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Halifax psychiatrist shares insights to help people cope with pandemic fatigue

Click to play video: 'How to strengthen mental fitness during pandemic' How to strengthen mental fitness during pandemic
A psychiatrist in Nova Scotia shares insights into how people can build positive coping methods to manage ongoing pandemic fatigue. – Feb 14, 2022

A Halifax-based psychiatrist says the last few months of the pandemic have forced people to “dig deep” to deal with mounting fatigue.

“Omicron came at a very difficult time because we were already starting to open up. People were hopeful, they were making plans to travel, getting their lives back, really,” Dr. Jackie Kinley said, a psychiatrist and founder of the Atlantic Institute for Resilience.

As Nova Scotia moves through the first phase of its reopening plan, Kinley remains hopeful that 2022 will also come with a “turning point” that will inspire people to continue building their resilience.

“I think it’s brought a real intentionality to it. I think we were kind of, ‘Laissez-faire,’ before. ‘Oh, we’ll exercise a bit, we’ll do a bit of that.’ But now we have to be very deliberate in taking care of ourselves, and building that structure into our lives,” she said.

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Following the loss of a loved one to mental illness, Kinley became driven to empower people to develop positive coping methods to manage life’s adversity.

“I lost a brother to suicide, and that was very difficult. [It] motivated me to think about, ‘What are we doing wrong in this system?’ And, also, I’ve been blessed and honoured to work with fabulous patients who’ve taught me so much,” she said.

Kinley says while stress can range from short-term circumstances that are sometimes predictable to acute situations that can feel blindsiding, building one’s overall capacity to be able to manage the certainty of stress throughout our lives is crucial to our overall wellness.

“There is lots of suffering in the world. Life is difficult. We have losses and transitions, but we need to be able to move through those. And, that requires us to be able to tolerate emotions, to work through them, and to talk about them. And, if we don’t — if we avoid emotions, or we don’t deal with them, or we let them build up and they come flying out — that makes us ill,” she said.

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Kinley says building the capacity to be able to process emotions in respectful and healthy ways plays a key role in fostering positive outlooks.

“It will prevent so much unnecessary suffering. Whether it’s symptoms that we end up with or behaviours that are just unbecoming. it’s not the way we want to show up. Emotion will come up. It’s really important for us to make sure that we work through it so that we don’t suffer in an unnecessary way,” Kinley said.

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