Registered psychologist Dr. Dayna Lee-Baggley says Nova Scotians are coping with a double tragedy right now.
On top of the impacts of COVID-19, which has caused 16 deaths in the province, residents are now trying to come to terms with the horrific massacre that took place on April 18 and 19.
“Even before the shooting happened we were under an incredible amount of stress because of the COVID pandemic,” Lee-Baggley tells NEWS 95.7’s The Todd Veinotte Show.
She says when the pandemic first began, there was lots of pressure to be your most productive self while spending more time at home.
“People talk about things like, ‘Oh we have so much extra time now you can do extra things,’” says Lee-Baggley. “But that’s not at all what it’s like. It’s really much more like being in the London Blitz, we’re under stress, we’re under threat.”
Lee-Baggley says this stress can affect human’s memory, concentration, and attention span, among other things.
“It’s okay to just kind of do what we need to to take care of ourselves, and also to really lover our expectations for what we can get done,” she adds.
With the news of the shooting developing every day, Lee-Baggley says it’s okay to tune out when things become overwhelming.
“It’s okay, you know if you just need to take a break from it, it’s okay if you can’t take it all in, if you don’t want more information about it,” she says.
For many people, getting through the “routine” of their day can be draining enough on what Lee-Baggley calls their mental batteries.
“We use that up to get through our day, to control our behaviour, and our frontal lobes are incredibly tired because COVID takes so much energy from us,” she says. “If you think about just how much effort it takes to go to the grocery store now compared to what it used to take, our frontal lobes are incredibly tired.”
The psychologist says that re-charging these mental batteries can be done through simple pleasures like getting fresh air, or specific personal hobbies and interests.
“Typical things that will charge people's battery are things like eating good food, drinking water, maybe having a shower, getting dressed,” Lee-Baggley says.
However, what is a battery charge for one person, may drain another.
“For an extrovert, having a lot of social contact will be a charge. It might be a drain for an introvert,” she adds.
Lee-Baggley says humans are incredibly resilient in the face of the changes that have come with the pandemic.
“When you think of all the ways that we’ve adapted to COVID, and have found ways to make things happen, humans are very adaptable, they are very resilient,” she says.
For Nova Scotians, the mass shooting adds another layer on top of that.
“Part of what makes this so difficult is there’s all kinds of betrayals that happened because of the shooting and one of them is that he posed as somebody that we are supposed to trust,“ says Lee-Baggley.
But the psychologist says it’s important to re-charge to be able to cope with and make sense of new information.
“You have to use your frontal lobe to make that distinction, to remember that he behaved that way but generally the police and RCMP are people who help us,” she says. “Otherwise our ‘caveman brain’ takes over and is just afraid of everything.”