OMSA Wellness Retreat 2014

Relaxing is a foreign word to us as medical students, we are always on the go with our never ending 'to-do' lists, traveling for electives, traveling for conferences, increasingly more and more paperwork and always trying to do our best. Taking a weekend off from school seemed to me at the time of the retreat like a counterproductive thing to do with upcoming exams, OSCEs and elective forms to fill out. I thought, 'Wow, three days no reading and no OSCE practice, I'm going to be incredibly behind!'

But I was wrong.

I arrived at Briars Resort early Friday evening with a classmate of mine. As we pulled up, I noticed the building had this bird's eye view of the property and I couldn't wait to go up to investigate. Friday evening started out with some great introductory team building activities, and a full-on meditation session, which is something I had never done before. It was challenging to keep focused on your breath and not let your mind wander too far in a room full of new people. I felt invigorated afterwards and that a breath of fresh air had come through me. 

Saturday morning came quickly and I ran out of my lake side cottage to participate in the yoga class along with 35 other students. I pushed myself to really get out my skin and use this practice to stretch out those tight hamstrings from weeks of skate skiing. Marie, our yoga instructor, was fantastic. She had a calming air about her and knowing she was 'one of us' made it that more enjoyable for me. She understood that our lower backs and hips needed some stretching because of our constant sitting-studying position and that our necks were tight with stress. All in all it was an amazing class.

Saturday continued with more wellness. Personally, relationships have been a challenging thing for me over the course of the past two years of medical school. With the demands of medicine I find it difficult to find balance between my personal and professional life. I had a long-term relationship suffer in first year and when I saw there was a wellness session on relationships in medicine, I jumped on it. Dr. Hammond explored with our group what relationships mean to us first as future physicians and then as partners. He gave us insight as to how to 'make the time' for that special someone and how to put work aside completely when you do spend time together. Since the retreat, I've started to read more about relationships when you and your partner have busy lives and how to build on the bridges you have made with one another.

After eating an amazing lunch, we had an improv session with Hartley from Mac. I'm not new to improv as we have a family doctor in Thunder Bay who does sessions with us every now and again. I'm always a bit uncomfortable at first with improv but as soon as you see everyone getting into it, that discomfort disappears. He had us laughing and goofing around as if we were kids. One thing he said that stuck with me is that as we get older we forget to play. We forget to let go and not care what others think. I think there is a time and place for this and this was it. We continued this play and team building session for about two hours! And it was awesome!

I experienced again more wellness in the afternoon with a snowshoe and long walk around the grounds of the resort with new friends. When I arrived back to my cottage, the snowfall from the previous night had blanketed the dock nicely and I took some time to just enjoy the view.

Dinner proved to be delicious, especially with fresh caught walleye which is a northern Ontario delicacy! I decided to turn in early; I was refreshed but exhausted from the day's activities. 

Sunday morning I was on a mission to the lookout or bird's eye of the resort building. After getting lost and a bunch of flights of stairs I found it! It featured a beautiful view of the grounds with the sun just coming up casting shadows on the snow. I read up there for a while (don't 
worry not medical books) before yoga class.

All in all this retreat provided me with a refreshed feeling and I didn't feel I missed out on school work (I knew it would be there when I got home). I needed a weekend just like this!

- Erika A. (Northern Ontario School of Medicine)