OMSA Wellness Retreat 2018: Wellness of Mind, Body, Spirit, Emotion

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Click on the follow link to view the Retreat Brochure:

Wellness Retreat Brochure

There is an exciting lineup of speakers and workshops at this year’s retreat.  See the attached brochure for details, where you’ll find options on everything from Yoga and Urban Poll Walking to Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Self-Care.  This retreat is open to medical students across Ontario! Mark the registration date on your calendar (March 5 at 5 pm) – it’s first come first serve with limited spots for each Ontario medical school.

Event Date:                  March 23-25, 2018

Cost:                              $90 per student for the entire weekend (incl. hotel & meals)

For more info and to register, check out the OMSA Wellness Retreat page: https://omsa.ca/en/wellness-retreat

 

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BEDTIME ROUTINE – not just for kids?

Starting off medical school, I felt very overwhelmed – a combination of excitement, imposter syndrome, and anxiety as everything felt different from undergrad.

This anxiety and worry actually started translating into sleepless nights – I was consumed with these thoughts during the night, and had trouble falling asleep. I realized that I had started using television as a medium to help me fall asleep, watching Netflix to avoid my anxious thoughts.

After a few weeks, I realized how this had become my routine, and how this dependency was unhealthy. So I booked an appointment with my school’s counselling session, and made the conscious effort of having a positive sleep schedule.  

I had never consciously paid attention to my sleep routine before – I would simply sleep whenever I was tired, or had completed the day’s tasks. In fact, I had the perception that bedtime routines are only for kids. But I learned from this journey how important it is to have a routine, training your mind and body for sleep.

Below are a list of things I tried to adopt for a healthy sleep routine, and my experiences related to them.

  1. Setting a specific time

Having a set time to sleep – 12am for me – really made me aware that it was time for bed, and allowed me to prioritize sleep. It was difficult at first to remember to wind up work at 11:45 in preparation for bed, but after a few days, my body was naturally tired around 12am, and I was ready to sleep.  I found that I had less trouble convincing myself to sleep, because my body was naturally inclined to rest at the time. Also, having a set time for bed really pushed me to complete all my day’s tasks before the time, making me more efficient in terms of my daily schedule.

2. Reading a book before going to bed.

04-man-reading-book-in-bedI found this to be extremely relaxing – even reading for 10 minutes before bed had a significant impact on my mindset. I was able to forget about my daily life stressors and immerse myself into the story, which consequently made it easier to sleep. Also, by reading a book instead of watching TV, I was able to avoid being on my laptop, which felt like a break from the daily work. It gave me the sense that work-time was now over, and got me into the mindset for sleep. Also, I was able to avoid the bright light from my laptop right before bed, which may have helped attain a proper sleep as well.

3. Taking deep breaths

I had heard of the benefits that breathing techniques/meditation provides, but only recently experienced it. I decided to breathe in and out for about 3-4 minutes every night before bed, as suggested by the counsellor. I found that this was very relaxing – I was able to concentrate on breathing correctly instead of my anxious thoughts. Also taking deep breaths also triggers a change in the nervous system from ‘sympathetic’ mode – which is what we associate with fight or flight – to ‘parasympathetic’ – or ‘rest and digest’ mode, indicating that I was ready to sleep.
I have stuck to these three activities that I do on the daily – they take only about 15-20 minutes of my time before bed, and have really helped establish consistent, peaceful nights. This inevitably then also helps me start off my day well-rested.  I urge you to try these activities and adopt your own sleep schedule, and notice the dramatic improvement in sleep and mood these simple changes can make.

 

A light reminder

winter-63801_960_720It was day five of my first surgical rotation in clerkship. A Friday in November – another day on the wards and in the OR. Waking up at 5am and getting home after 5pm; arriving to and leaving from the hospitalin darkness. I adjusted to my new schedule well. I was going to bed early, meal prepping and coming to the hospital each morning with a positive attitude. I had a gym membership and was going regularly. It seemed as though my self-care was optimal. I thought that I had finally figured it out – the way to prepare myself physically and mentally for the responsibilities of clerkship.

This Friday, however, I had a slight change in my schedule. I was invited by a couple friends to eat my meal-prepped lunch in the hospital cafeteria. As soon as I walked into the cafeteria, my mood improved significantly. At first I wondered, why was this the case?  Things were going well and I felt great. What drastic of a change could have improved my mood to such a degree? Then I realized, it was the first time that I’d seen the sun all week!

It’s that time of year where the days are getting shorter, and sunlight is scarce. Making time to see the sun significantly improved my mood and made me feel energized for my last day of the week.

It is well known that sunlight is important for vitamin D production, ultimately lowering your risk for breast and prostate cancer as well as promoting bone strength. More recently, preliminary research has linked sunlight exposure to improved mood and a reduction in depressive symptoms.

Therefore – I challenge all those reading this post to make sure they make time to take a look outside at least twice a week; either through a window or by exiting the hospital or clinic for a few minutes on a break. It is a small change that can give you the extra boost you need to get through a long day or week!