Wellness in Residency and During COVID

By. Dr. Kai Yi Wu

It is finally spring! The birds are chirping, the weather is warming up and my co-resident physicians and I can finally experience sunlight after work. It has been almost two years since I started my residency in internal medicine and over one year of being in a global pandemic. Residency has been both demanding and rewarding and these experiences have allowed me to reflect on what drives my motivation and the meaning of wellness. With May being  Resident Physician Wellness Month, I thought I’d share with you some strategies I use to keep well and rejuvenated during residency.

Plan Breaks into Your Schedule

Early in my training, I found it difficult to make time for myself. It was easy to bring work home and always feel that there was more work to be done. I often caught myself thinking, “Shouldn’t I be reading around my cases?” or “What about that study that the fellow mentioned?” For me and many others, this mentality led to a sense of guilt for relaxing, even on my days off.

One solution I have found to be helpful is intentionally planning personal time into my schedule. As silly as this sounds, planning breaks beforehand has contributed to my wellness. By setting aside time in the day for myself, I know that I can set aside my work for a time and focus on another activity, such as cooking a meal, watching a movie or show, reading a book or completing chores around the house. I acknowledge that planning breaks may be difficult. However, even setting a few moments aside for rest allows for a refreshed focus on the tasks ahead.

Be Active:

I know the feeling of wanting to head to bed or sit on the couch after a long day at work. However, I want to emphasize the importance of staying physically active. The key is to be consistent and incorporate it as part of your lifestyle. One of my favourite activities is to run or go on a brisk walk in the Edmonton river valley. These are times when I can enjoy the scenery and relax the mind. This winter, I bought a spin bike and parked it in my living room to remind me to exercise daily. Whatever activity you choose, make that a habit.

Stay Connected:

My fiancée, friends, family and co-resident physicians are essential to my wellness. They listen to my concerns, pray over me and help me during difficult times in my training. One strategy that helps me maintain relationships is to schedule time to connect with others.  Prior to the pandemic, we would host or attend regular get-togethers with our loved ones. With the COVID restrictions, I still try to be connected with my support system through regular Facetime/Zoom/phone calls. Nurturing and maintaining relationships are important during residency and even more so during a pandemic.

Planning breaks, staying active and staying connected with my loved ones help me maintain my wellness in residency. I hope this blog post provides you with some tools to stay well in residency and beyond!



Dr. Kai Yi Wu is a Core Internal Medicine resident physician at the University of Alberta.