HNHB Regional Lead Series – Dr. Karen Zhang

Dr Karen ZhangWelcome to the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Regional Lead Series. Over the last few months we have introduced the Regional Leads who work behind the scenes for the Regional Cancer Program. This month we are featuring Dr. Karen Zhang.

What is your Regional Role?
I am the Regional Psychosocial Oncology Lead for Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Region.

What is your day job?
I am a clinical, health and rehabilitation psychologist in the Psychosocial Oncology Program at Juravinski Cancer Centre. I am also an assistant professor (part-time) in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University.

What is your best advice for mental health wellness during the current global pandemic?
Perhaps it would be that it is okay to not be okay sometimes. I think there can be confusion that mental health wellness means staying ‘positive’ or ‘strong’ all the time. Yet, the reality is that the global pandemic has a profound impact on everyone’s mental health and we shouldn’t expect to feel or function as we normally would. It is important to give ourselves permission to have bad days so that we can process the difficulties of a situation and move on. This doesn’t mean that our unpleasant feelings will last forever. It does mean that we need to be kinder to ourselves now more than ever and not judge ourselves for our feelings.

What is a positive thought that you would like to share?
So many of my patients have faced horrific battles and yet they still remain so kind and caring towards others. I learn a lot from them.

What do you do to decompress?
Going for quick walks during the work day helps me stay centred and refreshed.