Trainee Thrive – April 2021

Why did we create this newsletter? Read more here. Trainee Thrive will be your one-stop-shop for all things wellbeing, with a specific focus on research trainees in Medicine. We hope you’ll subscribe! You can unsubscribe at any time.

Missed a previous month of Trainee Thrive? Back issues can be found here.


How are you doing? I mean, how are you really doing? As anxiety and stress continue for many of us, this year’s CMHA Mental Health Week (May 3-9) is focusing on the importance of naming, expressing, and dealing with our emotions – whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant. As they put it:

Heavy feelings lighten when you put them into words. When we voice our emotions, the pain gives way. So, let’s understand and name how we feel. Angry? Glad? Frustrated? Sad? It’s all good. This Mental Health Week, don’t be uncomfortably numb. #GetReal about how you feel. And name it, don’t numb it.

I’m not sure I agree that “it’s all good” – I’m not value-neutral on pain and distress – but certainly “it’s all human,” or “it’s all real.” That’s one tenet that really stuck with me from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (which itself is grounded in Buddhist ideas): suffering gets amplified when we try to deny or refuse reality, which sometimes includes pain (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.).

When we have big, messy, uncomfortable feelings, we sometimes feel the need to sanitize or minimize them when talking to others. Or, if we’re on the listening end of someone else’s painful emotion, we sometimes feel a strong urge to problem-solve. This Mental Health Week could be a cue for all of us to practice honesty (or vulnerability) without fixingFeelings don’t need to be fixed; there is value in simply sharing and listening.

You’ve probably heard the proverb: Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow. If, lately, you’ve been feeling like a duck – calm and collected on the surface but paddling furiously underwater – maybe it’s time to pause and reach out to someone. It could be a friend or family member, a labmate or someone in your program; you could join a meeting of the UBC Graduate Student Online Support Group. I’m always up for a virtual coffee chat, and the UBC Student Assistance Program is available 24/7. It can be such a relief to name and speak your feelings.

If you’d like to improve your supportive listening skills, work through the How to Help a Friend module in the Wellness Centre: Online. For a quick overview, check out “How to tell if someone is struggling with their mental health.”

For a reflection from therapist Esther Perel, written earlier in the pandemic, check out “What is this Feeling? Anticipatory Grief and Other New Pandemic-Related Emotions.”

Resource Spotlight

Grad students may have heard the good news that the AMS/GSS recently doubled Studentcare coverage for mental health services, from $500 to $1000 annually. So, for instance, if your counsellor charges $130 per session, you could previously get only 3 sessions fully covered; now you can get 7 (and part of an 8th!). Although far from perfect, this is a major step forward.

(Postdoctoral fellows who have benefits through UBC also have coverage for mental health services, including psychologists, clinical counsellors, and social workers).

If you’ve never tried counselling before, it can be daunting to know where to start. “Do I just Google ‘counsellor’? Which approach is best for my goals or problems? What’s the difference between a psychologist, clinical counsellor, and social worker?” I wrote a blog post about this in the past, but if you’d rather talk through your options with a human being, drop me a line and let’s chat! Over the years, I myself have benefitted from the help of a Registered Psychologist, Registered Social Worker, and Registered Clinical Counsellor (plus I’m a Registered Clinical Counsellor myself); I’d be happy to help you navigate some of the ins and outs. Contact me at

Resource Highlights

Centre for Student Involvement & Careers

Through the Centre for Student Involvement & Careers, grad students can access advising related to career options/exploration, job searching, networking, interviews, academic CVs or professional resumes, and more. Find more info here.

To book an appointment, log in to Careers Online. Same-day “drop-in” appointments can be booked starting at 9am every Friday morning through Careers Online.

Danielle Barkley, PhD, works as the Graduate Career Educator and can serve as the key point of contact for inquiries related to graduate students ( If you’re having trouble finding an appointment time that works with your schedule, please email Dr. Barkley to request an alternate time.

Coaching for Postdocs and Grad Students

Did you know that UBC grad students and postdocs can access free, confidential coaching? Coaching is an opportunity to explore challenges or concerns like planning your career future (academic or non-academic pathways), work-life balance, professional relationships, time management, or thriving in graduate school – really, any area where you could use help defining actionable goals. Find more information, including coach bios, click here.

Postdoctoral fellows also have access to a larger pool of coaches through Coaching Services for staff and faculty. (I tried this free service recently, and had a great experience!) Postdocs, check out the portal today!

Enrolment Services

Enrolment Services Advisors can help grad students with managing finances, creating a financial plan, learning about loans and bursaries, and more. To speak to an advisor, call 604 822 9836 or submit your question through the online form.

Enrolment Services also offers webinars and workshops:

Wellbeing Feature

In research and knowledge work, including grad school, we’re frequently operating at the growing edge of our skills and knowledge to produce new ideas and discoveries. Exciting! But this makes it especially important to find ways of managing stress (and, at the same time, calling on institutions to reduce unnecessary and preventable stressors).

Check out this blog post for tips on stress management, or go straight to the source – enroll in Wellness Centre: Online and visit the Stress & Self Care Module.

Here’s another resource on “Using the 4 A’s of Stress Management“: Awareness, Acceptance, Adjustment, and Action.

Quick Tips

By now, most of us have realized that sleep is essential to physical and mental health (and to our capacity to function and enjoy life). But sometimes protecting our sleep is easier said than done! Find some ideas and strategies here.

Upcoming Events

Fitness Infusion: Circuit Style Body Weight Class (April 12, 12:00pm-1:00pm): Join the last of a series of fitness classes led by two experienced health and wellness instructors. No experience or equipment necessary! Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

Self and Community Care: Building skills to manage stress (April 13 (Part 1) and April 21 (Part 2), 9:00am-9:45am): Through this webinar participants will learn about the body’s stress response and how to identify these responses in themselves. They will have an opportunity to take a stress index, explore what self and community care means to them and identify key UBC resources that can be engaged to support work life integration and positive mental health. Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

Mental Health During COVID-19 and Across the Lifespan (April 14, 6:00pm-7:30pm): Learn about the latest research on mental health disorders and other neurological conditions. This evening talk is hosted by Vancouver Coastal Health in partnership with Providence Health Care Research Institute and BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute. Speakers will focus on simple and effective ways to improve care for people with depression, personal impacts of COVID-19 on individuals and families throughout the lifespan, and the burden of mental and substance use disorder. Register here. [Audience: Grad students and Postdocs]

WorlDance! (April 20, 9:30am-10:30am): Come and join Dr. Farah Shroff in Wellbeing Convene high energy dance class that will take us on a journey along the silk route and other parts of the planet. Be ready to boogie and sweat! Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

Chocolate Meditation: Savor the Moment (April 21, 12:00pm-1:00pm): Join this session to tantalize all of your senses with this special meditation. Explore the sweet, bitter, subtle and strong flavors that make eating chocolate so wonderful. Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

Overcoming Perfectionism (April 22, 9:00am-11:30am): For grad students, striving for “perfect” can translate to chronic procrastination, strain on peer and supervisor relationships, and never feeling like you’re good enough. This workshop will introduce the components of perfectionism and strategies to manage its impact. Register here. [Audience: Grad students and Postdocs]

Roadmap to Resilience in Graduate School and Beyond (May 5, 1:00pm-4:00pm): Have you ever wondered how to tap into your resilience during challenging times? This interactive session will define resilience, and show you ways to build it in order to decrease your stress levels and optimize your wellbeing as you pursue academic success and career aspirations. Register here. [Audience: Grad students and Postdocs]

Finding Balance: A Watercolor Meditation (May 7, 12:00pm-1:00pm): Explore the notion of “letting go” through Mindfulness and creativity. Join Michelle Man in this “Pop-Up” Mindfulness & Art class with an emphasis on cultivating a Beginner’s Mind, Non-Judgement, and an awareness of breath. Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

Wellbeing News & Views

“Grad school is like a marathon” … or is it?? Check out this essay from a PhD student at UC San Diego.

Searching for work/life balance? This post presents a mix of simple tips and intriguing, provocative ideas to consider (“embrace the imbalance”; zoom out to consider life’s “seasons”).

“Everyone deserves a colourful world”UBC students create free online mental health peer support service