Trainee Thrive – March 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.


The snowdrops and crocuses popping up across Vancouver tell us that spring is here: usually my cue to open the curtains, stow away the winter coat (though not the umbrella), and reach out to friends for that first (chilly) patio brunch or BBQ. After a long, dark winter, March feels like the time to “come out of hibernation.” But with social gatherings still prohibited and Zoom fatigue taking its toll, what does that mean this year?

I was talking with a grad student last month who laughed that “it’s at the point where you need to dig your friends out of their hole and come take their social medicine.” Hopefully soon we will be able to resume socially-distanced picnics in the park; until then, what can you do to (re)connect? Could you send a text or meme, make a phone call, meet up for a mid-day walk? Everyone’s capacity is different, especially now, but isolation is tough on almost everyone. What can we do together to share a much-needed dose of friendship, joy, and fun?

Lots of us have felt especially hunkered down these past months, so this edition of Trainee Thrive highlights peer-centred resources and events. There’s nothing quite like connecting with others who get it, who’ve been there (or are “there” right now).

Note: A lot of people are feeling “done” and exhausted for any number of reasons. While reconnecting with others can help, if you’re feeling persistently sad or down – especially if it’s negatively affecting your life – reach out to one of the support resources available to you (postdocs can contact their EFAP, or connect with me to discuss options). These resources are there for you to use. Once you realise you’re not doing well, don’t delay – you’re worth it, and your happiness is worth it!

It’s also Nutrition Month! This year’s theme for Nutrition Month is intuitive eating. UBC is running a fabulous program called NourishU: “a 31-day nutrition journey to transform your relationship with food.” It’s not too late to participate – there are daily prize draws (though if you want to qualify for the grand prize draw – an air fryer! – you’ll need to go back and complete the reflections from earlier in March). Yesterday’s reflection (March 9), for instance, begins:

“To break free from restriction and make peace with food, it is essential to address the guilt you may associate with food. Here are some tips to help you with this process …”

Curious? Check it out! There are also some fantastic events coming up as part of the Promoting Food Security in Higher Education virtual conference series.

Here’s me enjoying some plant-based turmeric ice cream with my partner at Virtuous Pie a couple of years ago. Looking forward to ice cream weather again soon! -Karen

Opportunity Spotlight

Passionate about grad student wellbeing & education? We’re hiring!

The Graduate & Postdoctoral Education Office is excited to be recruiting two graduate students for paid, part-time summer Work Learn positions. One position focuses on graduate student wellbeing, mental health literacy, and resilience and the other focuses on the Faculty of Medicine’s educational curriculum.

For more information, click here. Applications close on March 28, 2021.

Resource Highlights

This month, we’re highlighting peer-led (or peer-focused) resources:

AMS Peer Support

AMS Peer Support provides free, confidential, one-on-one peer support for UBC students. Whatever you’re struggling with, trained student volunteers are available to listen. Book an online appointment, accessible from anywhere in the world. They’re also running a weekly Dialogue Night on Wednesday evenings (tonight’s topic: Finding Meaning and Being Mindful). For more info, follow @ams_peersupport on Instagram (link in bio).

Graduate Wellness Discussion Series

This interactive discussion series explores topics like supervision, procrastination/perfectionism, work-life balance, financial pressures, and other challenges of grad student life. Facilitated by members of UBC Counselling Services and the Health and Promotion Education Unit.

Upcoming event: Imposter Syndrome (Wed March 17 @ 12pm)

Come learn & discuss with fellow grad students:

  • The imposter syndrome/phenomenon – what it is and how it impacts your life
  • The Competence Rulebook for Mere Mortals (Valerie Young)
  • The 5 competence types
  • Resources, strategies, and creating an action plan

Register here.

UBC Graduate Student Online Support Group

Thursdays, 1:30–2:45 pm PT

This group is focused on helping graduate students to stay connected, discuss what matters most to you, and build resilience to manage this challenging time. You can join the group at any time during the term. Topics include: Handling uncertainty and worry about academic and career goals; shifting and rebuilding routines; finding or creating meaning; dealing with loneliness and distance from support networks; staying motivated and creative; and more.

Register here.

Student & Trainee Associations

Whether program-based (like the Neuroscience Trainee Association or Rehabilitation Sciences Student Executive Committee) or site-based (like GrasPods or the HLI Trainee Association), joining a student or trainee association is an excellent way to give back and invest in your community. Some associations have a wellbeing coordinator or committee, or may be able to support volunteer trainees who want to organize wellbeing initiatives.

The Rehabilitation Sciences Student Executive Committee (RSEC) recently launched a blog for students to share their experiences and suggestions with each other. Check out these posts, where Rehab Sciences students share their thoughts on mental health, wellness, and productivity:

Let’s talk mental health! – how we can better support ourselves and others by Kim Bennett (MSc Student) & Cristina Rubino (PhD Student), Rehabilitation Sciences
Work-life balance during a pandemic: how current RSEC students are managing health, wellness and productivity by Smruthi Ramachandran (MSc Student) & Kohle Merry (PhD Student), Rehabilitation Sciences

Wellbeing Feature

Suspicious of nutrition advice? I was too – until I actually got a taste of what NourishU was serving up! This month on the blog, I share a few links, reflections, and weak food puns in honour of Nutrition Month.

Quick Tips

My Go-To Recipes

Everyone has different tastes and needs when it comes to recipes, but I couldn’t let Nutrition Month go by without sharing a few! My go-to food blog is Smitten Kitchen; I regularly make Sweet Potato Salad with Pepita DressingRoasted Cabbage with Walnuts and Parmesan, and Greens, Orzo and Meatball Soup. I wish newsletters had comment sections; I’d love to hear some of your favourites, whether all-time classics or quarantine discoveries!

Another solid resource is Good and Cheap, a cookbook (available to download as a free PDF) by New York-based, Edmonton-raised Leanne Brown. Leanne designed these tasty and nourishing recipes to work on a limited income (her benchmark at the time was $4/day USD, a typical food stamps budget).

Lastly, I wanted to share my forever-fallback recipe, one that I made countless times throughout my Master’s in Toronto and my PhD in Calgary. I don’t remember where I got the recipe, but I know it by heart. It’s truly so tasty and easy:

1 cup orzo pasta (cook according to package directions, drain & set aside to cool).
Add: 1 red pepper (chopped), 2 tomatoes (chopped), 3 green onions (chopped), 1 can black beans (drained), 1 can corn (drained), some feta cheese (maybe a cup? whatever amount looks good to you), and some kalamata olives (again, I kinda eyeball this). Mix all this together with the cooked orzo.
Dressing: whisk 2 tablespoons olive oil with ~1/4 cup lemon juice, season with salt & pepper. Toss with the salad. That’s it! Leftovers keep well in the fridge for several days.

Upcoming Events

10 Days of Mindfulnes – March (March 10-23, 8:45am-9:00am): Join your community for 10 days of daily or single mindfulness sessions as a healthy routine to improve your ability to manage stress, feel connected, improve focus, sleep better, increase empathy feelings and decrease emotional reactivity. Facilitated by Aisha Tejani. Register here. [Audience: Postdocs]

Traveling Health Fair – 2021: Women’s Health (Tuesday March 16, 10:00am-10:45am; Wednesday, March 17, 1:00pm-1:45pm; Friday, March 19, 1:00pm-1:45pm): A series of webinars and consultations on health topics of particular interest to women, focused on ways women can nourish and protect their bodies and minds throughout their lives. Register here. [Audience: Postdocs]

Grad Student Discussion Series: Imposter Syndrome (Wednesday March 17, 12:00-1:30pm). This interactive workshop will be facilitated by members of UBC Counselling Services and the Health and Promotion Education Unit, and focus on understanding and managing feelings of the imposter phenomenon. Register here. [Audience: Grad students]

Growing Resilience (Friday March 19, 12:00-1:00pm) Join this Wellbeing Convene webinar delivered by Dr. Joanna McDermid. This Mindful Practice and Healing session will help you build resilience during difficult times to foster wellbeing and make it through without making it worse. Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

Graduate Pathways to Success: Breaking Patterns of Procrastination (Tuesday March 23, 9:00-11:30am): Contrary to what most people think, procrastination is not fundamentally a time management problem, which is why just trying to manage your schedule better is limited in effectiveness in changing this pattern of behaviour. This workshop is here to help you procrastinate less and get more done. Facilitated by Alex Abdel-Malek, MSW, RCC. Register here. [Audience: Grad Students]

Difficult Conversations – A Missed Opportunity (Thursday March 25, 12:00-1:30pm): Join this session intending to show and discuss research-informed practices to help turn difficult conversations into opportunities for the construction of mutual understanding. Facilitated by Roquela Fernandez and Prof. Tom Scholte. Register here. [Audience: Postdocs]

Yoga for Liberation: Yoga & Activism for Wellbeing (Thursday March 25, 8:00am): In this Wellbeing Convene session, Dr. Farah Shroff leads us through elements of yoga practice with an emphasis on social justice and liberation in its various meanings. Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

Imagining New Stories (Thursday March 25, 5:00-6:30pm): Communities of Care Speaker Series. Enroll in this virtual series examining the power of storytelling in social movements and the interaction between storytelling and relationships of power. Find out how the power of imagination can articulate, envision, and create transformative futures. Register here. [Audience: Grad students and Postdocs]

The ART of Wellness: Spring Painting (Thursday April 8, 6:00pm-8:30pm): This Spring Painting session will enhance the health benefits of creative expression through art making, pointing to stress reduction, focus, and relaxation. Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

Wellbeing News & Views

Grad School Confidential: This new podcast out of University of Alberta “pulls back the curtain on the grad student experience, taking a candid look at the feelings that many of us leave unspoken.”

Weighing the pandemic’s psychological toll: UBC’s Dr. Lakshmi Yatham, professor and head of the UBC department of psychiatry, is among those studying how people are coping with COVID-19. Your input can help.

Help pilot a theatre-based supervision workshop! Interested in improving supervisory relationships in UBC’s Faculty of Medicine? Curious about how to spark discussion around touchy topics? Help pilot a new online, theatre-based dialogue resource! Looking for volunteers for sessions in the week of March 15-19. More info here.