REFRESH foot soak
The Radiation Medicine Program at Princess Margaret enjoyed a DIY Foot Soak session as part of their eight-week REFRESH schedule. Activities are customizable to the needs and interests of each team. (Photo: UHN)

When work gets physically and emotionally challenging, UHN Wellness Coordinator Paul Smits says it's important to remember to prioritize your personal well-being.

UHN Wellness is committed to bringing more customized, holistic wellness activities to units and departments to boost individual resiliency and overall health.

The REFRESH Program, led by Paul, is an opportunity for employees who may not have the flexibility to get away from their work stations to participate in wellness practices.

"As healthcare professionals, you give and you give to so many people," Paul says.

"The REFRESH program allows you a moment or two to take time for yourself."

Delivered right to each unit or department for eight weeks, the one-hour weekly sessions are split into 10 or 15-minute slots where groups of employees can drop in at the time that works best for them.

Customize your wellness plan

The eight-week sessions are completely customizable to the needs and interests of the team.

Groups can choose to exercise or dance for physical rejuvenation, meditate or practice laughter yoga for an emotional pick-me-up, or make DIY items like a foot soak or candle for some at-home relaxation.

"It's my hope that with the varied list of offerings, we can find something for everyone in the room that they can lean on to improve their own health," Paul says.

Groups are also encouraged to bring forward other activity ideas that may not currently be on Wellness' menu.

To view the REFRESH menu and sign up your unit or department, click here. Please note there is a $250 fee to enroll in the program, which covers cost of supplies and other resources staff can bring home with them.

What does a healthy workplace mean to you?

In October, UHN is celebrating Canada's Healthy Workplace Month.

While the meaning of wellness differs person to person, Paul says having the tools to facilitate open and honest conversations about our challenges when it comes to our well-being – physically, emotionally and spiritually – is something UHN is doing great work towards.

"We want to recognize the amazing work that UHN staff does and the importance of taking time for themselves," he says.

"Through REFRESH, we're showing our employees that we value their well-being."

Paul's tips for a healthier workplace:

  • Taking time for yourself doesn't have to be time consuming. Don't underestimate the value of a quick stretch, a short walk around the hall or looking at a photo of a loved one or pet for 10 seconds. The smallest things can go a long way.
  • Decorate your workspace with things that bring you joy – your favourite photo, book, mug and tea, sweater, or plant (if you have a window) are a few ideas.
  • Take a moment to consciously breathe deeply. It's the most effective way to tap into your rest and relaxation response, the opposite of your flight and flight response when you're anxious or stressed.​
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