COVID 19 Emotions empowering patients Self-care stress management

From Surviving to Thriving During the Pandemic: Managing Our Emotions and Stress

I recently gave a community webinar through Burnaby’s Primary Care Network.

I provided some practical strategies for managing the increased stress and difficult emotions we are all experiencing with all the changes of the Pandemic.

I also provided links to resources for the many of us who need more support.

Please share this information with anyone you know who may benefit.

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Emotional Wellness (Davidicus Wong)

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.

Video: Why Emotional Health Matters


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


Video: 4 Key Emotional Health Skills

Key Emotional Health Skills

  • A Meditative Practice to calm your mind, centre your thoughts and reflect.

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


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
    • all or nothing thinking – seeing all the bad in another person or situation; catastrophizing – imagining the worst;
    • excessive self-blame

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


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!


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.
  3. Schedule regular dates.Commit your time to what 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.
  5. When things get stale, have an affair. . . with your partner.


Video: Keys to Managing Stress

Where to Find Help

Canadian Mental Health Association

Courses, resources, cognitive therapy and support.


Burnaby Mental Health (604) 453-1900

Assessment, treatment, counselling and crisis intervention.


Cameray Child & Family Services

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

Counselling for children and families.



Education, cognitive therapy courses.



Mood Disorders Association of BC

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.


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.

Caregiving Emotions

Let’s talk about your emotional health


Your emotional wellbeing is an essential part of your health, but many patients only see their doctors when something is wrong with their bodies.

In the daily reality of my family practice, I assist patients coping with overwhelming emotions, troublesome thoughts and anxiety. Many initially present a physical problem, such as abdominal pain or insomnia as the reason for the visit.

Physical problems themselves are a cause of distress and can have a significant impact on our lives. Yet emotional distress can result in even greater negative effects.

Our emotional states can narrow our thoughts and influence our behaviour, affecting our enjoyment of life, our performance at work or in school, and how we relate to others. This can create vicious cycles of distressing emotional states, negative or anxious thinking, and worsening of our circumstances that in turn leads to increasingly negative feelings.

Our feelings shape our thoughts. When anxious, we may see a more threatening, overwhelming and unpredictable world. We underestimate our ability to cope. We overestimate what we must deal with.

When we become depressed, we may see our selves, others and our circumstances in a negative light. We have more difficulty seeing our own good qualities and abilities, the good in our relationships and the positive aspects of our circumstances.

Many people suffering from emotional symptoms hesitate to get help because they think they should be able to manage on their own. Although normal emotional reactions are part of life – it’s human to feel sad if we lose a loved one and anxious when we’re threatened, we need help when our emotions are of an intensity and duration such that they negatively impact the important areas of our lives, including our relationships and our performance at school or work.

Family members and friends sometimes don’t know what to do when someone they care about is suffering emotionally. Some mistake depression for a minor case of the blues that we all suffer when things don’t go our way, but people with depression can’t just snap out of it.

They need more information on how to recognize serious emotional problems and how to get help.

The Doctors of BC (British Columbia Medical Association) has just launched a new website, as part of its Council on Health Promotion Youth Mental Health Project. It contains valuable links to resources for youth and young adult patients and families, teachers and health care providers.

You’ll find information about common emotional problems, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse and psychosis. On the site, you can find online tools for self-assessment, practical self-help information, tips for managing stress and information to access professional help.

Even if you’re neither a youth nor a young adult, check out this invaluable website anyway. You’ll find helpful suggestions that anyone can use to manage stress and maintain emotional health.

And if you need some help with your emotional health, talk to your family doctor. It’s part of what we do to care for you as a whole person.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. 

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Turning Negative Emotions into Positive Goals, Part 1


Are you happy with your life?

If you are, congratulations! A cynic would say, “Enjoy it while you can. It won’t last.”

Life can be a rollercoaster ride of high and low points, successes and failures, good fortune and bad luck. It’s natural to react emotionally to those ups and downs in school, family circumstances, work, finances, health and relationships. We all feel grief with the loss of friends and loved ones. We feel down when we lose a job or feel lonely. We can feel anxious when the future seems uncertain and our lives feel out of our control.

Sometimes we can get stuck in a negative emotional state, such as depression and anxiety. Our emotions may then limit our range of thinking, and it is our thoughts that shape the lens with which we see the world.

Have you ever met someone who was chronically happy? I don’t mean euphoric, manic or unrealistically optimistic, but rather content and at peace, positive and engaged in life. They’re not on drugs and they haven’t necessarily had easier lives than the rest of us. The difference is the lens with which they see their lives.

We can get stuck in the negative aspects of our situation – the shadows of reality. Lost in this darkness, we see no light. It shapes our mood and our sense of control. It limits our behaviour; we continue to walk only in the shadows not realizing that venturing out of them – a few steps at a time – can profoundly change our perspective.

The chronically happy see their reality with more subtlety and perhaps more creativity. Knowing that our thoughts shape our feelings, they choose to see the positive in their circumstances – what they can control.

Next: What is under your control

stress management Workplace Health

How Do We Cope With Stress? Is It Healthy?

We each live unique lives. Similar circumstances and events can affect individuals in very different ways.

Our individual response to stress is influenced by infinite factors, including our cultural background and personal history. Those who have met with disappointment and injustice throughout life may feel powerless and overwhelmed by an economic downturn that to another may be just a minor downer in a long series of ups and downs that have been accepted as the nature of life.

In health care, we recognize that people may have a predisposition towards certain conditions when confronted with excessive stress. If you have an addictive personality, you may deal with stress by drinking, gambling, using street drugs or abusing prescription medications.

If you are prone to anxiety, stress may provoke an increase in panic attacks, obsessive thinking, compulsive activity or avoidant behaviour. If you have a tendency towards a mood disorder, stress may trigger an episode of depression or mania.

Workaholics – doctors included – tend to work more when they are under more stress. This creates the unhealthy vicious cycle of increasing stress from excessive work and the neglect of the other important areas of life. Work is good, but too much work is not.

In a hostile or unpredictable world, we may find some relief by choosing our favourite comfort foods. Many of us may react to stress with compulsive eating, and those compulsions usually don’t involve a lot of fresh vegetables.

Exercise is one of the healthiest ways to cope with stress. It releases natural endorphins that bring about a sense of wellbeing. No matter how tired or achy I might feel before I jump into a pool, I always feel better within 30 minutes.

However, excessive exercise can be surprisingly unhealthy. The signs include unwanted weight loss, extreme fatigue, and overuse injuries (including tendon and muscle strains). You may actually lose muscle by burning more calories than you consume and not allowing for adequate rest and recovery.

How do you cope with stress? Does it support good health and personal wellbeing? Do your coping strategies create greater stresses or imbalances in your life?

stress management Wisdom

The Secret to Managing Stress

A sense of helplessness has been associated with feelings of anxiety; hopelessness with depression.

During the hardest times in our lives, we may feel overwhelmed and ineffectual. Though life can be unpredictable and unfair, our emotional well-being depends upon some sense of control.

At stressful times in our lives, it may be helpful to look at what aspects of our situation we can control. We have to accept what we can’t change, but we should recognize that which we can.

This is conveyed in Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

When we appreciate and seize our capacity to control and shape at least some part of our lives, we can feel uplifted with a sense of empowerment. Sometimes, there is little we can change in our circumstances, but we can change our attitude and how we think about them.

Today, think about your choices. In which ways can you change your life in a positive way?


Emotions Happiness

A Hundred Days To Happiness: Some Thoughts On Happiness

An article in this weekend’s Sun describes research at the University of British Columbia where subjects have learned to become more aware of the unconscious negative thoughts that underlie depression and anxiety. Through a functional MRI scan, they are shown that certain areas of their brain are active when they are thinking these thoughts. They also learned to control these thoughts with the goal of improving depression and decreasing anxiety.

The idea that automatic thoughts – just below our level of awareness – influence our moods is not new. It is the basis of cognitive behavioural therapy.

Our moods obviously influence our thoughts and behaviour. If you have social anxiety, you’ll probably avoid going out to parties and meeting new people. If you’re depressed, you’re also more likely to stay home and maybe even just stay in bed.

And our moods shape our perceptions and our thoughts. If you have a lot of anxiety, you will see more risk and danger in the world. Your thoughts amplify those risks. If you’re depressed, you’ll interpret your situation and the actions of others more negatively.

People who are suffering from anxiety see the world more threatening than it really is. In their thoughts, they exaggerate the risks and tend to catastrophize. They get into cycles of “What if?” thinking that can lead to avoidance and inaction.

When we’re depressed, we tend to interpret ourselves, others and our situation in a negative way. If something goes wrong, we may blame ourselves and our own shortcomings or see it as further evidence that nothing goes right for us or that the life is a bummer. We may falsely assume that others don’t like us or judge us negatively.

Cognitive behavioural therapy aims at making us more aware of the automatic thoughts that underlie and perpetuate depression, anxiety or anger. With increased awareness and coaching, we can think about ourselves, others and our lives in more flexible ways and try out alternate explanations for why things are the way they are.

When we are more aware of our dysfunctional thoughts, we can then question the beliefs that underlie them. With time and effort, we can challenge and reshape our core beliefs about ourselves and our lives.

If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety or depression, check out the Bounce Back program at and talk to a physician about the various treatments options, including cognitive behavioural therapy.