Trainee Thrive – May 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.


A couple weeks ago, UBC President Santa Ono remarked:

“Thanks to an unprecedented global effort, including leading work by UBC researchers to develop vaccines and strategies to combat COVID-19, the end of the pandemic is hopefully within reach. I am looking forward to the rhythm and vibrancy of daily life returning, and at UBC, to campuses energized by students, faculty and staff.”

Doesn’t that sound good? The rhythm and vibrancy of daily life … the return of that crackling back-to-school energy, amplified tenfold. We’ve been told to hope and prepare for it (if you missed the April 20 “Update on UBC’s Campus Return Plan,” you can find it here).

But if you’re like me, your ability to imagine and plan for the future – even a few months down the road – has taken a serious hit. After all, BC Health Minister Adrian Dix recently cautioned:

“Right now we need to live in the present, right now that means following public health guidance, and public health orders.”

Dix continued: “I know that we’re preparing, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves.” Of course, he was referring to a very specific set of decisions, related to travel and other restrictions. But something about this paradox – preparing, but can’t get ahead of ourselves – struck a chord in me. How can we, as human beings, re-learn to plan, anticipate, or hope, when the past 13 months have taught us not to count on anything staying the same?

In their new workbook Stories & Letters: Using Creativity to Navigate the Pre-Post-Pandemic World, UBC counsellors Freeman Woolnough & Karen Moss write:

While there does seem to be hope breaking through on the horizon, we are not there yet – and a significant amount of future unknown is definitely scary.

Their workbook offers a smorgasbord of activities and exercises, many grounded in a therapeutic approach called narrative therapy, to help process the transition we’re living through. If you already journal, the exercises are fantastic prompts; they could also be conversation starters with friends or peers, or one-off reflection exercises for yourself. Exploring transition, identity, grief, expectations, fun, and the emotions that run through them all, this would be a great resource to work through over the summer months. (Alternatively, if you’d prefer a resource that focuses on managing the anxiety and worry that uncertainty can stir up, check out Tolerance for Uncertainty: A COVID-19 Workbook. It’s grounded in a counselling approach called Dialectical Behaviour Therapy).

May we all find ways to enjoy the present (and accept uncertainty), as we give ourselves permission to start imagining and hoping for what might lie ahead!

p.s. Wellbeing involves all aspects of the good life – including comfortable, convenient, and low-stress transportation options. If you haven’t already, give your feedback on the proposed UBC Skytrain Extension until May 14 (tomorrow!).

Resource Spotlight

Getting through Grad School with Grace & Grit

I know I’ve mentioned UBC’s grad student support group before, but I love its new name: Getting through Grad School with Grace & Grit: The Online Support Group.

This support group is a non-judgmental online community where graduate students come together in solidarity to discuss what matters most to them, support each other, and apply grace and grit to succeed in their current challenges.

Topics and themes include:

  • Learning to be kind to yourself during the sticky times we travel through,
  • Connecting with other grad students who may be experiencing similar difficulties,
  • Handling uncertainty and worry about academic and career goals,
  • Shifting and rebuilding routines during the pandemic,
  • Dealing with loneliness and distance from support networks,
  • Staying motivated and creative,
  • Living in alignment with your values,
  • Creating work-life balance,
  • Coping with imposterism, procrastination and perfectionism,
  • Managing relationships with mentors and supervisors, and
  • Getting closer to the version of yourself that you want.

Runs Thursdays, 1:30-2:45pm, May 13–July 29 (no problem if you missed the first session, or just want to drop in when you’re able). Find info here.

Resource Highlights

Spring & Summer Programs, UBC Recreation

Although current Provincial Health Orders have suspended many sports and fitness activities, register now for programs in June and beyond. Whether it’s martial arts, cardio & strength classes, personal training, or drop-in raquet sports – pick up an activity you enjoyed in the past, or try something entirely new!

At-a-Glance: Health & Wellbeing Resources

For grad students, is your one-stop-shop for up-to-date info about UBC health & wellbeing resources. Bookmark it now, in case you need it in the future! Navigate through the “Finding health support” feature to match resources to your needs, or browse the categories:

  • Talk to a health professional
  • Peer resources
  • Self-help tools
  • Taking care of your physical health

Wellbeing Feature

The prof asks a question; several peers jump in with seemingly coherent answers before you have even wrapped your mind around what she’s asking. You freeze, and the inner monologue kicks in:

“I bluffed my way through undergrad, but I don’t *actually* know what I’m doing – my supervisor’s going to see right through me. How am I going to catch up? Why did I think I was ready for grad school?? I’ve made a terrible mistake!”

You wander around a conference, looking at posters that are ostensibly in your field – and feeling completely lost. You gaze vaguely at the findings, avoiding eye contact, increasingly flustered:

“Did everyone else learn this in their Master’s? I’m supposed to be a PhD student, for crying out loud! Why is none of this familiar?”

This month on the Wellbeing Blog, I unpack imposter syndrome – how this common experience impacts trainees and how we can work to shift self-doubt into a more balanced, growth-promoting perspective.

If you’re interested in this topic, the ICORD Trainee Committee is hosting a webinar, “Overcoming Imposter Syndrome,” on Monday May 17 from 12-1:30pm. It will be presented by me (Karen Ross, Wellbeing Support Coordinator) and Karen Flood, psychologist with UBC Counselling Services. Click here for more info. Hope to see you there!

Quick Tips

Despite the click-baity title, I liked this post: “This Is How To Be Productive Without Being Miserable: 8 Proven Secrets.” It’s from Barking Up the Wrong Tree, a blog that collects “expert insight on how to be awesome at life.”

It’s a few years old, but given that some of us (*raises hand*) are struggling to stay productive without the help of our usual routines and workplaces, I found it super relevant!

Upcoming Events

TOMORROW! (Friday May 14, 8:00-9:00am): Managing Difficult Conversations with Supervisors: A Research-based Theatre Pilot Session. This 1-hour session will include a screening of a short-dramatized scene that highlights wellbeing issues in higher education, specifically around authorship of scientific papers. It also features some examples on managing difficult conversations with supervisors and senior personnel in the workplace. Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

TOMORROW! (Friday May 14, 12:00-1:00pm): Breathwork & Ho’Oponopono: The Healing Practice of Ancient Hawaiian Meditation, PT 2. Join Jay Bradley in a deep dive into understanding the beautiful Hawaiian Ho’oponopono forgiveness process, ho‘o (“to make”) and pono (“right”). The repetition of the word pono means “doubly right” or being right with both self and others. Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

MONDAY! Overcoming Imposter Syndrome (Monday May 17, 12:00-1:30pm): This interactive online workshop, organized by the ICORD Trainee Committee, will explore imposter syndrome & how it relates to the world of grad students. Presented by Karen Ross, Faculty of Medicine Grad & Postdoc Wellbeing Support Coordinator, and Karen Flood, psychologist with UBC Counselling Services. Register here!

May is Asian Heritage Month at UBC, and there are still some great events coming up (including “The Story of Bhangra,” tonight!). Check out the schedule, and register for the upcoming National Forum on Anti-Asian Racism.

30-Day online Mindfulness Challenge (Any time, any place, self-directed). Join this 30-Day Mindfulness Challenge, a free online training program to reduce stress while increasing joy and peak performance in all areas of life including leadership, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and decision-making in the workplace. After just 10 minutes a day for 30 consecutive days, you will become healthier, more productive and better able to problem-solve and work in a team. Register here. [Audience: UBC staff, faculty and postdoctoral fellows]

Confident Public Speaking and Communication: A Tactical Approach (May 18, 9:30am – 12:30pm). Register for this interactive session to make impactful presentations, and create effective communication strategies and slide visuals.  Register here. [Audience: Grad students and Postdocs]

Meal Planning + Prepping: Easy Ways to Make Balanced and Tasty Meals to Meet Your Nutritional Goals (May 18, 12:00pm – 1:00pm). Discover how a few simple meal planning steps can greatly reduce weekly stress and help you stick to your wellness goals. Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

Webinar: Designing Your Life (May 19, 11:00am-12:00pm). This workshop will challenge you to think about the multiple possible futures you can design for your life and career. Each day is an opportunity to think like a designer – to be curious, try things out, collaborate with others, reflect, and be mindful when making choices. Register here. [Audience: UBC students]

SMALL TALK IQ (May 26, 9:30am – 12:30pm). Say goodbye to awkward silences and drawn-out discussions on rain and welcome best practices in conversational skills that can last you a lifetime. In this 3-hour session, we’ll explore approaches to strengthen your professional network and authentically build human connections, while improving interpersonal IQ. Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

Time Management (June 1, 9:00am-5:00pm): Come and join this energetic, intensive one-day course to sharpen your professional time management skills and optimize your working week. Building on the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) best practices, methodologies, and productivity tactics, the workshop provides tools and techniques that can be applied to a partner industry project or employment-based role. Register here. [Audience: UBC students]

Sleep Well: Understand How a Good Night’s Sleep Affects Your Wellbeing (June 3, 12:00pm-1:00pm): Register for this event to shine a light on the important role that sleep plays on productivity. Learn how to start sleep-healthy habits, effective bedtime routines, handle night wakings, etc. to avoid common sleeping problems. Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

Breathe into Color: A Watercolor Meditation (June 9, 12:00pm-1:00pm): Join the Zen Circle, a round form of art which draws the mindfulness practitioner into a meditative state. Learn how this beautiful art form can train the mind and the breath to come back to the present moment with each brush stroke. Register here. [Audience: UBC Faculty of Medicine]

Wellbeing News & Views

Check out four UBC grad students’ research on mental health, focusing on different populations and approached from different angles.

Another oldie-but-goodie, from the Harvard Business Review: To Find Meaning in Your Work, Change How You Think About It.

From UBC HR: “While sex is a fundamental aspect of being a human, the topics of sex, sexuality and reproductive health are often considered taboo.” Check out these tips and links to support your sexual and reproductive health.