Reflecting on Wellness Retreat 2014


Waitlists seem to be the story of my life. Waitlisted for an earlier appointment, waitlisted to get into medical school, and of course, waitlisted for the Wellness retreat. But, when I finally received the offer via email the week of the retreat I didn’t know what to make of it…


Considering that I don’t respond very well to change and last minute plans, I was both excited and stressed.


“What do I do… My friend Laura is celebrating her birthday on Saturday and I told her I’d be there… Crap, I have my marathon training scheduled into the weekend, when am I going to get that long run in? Hmmm… I wonder if they will have gluten free options or if I have to run to the grocery store before the weekend… Ahhh I haven’t packed anything yet!”


Then I thought: Hey! This is a wellness retreat after all! What better way to work on my flexibility, relieve some stress and practice being mindful/living in the moment.


So here I was, on a beautiful sunny Friday afternoon, I had managed to squeeze in my 20km run before 8 am clinic, come home at lunch, pack my bags and jump in a car with two of my classmates… I was going to be well.


When we got to the Briars on Friday night, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, I met a handful of new people who were full of enthusiasm and positive energy. I bonded with one in particular, Kinshuk, a first year Mac student. Not only did we have a lot in common, but Kinshuk inspired me; She had decided to go on a “phone free” weekend. I gave it some thought, but wasn’t quite ready to become completely disconnected.


On Saturday morning I was thrilled to go for a group run. Since the beginning of clerkship I had lost my two running partners due to our hectic and conflicting clerkship schedules. As a result, I’d been doing most of my marathon training solo. How rejuvenating it felt to exercise and be social at the same time!


Later that day, after an amazing brunch (which had plenty of labelled gluten free options, and even a special toaster for gluten free bread), I attended the mindfulness workshop. One of my goals for the weekend was to learn how to be more mindful. When we attempted a minute of mindfulness, yes ONE minute, 60 seconds, no more… I was shocked at the result. After that minute of meditation/ mindfulness, the instructor asked our group how it went… No one said a word… so finally, I raised my hand and said:


“I’m going to be completely honest… that was hard… my mind kept wondering…”


Then he went on to ask: “did anybody else feel that way?” And all 11 other students around the circle raised their hands!!!


“HALLELUJAH I’m not alone!” I said out loud. What a relief!


I spent the rest of my afternoon snowshoeing and doing yoga with some new friends. What else could I have asked for on a Saturday afternoon?


That evening at dinner, I decided to sit with the first year girls from my school. We’d been at the same school for over 6 months now and I hadn’t met any of them. It made me realise how busy medical school can be and how caught up you can get in your little bubble.


After dinner, I realized I had left my phone in my room. But, I soon realized it was a blessing in disguise and that I should have followed in Kinshuk’s footsteps from the beginning. I was able to be live in the present moment and really focus on the people around me for the rest of the evening.


By 10pm on Saturday night, I was pooped and I decided I need some time for myself. After roasting a few marshmallows around the fire, Kinshuk and I took the shuttle to our cabins. I took a nice hot shower, got lost in my book and went to bed early. I did what felt right. I listened to my body, and felt like I was really in tune with my feelings.


Sunday morning I woke up early to go for a swim before yoga. Finally, my last workshop on Sunday was quite memorable. We had the privilege of hearing Dr. Michael Paré, a practicing psychiatrist, talk about his major depression and suicide attempt. Being that I have a psychologist of my own and have gone through some hard times mentally, it was absolutely inspiring to know that physicians also suffer from mental illness and that recovery is possible, and at times even beneficial to their patients.


In hindsight, I don’t know why going to this conference was such a hard decision to make. I guess I never thought I’d be able to relax with 80 other people around, but I proved myself wrong and returned to Ottawa fully rested, rejuvenated and ready to conquer another week of clerkship!


Chanel P., University of Ottawa