Think You Might Have a Case of the Winter Blues?

CFIR Toronto's Clinic Director, Dr. Lila Z. Hakim, C. Psych., offers a few helpful tips below to start feeling good again **:

Nourish Your Body

Many of us experience cravings for certain foods when the winter season blows in and our bodies develop a yen for carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are directly linked to the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, an emotion regulator that helps you feel emotionally stable, less anxious, calmer, more focused and energetic.

When that 3 p.m. craving for a savoury or sweet snack hits, it’s your body’s way of self-medicating, seeking to improve your mood by boosting your serotonin levels. Listen to your body and give yourself that much-needed serotonin lift.

Instead of calorie-dense, sugary pieces of bread and sweets that offer a quick mood-boost and then a crash, consider healthier alternatives such as fruits, nuts, and yogurt.

Get Active!

Physical activity increases not only the calming neurotransmitter serotonin, but also increases dopamine, the emotion and pleasure neurotransmitter, and endorphins, your pain-relief and pleasure neurotransmitters. Incorporating movement into your day (climbing stairs, going for a walk, etc.) gives your body the activity it needs to keep your mood up throughout the day.

Make Sleep a Priority

Sleeping excessively (or hibernating) is normal in the winter and is often a reaction to the cold, but for some, ongoing insomnia or difficulties falling or staying asleep create difficulties that can lead to the blues. Provide yourself with a space at home that includes comforting objects (such as a warm blanket, beautiful objects, etc.) to calm your stress hormones. Aim to get exactly the amount of sleep you need to feel fully rested and ask a professional if you are unsure about how much rest is the ideal amount.

Do Things that Light You Up

Find activities in your life that give you a sense of pleasure and meaning, that involve curiosity, exploration, and interest­–this could be collecting or building things, researching something you love like traveling, or caring for other people. Artistic endeavours like creating and listening to remarkable music are also great options. Pleasure, curiosity, exploration, and interest all stimulate dopamine, which makes you feel exhilarated and alive!

(**Note: If you or a person you know is experiencing regular symptoms of depression, it is important to seek medical attention from a physician. If you don’t have a family doctor, click here for additional information and options via

Endorsement. It’s Critical for Your Next Job Reference

by: Erin Leslie, Coach, EQ-i Certified - CFIR Toronto

You’ve pretty much landed the job, but now you need to pass the reference check portion. Providing references to a future employer is critical to landing the job and on the right foot.

An endorsement is a natural validation of past job(s) well done.

How do you ensure you’re choosing the right references?

  1. Request to meet with your reference so you can go over the job opportunity that you applied to and discuss your expectations of their review of you.
  2. Be sure you are approaching the right people who can describe sufficient firsthand knowledge of your work patterns and achievements, to adequately speak on your behalf.
  3. Make sure to validate your level of comfort and confidence with their responses on your work ethic and value. Know that they are evaluating their role in your process, their level of confidence to support you, needs to be high.
Ahead of ever needing a reference - know that all references are formed on your ability to build and maintain effective relationships.

If you find yourself having trouble thinking of an adequate reference, it might be time to have a closer inspection of your self-awareness and interpersonal skills.

Performing an EQ-i assessment of your emotional intelligence can help shed some light on potential blinders. Ask a coach to provide this assessment.

For more essential tips on the steps to take to support your reference check phase of the hiring process, click here to review eight mistakes to avoid when engaging your references.

Erin Leslie is an Associate of the Career Coaching and Counselling Service as well as the Career & Vocational Assessment Service at CFIR (Toronto). Erin is certified in emotional intelligence assessment (EQ-i 2.0) and is President of President, EQFootprints. She is a professional who supports clients with professional preparations in leading their careers, breaking down problems in specific projects, teaching team dynamic tools, creating effective professional branding and networking essentials. Erin currently works under the direct supervision of Dr. Dino Zuccarini, C.Psych.