Finding the Balance in Wellness

As a busy ER doctor, public health educator, and mom of two young kids, my health and wellness has to be made a deliberate priority for me.

I like to view my overall health and wellness in a few different domains: how I feel, how I move my body, how I eat, and how I sleep. These are the areas that I regularly check in with myself about within a given day or week as a temperature check on how I’m doing.

Of course, there are times when these internal check-ins aren’t enough to manage my overwhelm and level of burnout. In the chaos of daily life, it’s pretty hard to get away from the mental load of deadlines, to-do lists, family and social planning, and housework when it’s all staring me in the face.

I’ve come to realize that the best way to truly disconnect and reset is to leave my regular environment to have a more immersive relaxation experience. When I leave the chaos behind, I can be more present and intentional in understanding what my mind and body need to rest and recover.

Recently, I snuck away to Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (JPL) with girlfriends for an extended weekend to do exactly this. I love how I feel when I stay at JPL, because it really offers a one-stop shop for restorative self-care. Nestled in the middle of nature, I feel cared for, at ease, and completely surrounded by everything I need to fill my cup.

That being said, as a doctor with a personal passion for evidence-based health education, a feeling is one thing, but I’m always looking at what the science says. I always strive to have a deep understanding of the research behind the health and wellness decisions that I make for myself and my family.  So, what evidence is there regarding a weekend retreat for burnout mitigation and self-care? Well, let’s break it all down!

How I Feel


My mood can be affected so much by what’s around me, what I’m feeling within, and what I’m anticipating in the days or weeks to come. When I’m at JPL, I try to focus on the now, and what I can participate in to support my practice of mindfulness and elevate my feeling of wellbeing.

Nature – here’s another area where Jasper Park Lodge hits it out of the park (pun intended). The evidence around the effect of nature on both physical and mental health is irrefutable. Something as simple as being in nature for 15 minutes can boost your mood and increase your overall level of happiness. This helps explain why I almost immediately feel less stressed as soon as I arrive in Jasper. In fact, one friend joked that my “shoulders dropped two inches,” as soon as I stepped out of the car! Spending time in nature has been shown to decrease cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. You can literally help prevent disease just by enjoying time outdoors. 

During my stay, I booked myself a Rockies Relaxation massage at the spa. When it comes to muscle health, the evidence shows that massage can help with muscle soreness, range of motion and low back pain. Interestingly, massage therapy can also have a positive effect on mood, in particular for reducing anxiety and depression. Massage can stimulate the release of serotonin and dopamine (some of the body’s feel good hormones) and decrease cortisol (one of our body’s stress hormones). This certainly explains why I left my massage in a relaxed daze!

How I Move


Moving my body every day is a non-negotiable for me. The evidence is crystal clear that daily exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and helps prolong a happy healthy life. At JPL, there are endless possibilities to be active, quite literally in its backyard, all year round.

Our first morning there, we woke up early to walk around Lac Beauvert, spotting deer and elk along the way. In the afternoon, I hit the gym to sneak in my strength workout. I love that I never have to miss a strength day while at JPL. The second day included a day on the slopes of Marmot Basin, followed by the après-yoga class in JPL’s movement studio. We ended the day with a lovely hot tub and steam to wind down. 

For me, one of the most fascinating things about yoga in particular is that the science for it spans so many different aspects of both health and wellness. Beyond the obvious cardiovascular benefits of exercise, research has shown that yoga also improves strength, mobility, balance, mood, flexibility, and cognition, while also reducing fall risk, blood pressure and stress. The abundance of evidence about all the positive and protective health effects on both the mind and body has convinced me to prioritize consistency in my yoga practice.

How I Eat


When looking at the evidence for what is recommended for nutritional and dietary needs for health, the overall messaging is consistent:

  • Eat a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, protein, fibre and whole grains
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Eat mindfully
  • Limit highly processed foods
  • Focus on healthy fats, rather than saturated fats
  • Avoid sugary drinks
  • Cook more often

All of these recommendations were easily accessible during my stay. At Orso Trattoria, I enjoyed seasonal fruit parfaits topped with granolas and seeds full of omega-3 fatty acids. In the Great Hall, I ate a delicious winter mosaic bowl of beets topped with goat cheese and paired it with a curated non-alcoholic cocktail. After a walk around the lake, I sipped my favourite cocktail, the Empress 75. We also had the option to cook our own meals in the kitchen of our Ridgeline Cabin. This made breakfasts easy during our low-key mornings and snacking on fruits and veggies possible throughout the day. 

How I Sleep


Sleep is one of the most vital factors in overall health and wellness. Poor sleep has strong links to decreased life span, increased cardiovascular disease, cognitive function, mood, and so much more. 

For years, I’ve been telling my husband that I never sleep as well as I do at a Fairmont hotel or resort. I’ve always wondered why this is the case, and after digging into some of the research surrounding sleep, I better understand what JPL does to optimize sleep environments. 

As a shift worker, I’m already set up for failure when it comes to sleep, so I have done everything I can to learn about what can help me be as consistent with my sleep as possible. 

The ideal sleep environment is one that is dark, cool, quiet and comfortable. All of these were very easy to attain during my stay. Each room has blackout curtains (that get closed during turndown service), a thermostat (to target the ideal sleeping temperature of around 18ºC or 68ºF), good sound insulation (I couldn’t hear the honking Canada Geese outside our cabin) and some of the most comfortable beds and linens I’ve slept in. 

bedroom with blue tartan carpet and bench at the foot of the bed

At the end of the weekend, I felt rested and restored with a level of mental clarity that I hadn’t been able to attain for some time. I was able to use the weekend to focus on what I needed to get ready to face the world again with a little bit more balance. Plus, it was great to be able to come back and tell my husband that the evidence shows that I (we) should spend more weekends away at JPL!


**DISCLAIMER: All information presented on Dr. Shazma Mithani’s website, social media pages, blog, newsletter, media/podcast interviews, or any other platforms are for educational purposes only and should not be taken as personal medical advice. These resources are to educate and should not replace the medical judgement and evaluation of a licensed healthcare provider who is evaluating a patient.It is your responsibility to seek appropriate medical attention when you are concerned about yourself or your children/family. All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer, organizations, or hospitals that I may be affiliated with. By using this site, you acknowledge the above statement and understand the information on this website is not medical advice. You will seek out care from a licensed healthcare provider for any medical question you have about yourself or a family member.

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