ways to foster healthy relationships and social connections.

For more information, please check https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients or email Leona Cullen at lcullen@divisionsbc.ca

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician.

For more on achieving your positive potential in health, read his blog at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.

Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice Empowering Healthcare empowering patients Screening Tests

While you’re surviving the pandemic, don’t forget these screening tests

While the pandemic remains a topic of daily concern, we’ve witnessed the more silent epidemics of social isolation, mental illness and drug overdoses. I’m bracing for a tsunami of preventable cancers and diseases.

Share this post with your near and dear, and we may just prevent that tsunami.

Most of us haven’t seen our family doctors since the start of the pandemic. Most telehealth calls are reactive (in response to acute symptoms) as opposed to the foundational preventive and proactive approaches to your health.

I’ve included a short list of recommended screening tests designed to diagnose problems early while they are more manageable and in many cases curable.

Screening tests are recommended for the early detection and treatment of particular medical conditions in individuals of average risk and no symptoms. For example, the stool or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is recommended as a screen for colon cancer for adults over 50 to 74 years of age every two years. If it is positive (indicating a source of bleeding in the large intestine), the next test is usually a colonoscopy (in which a flexible scope is inserted into the anus and used to see and remove polyps and other growths in the large intestine).
However, if an older adult has obvious blood in his stools, his physician will likely arrange a colonoscopy without the need for a positive stool occult blood test. If another individual with no symptoms has a family history of colon cancer, the first surveillance colonoscopy should begin at an age 10 years before the age at which the relative was diagnosed. For example, if a woman’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 52 and her sister was diagnosed at age 48, she should have her first colonoscopy at age 38.
These are the screening tests for other conditions:

High Blood Pressure: For adults 18 and older, blood pressure should be measured at every appropriate medical visit (e.g. annually) and of course this has not been possible during the pandemic. Most drug stores have removed their blood pressure machines due to infection risks. Once hypertension or high blood pressure is identified, the patient and doctor will discuss the appropriate frequency of rechecking blood pressure. For a list of reliable home blood pressure monitors, check the Hypertension Canada website https://hypertension.ca

Cervical Cancer: The pap smear is a sample of cervical cells taken during a pelvic examination, but please note that a pap smear is not necessarily done with every pelvic exam, which may have been necessary for pelvic pain or a possible infection. A woman should always clarify with her physician what tests were done during each examination. Women should start pap smears at age 25 and continue at a frequency of every three years (or more frequently depending on the recommendations of the B.C. Cancer Agency which interprets the pap smears and sends reports to the physician). Women 70 years and older may stop screening after 3 successive normal paps in the previous 10 years.

Diabetes: The fasting glucose blood test was formerly recommended as the screening test for adults over age 40. The confirmatory test was the two-hour 75 gm glucose tolerance test. The newest recommendation is the Hb a1c blood test only in high risk and very high risk patients based on the FINDRISC or CANRISK calculators. Those found to be high risk for diabetes should be screened every 3 to 5 years; those at very high risk every year.

Breast Cancer: Monthly self-examinations and annual clinical examinations by physicians are no longer recommended. Screening mammograms are now the only remaining screening test and the Canadian guidelines recommend them every 2 years in women from age 50 to 74.

Prostate Cancer: The standard screening test is the annual DRE (digital rectal examination). Don’t be fooled by the name; it’s not high tech imaging. It’s high touch with your doctor’s gloved finger checking the size and shape of the prostate. The PSA (prostate specific antigen) is a blood test to detect levels of a protein produced by the prostate. It may be elevated by benign enlargement of the prostate or by prostate cancer. It is not generally recommended as a routine screening test, but each man should discuss the value of this test with his family physician as it has to be interpreted in conjunction with the rectal examination. An abnormal PSA may result in investigations and treatment that may cause more harm than a slow growing prostate cancer that may not otherwise affect the patient. 

Call your family doctor today, if you’re due for a screening test. 

I’ll be giving a free online talk on The Positive Potential of Our Relationships at 7 pm on Thursday, February 25th, 2021. As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program, I’ll be sharing practical ways to foster healthy relationships and social connections.

For more information, please check https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients or email Leona Cullen at lcullen@divisionsbc.ca

Please note that these screening tests are based on the current consensus guidelines in Canada. Ask your own primary healthcare provider, which screening tests are appropriate for you, your personal medical history and your family history.

On Monday, February 1st, I spoke on Global News: Health Series: Regular annual checkups and screening tests 

Categories
Empowering Healthcare empowering patients Healthy Living Positive Change Positive Potential Preventive Health

Give a Gift to Your Future Self

In the Prepandemic era, the weeks following the holidays were once the time to buy for yourself the gifts you didn’t get. These were usually material things that we wanted at the time. 

I’d like you to think about one special person very close to you that you may have forgotten during the holidays: your future self.

We all tend to make decisions each day from the perspective of our present desires and short term goals. Too often we neglect our future selves.

We also don’t realize how different our lives and values will be in the future. If you’re a grown up, you know you are not the same person you were 15 years ago. How have your relationships, goals and sense of self changed over the years?

At the same time, we underestimate our capacity to change in the future. 

Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, calls this “The End of History” illusion. He says, “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they are finished.”

People with a fixed mindset, as defined by Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, are defined by who they are at the present moment. They are “trapped in the tyranny of now” and this influences the stories they tell themselves and how they deal with negative events and failure. 

With a fixed mindset, when we fail in any of life’s challenges, such as passing a test, getting a promotion or learning a new skill, we attribute failure to personal qualities that we assume will never change. We might label ourselves as dumb, not good at math or just not good enough. It can make us give up.

The opposite is the growth mindset with which we see ourselves as always in a state of growing, learning and becoming. With this perspective, we learn and grow from setbacks. 

If you want to be happier today and in the future, look at yourself and others with this growth mindset. In spite of the pandemic, the bad behaviour of some and the terrible events in the news, we can hope and work today for a better future. Our society will continue to grow and evolve, and we collectively have the ability to create that better future.

Lets begin today, with own our future selves. In what ways do you steal from your future self for expedience or gratification today? Making bad food or substance choices? Sitting alone in front of the TV or computer instead of calling up a good friend or going for a walk?

On the other hand, in what ways do you invest in your future self with positive, life-affirming and prosocial actions? 

Think about the kind of person you would like to be a year or five years from now: healthier and happier with more satisfying relationships. 

How will you invest your time, attention and energy today to be that person? In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear says that every action today is a vote for the person you want to become. 

I’ll be giving a free online talk on The Keys to Positive Change at 7 pm on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021. As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program, I’ll share practical tips for improving your wellbeing and making positive changes that last. These are the secrets that my patients and I have successfully used to transform new habits into healthy routines that stick. 

For more information, please check https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients  over the next few weeks or email Leona Cullen at lcullen@divisionsbc.ca

Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice Empowering Healthcare empowering patients Positive Change Positive Potential Preventive Health

The Keys to Positive Change: Transforming Our Bad Habits Into Healthy Ones

I’m giving a free online presentation on The Keys to Positive Change: Transforming Our Bad Habits Into Healthy Ones.Please share this with anyone who may benefit. 

7 pm Tuesday, January 19th, 2021


Zoomregistration:

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_U8NO1FA3TOSWJPVuTncQaw

Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice COVID 19 Empowering Healthcare empowering patients Relationships Your Goals

A New Resolve for Pandemic Resolutions

If you like I made New Year’s Resolutions for 2020, you had the best excuse for not keeping them up beyond March.

The pandemic – and the never-ending upheavals to even our healthiest routines – sabotaged most of our plans, rearranged our goals and robbed us of many of the joys of daily life.

At this time, in any other year, I would sit down with my wife and children to review the old calendar. I would invariably be surprised with what has happened in the span of just one year. The media recapitulates the big world events with retrospective spins, but what matters most to you and me are our personal experiences.

This year was totally different.

We missed out on celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and other events that would normally bring us together; time spent with family and friends; plays and musicals seen with my wife – all cancelled indefinitely due to the necessary restrictions of the pandemic.

Before moving on to a New Year, we would ask, “What are we most grateful for?”

In contrast to the disruptions to our lives, the terrible impact on the physical, emotional and social wellbeing of so many of us, and the lives lost during this world-wide health crisis, there were redeeming actions taken by many for which I am grateful.

So many individuals and organizations, recognizing those who have been most impacted by the pandemic and the necessary public health restrictions, worked individually and collectively to reduce those burdens.

If you have reached out to a neighbour, an elderly family member or families struggling with social isolation and the financial burden of the pandemic, I thank you.

With few exceptions, we have seen a wellspring of kindness to lift one another up. We have worked as individuals and as a community to protect and support the most vulnerable.

I appreciate the wonderful, kind actions of others; my gracious patients who continue to entrust me with their care, adapting to the new ways of connecting; my colleagues who support me in our shared calling; the many good people I have worked with to improve the health of our community; my friends, and my family.

As individuals and as a community, we have to recognize what we have endured and survived. Now more than ever, I reflect on these questions. How have we been helped? How have we helped others? What have we learned? How have we grown? The answers are measures of a year and of our lives.

In spite of the shifting sands of this past year, we have learned much. The general public now knows more than they ever did about infectious diseases, the novel coronavirus, physical distancing, the value of wearing masks and hand hygiene.

Most of us learned to use Zoom and other online video platforms for the first time.

We’ve also discovered the impact of acting collectively for the wellbeing of all.

And more than ever, we recognize what really is important in our lives. Of course, we miss vacations, parties, dinners, hanging out with friends, and going to school or work the old fashion ways.

More profoundly, we missed our physical and social connections with one another. This really is what life is all about.

Entering each New Year, we reflect on what we will do differently. Within the guidelines of public health, what activities should we do more of? What should we reduce? What should we cut out all together? What can we create?

We know we cannot predict what 2021 will bring us. We have to accept those things beyond control, but given our strengthened recognition of what we value most, where will we devote our time, energy and attention?

What positive actions can we each take to regain a sense of wellbeing and connection to the people in our lives? What can we do together? What can we do for others?

The pandemic has reminded us that life, relationships and each moment are precious.

This year, I’ll be continuing my work with the Burnaby Division of Family Practice in our free public health lectures (now being presented virtually during the pandemic).

I’ll be giving a free online talk on The Keys to Positive Change at 7 pm on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021. As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program, I’ll share practical tips for improving your wellbeing and making positive changes that last. These are the secrets that my patients and I have successfully used to transform new habits into healthy routines that stick. 

For more information, please check this website over the next few weeks or https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients  or email Leona Cullen at lcullen@divisionsbc.ca (Please be patient while the Division works on providing the link to my online talk. I’ll update this site as soon as it becomes available).

Davidicus Wong is a family physician and his Healthwise columns appear regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in health, see his website at www.davidicuswong.wordpress.com.

Categories
Emotions empowering patients stress management

Emotional Wellness

This is the Key Points handout from my Empowering Patients presentation on December 10th, 2020.

What is Emotional Wellness? 

A deep sense of meaning and purpose, an abiding sense of peace, the ability to manage the stress and transitions of life, awareness of your thoughts and feelings and the ability to manage them.

Why emotional health matters

  1. Emotions influence our behaviour, our relationships and our thinking.
  2. Anxiety holds us back from doing what we need to do, from moving forward, from reaching out, and from giving our best to the world.
  3. Depression is a major cause of disability and absenteeism from work or school.

Anxiety Disorders

When your anxiety has a significant impact on your function at work, school or home or in your social life.

  1. Generalized Anxiety: excessive worry about many things
  2. Panic Disorder: recurrent panic attacks (symptoms may include chest pain, a racing heart, sweats, shortness of breath and dizziness)
  3. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: repetitive intrusive thoughts or recurrent compulsions to perform an act (e.g. checking, handwashing, rituals)
  4. Social Anxiety: excessive anxiety in specific social situations e.g. large groups, interviews, shopping
  5. Phobias: extreme specific fears e.g. spiders, heights, flying

Mood Disorders

The Symptoms of Depression: fatigue, change in sleep, change in appetite, impaired concentration, forgetfulness, thoughts of death or suicide, self-blame and guilt, feeling sad, hopelessness, lack of enjoyment or pleasure, loss of motivation.

Bipolar Disorder: episodes of depression and mania/hypomania (heightened mood and energy, overconfidence, decreased need for sleep, impaired judgment, decreased need for sleep, delusions of grandeur)

Psychotic Symptoms

 impaired reality testing, delusions (fixed false beliefs), hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not real), disorganized behaviour e.g. schizophrenia

KEY EMOTIONAL HEALTH SKILLS

1. A Meditative Practice

to calm your mind, centre your thoughts and reflect.

Recommended Reading on Mindfulness: Joseph Goldstein, Thich Nhat-Hahn, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield. 

Podcasts/Websites: JackKornfield.com, TaraBrach.com

2. Cognitive Therapy

  • Reflect on the thoughts that trigger your emotions. Is there another way to look at the situation? 
  • Question the underlying beliefs behind unhealthy thinking.
  •  Identify your cognitive distortions: 

Emotional Reasoning: Inappropriately reasoning from how you feel e.g. “I feel something bad will happen; therefore, it will.”

Fortune Telling: Assuming that you really know how things will turn out e.g. “I’ll always feel this way.”

Mind-Reading: Believing you really know what another person is thinking e.g. ”I know why my friend didn’t call me back.” “I know they think I’m a loser.”

Overgeneralizing: Making broad assumptions based on the facts on hand e.g “No one cares about me.” “All men/women are the same.”

Polarizing: All or nothing, black or white, good or bad thinking e.g. “She used to be an angel; now she’s evil.” “Either you’re with me or against me.”

Shoulding: Inappropriate judgment e.g. “Everyone should always treat me nicely!” “I have to be perfect.”

Personalizing: Taking things too personally e.g. “He did that just to hurt me.”

Catastrophizing: Believing the worse things will happen e.g. “I’m going to fail and I’ll never be a success.” “This is the end of the world.”

Recommended Reading: Mind Over Mood by Padesky and Greenberger; Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman.

3. Visualizing Your Goals

  • Turn your problems into goals. 
  • Instead of replaying the past or ruminating on the negative, think about what you want. 
  • When you are most relaxed, visualize yourself having achieved your goal. 
  • How do you feel? What do you see? What do you hear? Make it real!

4. MANAGING STRESS

Burnout: when the demands of work or life exceed our ability to manage them.

Seizing the Locus of Control

  • Identify your sources of stress.
  • Are you reacting in proportion to the stress?
  • Recognize what you can change or control.
  • Accept what you cannot change; assume responsibility for what you can.
  • Recognize your choices.

The 80/20 Rule: 20% of our reaction to a situation is related to the facts; 80% arises from what we bring from our past and how we conceptualize the present.

The Daily Management of Stress

Be a good parent to yourself:

  1. Go out and play. Have an exercise routine.
  2. Don’t skip meals. Schedule regular healthy meals.
  3. Go to bed. Get enough sleep and take regular breaks.
  4. Go to the doctor. See your own family doctor appropriately.

Express your emotions with those close to you with a group of confidantes. Form or join a support group.

Live in accord with your values.

Attend to Your Relationships

  1. Foster emotional intimacy. Agree on a habit of checking in with one another each day. How are you feeling? How was your day?
  2. Show your affection. Express your positive feelings. Remember the 5 languages of love and the human brain’s Negativity Bias: You need to see and say 5 positives for every negative.
  3. Schedule regular dates, family time and time with good friends. Commit your time to who matters most. Don’t wait ‘til there’s time; make time!
  4. Communicate in a healthy way. Take a breath and let anger cool before you react. Acknowledge the other’s feelings and point of view. Express how you feel without blame.

Right Speech: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind?

Where to Find Help

Canadian Mental Health Association 

cmha.bc.ca

Courses, resources, cognitive therapy and support.

Burnaby Mental Health 

fraserhealth.ca (604) 453-1900

Assessment, treatment, counselling and crisis intervention.

Cameray Child & Family Services

203 – 5623 Imperial Street, Burnaby (604) 436-9449 cameray.ca

Counselling for children and families.

AnxietyBC 

anxietybc.com

Education, cognitive therapy courses.

BounceBackbc.ca a free online skill-building program for adults and youth over 15 years of age

Mood Disorders Association of BC

mdabc.net

Support groups, cognitive therapy and wellness programs.

SAFER  (604) 675-3985

Education, support and counselling for those who have suicidal thoughts, have attempted suicide. 

Support for family members.

Burnabycoronavirus.com for COVID information, social supports and Doc Talks

The Four Foundations of Self-Care

  • What you eat (what you put into your body). 
  • What you do (physical activity and rest). 
  • How you feel (emotional wellbeing). 
  • How you connect (healthy relationships).

Please share this information with your family, friends and anyone else who may find it helpful.

Together we’ll create a healthier community and a healthier future.

Categories
Emotions empowering patients Happiness Letting Go Meditation mindfulness Preventive Health Self-care stress management Wisdom

An Introduction to Mindfulness

by Davidicus Wong, M.D.

This is a handout I share with my patients to introduce them to the practice of mindfulness and principles of cognitive behavioural therapy. I consider these to be two fundamental emotional wellness skills that every adult and child should learn.

Like any other skills we wish to master, practice – particularly daily practice – is essential. Through the power of the human brain’s capacity for neuroplasticity (to change itself), we learn new skills – including new ways of thinking and feeling – through repeated practice. In the words of the pioneering Canadian neuropsychologist, Donald Hebb, “Neurons that fire together wire together.”

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION helps us to centre our minds, increase our awareness and calm the nervous system that modulates how we experience pain and other sensations. The practice of mindfulness teaches us a less reactive approach to the rest of our lives. We become open to accept and experience every aspect of our lives, our selves and our sensations, without clinging, aversion or judgment.

We begin meditation by spending 15 or 20 minutes each day just sitting in a quiet place in a comfortable position. We turn our attention to the natural flow and sensations of the breath without trying to control it in any way. This becomes a safe and calming anchor that we can return to at any time.

We can then turn our attention to sounds as they arise in our immediate environment, just attending to the arising and disappearance of different sounds as they come and go from our awareness. We don’t have to label or identify each sound. We simply remain aware of them as they arise.

We can centre our awareness on different physical sensations in the body, perhaps the pressure at points of contact, warmth, coolness, vibrations, pulsations, tingling and even pain. We can move awareness to different areas of the body, and if a sensation such as pain in one part of the body is difficult to manage, we can shift our attention elsewhere, to the part of the body that is most comfortable or back to the anchor of the breath.

With practice, we are able to maintain awareness and attention to every sensation without reacting to it, without aversion, clinging, judgment or identification. With time, we recognize that everything within our awareness is ever changing; nothing is constant – no sensation (not even pain), no mood, no emotion and no thought.

We are able to attend to each thought as it arises without getting carried away in a train of thoughts or a story in the remembered past or imagined future. We can note thoughts as they arise, without judgment or identification and let them go. We can do the same with the transient feelings and emotions that arise without getting caught up and carried away with them. We experience moods, feelings and emotions but we are not our moods, feelings or emotions. We can see them as transient, temporary conditions like a mist, a fog or a shower. They pass through us or we pass through them.

We can be mindful when walking, attending to the sensations of each step, the sounds and pressures on the feet and the movement of the legs. This becomes a mindful anchor from which what we hear, see, feel and think arises in our open and accepting awareness. 

Mindfulness can be practiced while eating, attending to the taste and texture of each bite of food; swimming, attending to the sensations of buoyancy, flowing water on the surface of the skin and rich sounds of moving water and air; and even driving. Mindfulness only begins with meditation. When you apply the healthy attitudes of non-reactive acceptance, gratitude and compassion to everything in your life throughout each day, you will discover a deeper level of peace, happiness and meaning. 

Mindfulness when diligently practiced can bring serenity to your mind and body throughout each day – an open, accepting and nonreactive approach to your life. It can foster in you greater compassion for others and yourself.

COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY trains us to uncover our underlying beliefs and assumptions, choose our conscious thoughts, reframe our situation and shape our emotions. We can discover that we can improve our moods, thoughts and function in life through healthy self-care – eating regular healthy meals, ensuring adequate rest, daily appropriate physical activity and spending quality time with supportive friends and those loved ones who naturally lift our spirits. Mindfulness meditation can help us identify unskillful thoughts (those that increase suffering) and help us choose skillful ones.

MORE RESOURCES (I’ve put my favourites in bold)

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Mindfulness (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom (Joseph Goldstein)

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening (Joseph Goldstein)

Radical Acceptance (Tara Brach)

True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart (Tara Brach)

JackKornfield.com, TaraBrach.com Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach’s videos, guided meditations and lectures are available for free on these websites. By listening to these teachers, you will quickly see how the attitude of mindfulness can be applied to your everyday life.

Local mindfulness retreats: Westcoast Dharma Society http://www.westcoastdharma.org

MicrodosingMindfulness.com will show you how to fit in routine mindfulness breaks in just a few minutes a day

THE PRACTICAL SCIENCE OF NEUROPLASTICITY

Hardwiring Happiness (Rick Hanson)

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom (Rick Hanson)

COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment(Martin E. P. Seligman)

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (David D. Burns)

Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think (Dennis Greenberger, Christine Padesky)

Anxietybc.ca has many useful resource including the Mindshift app for smart phones

Checkingin is a free mindfulness app for your smart phones

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (a synthesis of mindfulness and cognitive therapy)

            The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for AnxietyBreaking Free From Worry, Panic, PTSD, & Other Anxiety Symptoms (Alexander L. Chapman)

For an effective technique for establishing healthy new habits, check out TINYHABITS.COM

Categories
empowering patients Happiness stress management

Understanding and Embracing Emotional Health – Challenging Common Mental Health Myths

Understanding and Embracing Emotional Health – Challenging Common Mental Health Myths

Davidicus Wong, December 6th, 2020

It’s been called the parallel pandemic. The social isolation, uncertainties and financial impact of COVID-19 has stressed us all, but those most vulnerable – including the elderly, the homeless and those struggling with addictions – have been hit hardest.  

Most people don’t realize that up to 30% of the daily work of a family physician involves emotional health – helping patients manage difficult emotions, relationship challenges, anxiety and stress. 

But I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg because many people are reluctant to bring up emotional issues and may never seek support. 

There remains a stigma attached to emotional or mental health challenges. In recent years, pubic health agencies have tried to remove the stigma by getting people to talk about it. 

But for many, just raising the awareness that you can and should talk about it to those who can help hasn’t erased the prejudice, embarrassment and myths associated with emotional health.

An unfortunate legacy of the 17th century philosopher, Rene Descartes is mind-body dualism, the incorrect separation of mind and body as completely distinct and independent. 

The reality is that there is no such separation. The brain is obviously an inseparable part of the body. In fact, you can recognize many emotions by how you experience them physically. 

When we are anxious or stressed, we breathe more rapidly, our hearts beat faster, our muscles tense, our stomachs turn and we sweat. 

When angered, not only do our thoughts race, but so do our heart and breathing rates. We feel a surge of agitated energy throughout the body. 

When depressed, we slow down physically as well as mentally, sleep is disturbed, energy dips and we may gain or lose weight from changes in appetite.

Our thoughts and emotions affect other “non-mental” aspects of our health and can contribute to high blood pressure, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, an overactive bladder, stomach ulcers, heartburn, chronic pain and fatigue. 

Compounding the false belief of mind-body separation are myths about emotional health. Because some conditions require medication, some incorrectly conclude that emotional problems are strictly chemical (i.e. neurotransmitter) imbalances. Others incorrectly assume that all emotional health problems are genetic. 

Another common misunderstanding among friends and family members of those suffering from severe clinical depression is that it is just the same as when we feel sad with a loss or other negative event. Depression can be so profound that it affects an individual’s outlook and ability to think clearly and solve problems. Those who have never experienced clinical depression may not understand why their loved one just can’t get over it or snap out of it. 

Your emotional wellbeing is an important aspect of your overall health. There is much we can do individually and collectively to support the wellbeing of everyone in our community. When your mood, stress or anxiety are affecting your function and enjoyment of life, don’t hesitate to seek help. 

Every community has organized supports for those struggling socially and emotionally. In Burnaby, we’re all working together through the Primary Care Network. Check the resources that are available at https://www.burnabycoronavirus.com/social-supports

On Thursday, December 10th, I’ll be giving a free online talk on behalf of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients program. The topic: Emotional Wellness. I’ll be sharing key emotional health skills that we all need to manage the effects of this pandemic and community resources for help. For more information: https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients

Categories
Emotions Empowering Healthcare empowering patients Healthy Living

Maintaining Your Health During the Pandemic

In February, when celebrating her 100th birthday with her family, my patient, Helen (not her real name) continued to thrive while managing her chronic health conditions. 

The pandemic changed all that.

She wasn’t infected with COVID-19. Her assisted living facility made every effort to protect its residents. However, this meant an end to all social activities . . . and visitors.

By June, I learned of Helen’s profound functional decline. She had lost weight, fell frequently and was no longer able to stand on her own. Her daughter, an experienced nurse recognized that she was in a potentially irreversible decline.

Once we were able to get approval for weekly visits from her daughter (in full PPE to protect Helen and others at the facility), Helen progressively regained her strength and quality of life.

The pandemic has affected every one of us, but in addition to those infected with COVID-19 and their families, those suffering from social isolation have been the most vulnerable.

We are at a crucial crossroads in this pandemic. With the daily rise in new infections, we each have to double down on our efforts to reduce the spread. We can’t wait for the majority of Canadians to be vaccinated. Many more will become sick and die in the coming months.

Continue to keep your distance, wear a mask when you can’t, keep your hands clean and ask yourself whenever you leave your home, if you really need to. Is it worth the risk to yourself and your family?

In the meantime, we must work together to maintain our physical, social and emotional wellbeing. We can’t do this alone. 

Your family physician’s clinic is still open – at least to calls. Don’t neglect chronic conditions and proactive healthcare. Labs and x-ray clinics are also still open. We’ve all made changes to provide the care you need while reducing your infection risks. 

If you haven’t had your flu shot yet and your local pharmacy or family practice clinic has run out, Burnaby residents can book an appointment with https://www.burnabyflu.com

Stay connected to your family and friends with frequent calls or video chats. Reach out to those who are living alone and ask what you could do to help. 

If you are feeling stressed, frustrated, anxious and even depressed, you are not alone. You are not alone in how you are feeling, and there is help in our community for you. 

Every community has organized supports for those struggling socially, emotionally and financially. In Burnaby, we’re all working together through the Primary Care Network. Check the resources that are available at https://www.burnabycoronavirus.com/social-supports

On Thursday, December 10th, I’ll be giving a free online talk on behalf of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients program. The topic: Emotional Wellness. I’ll be sharing key emotional health skills that we all need to manage the effects of this pandemic and community resources for help. For more information: https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician.