A wintery view out of a streetcar window of the road full of cars

Latest words of wellness: Winter Blues

Kate Noseworthy gives some tips on beating the Winter Blues.

Want to relax? Find out where on campus

The university has supports for you, including the university’s Employee and Family Assistance Program.  

There is a list of other wellness resources available to the community on the Human Resources & Equity website which is updated frequently. 

Temerty Medicine Health and Wellness is a Sharepoint site designed for administrative, research and technical staff to learn about new wellness initiatives at the University, participate in discussion forums with your colleagues, and to access great resources including self-help articles, yoga/meditation videos and much more. 

Words of wellness

Winter Blues: February 2023

As February is ending and we have transitioned to darker and colder days, many of us can experience a sense of lethargy, trouble with sleep, changes in mood or appetite, commonly called the “Winter Blues.”

Tips to beat the Winter Blues:

  1. Seek out the sunlight as much as possible; consider light therapy if you have limited access to natural sunlight during the day.
  2. Exercise: even a simple walk can be highly beneficial. Consider a walk outside during a break to enjoy the sunlight and fresh air.
  3. Eat a balanced diet, including whole grains and fruits and vegetables.
  4. Adopt a regular sleep routine: you can refer to our previous Words of Wellness on Sleep Habits below for specific tips on this topic! 
  5. Stimulate your senses with bright colors, soothing scents or tastes. Take time for self-care.
  6. Stay connected to your social network.

“Winter Blues” symptoms are usually temporary and can be lessen by small lifestyle changes. If you experience significant symptoms that impact your ability to function, this may be more than Winter Blues and you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is important to seek help if your symptoms are persistent or cause you significant distress.


Kate Noseworthy

On behalf of the Wellness Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee

Practicing meditation: January 2023

Dear LMP Community,
Lately, I have been interested in learning more about the daily practice of love and compassion and just recently finished reading “An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life” by The Dalai Lama. I found the chapter introducing meditation really intriguing and wanted to share this with you all, as I believe anyone can apply it no matter their background or their current circumstances.

It is believed that all human beings have an innate desire for joy and happiness. Yet, we all face difficult circumstances that cause pain, misery, disappointment, anger, or discontent. We all suffer for different reasons.

In Buddhism, it is recognized that people suffer not only when experiencing great tragedies (suffering of suffering), but also when obtaining success that naturally runs its course (suffering of change) or when they become more subtly controlled by negative thoughts and emotions (suffering of conditioning). Regarding the last, Buddhism teaches that we ourselves can be instigators of our own pain by letting our minds become consumed by dark thoughts. Like “a freshly grafted branch on an old tree that will eventually absorb the life of that tree and create a new one”, the essence of meditative practice is to actively replace negative thought patterns with healthy habits that break the cycle.

It is first important to choose an object to meditate upon. The “chosen object” can be physical such as a person or thing, a non-physical virtuous quality to strive towards, or even something as simple as your rhythmic breathing.

We can first familiarize ourselves with the chosen object using analytical meditation, wherein critical reasoning is used to cultivate closeness with the subject. Why be patient, for example? It can relieve us of pent-up frustrations, prevent conflict with loved ones, and become a trait that others appreciate in us. Once we become convinced of the value of patience and are familiar with its qualities, settled meditation is used to settle our minds on the feeling it gives and let it sink in. Thus, through analytical and settled meditative practices, we can slowly correct thoughts that cause us pain and replace them with virtuous actions that become integrated into every aspect of our lives. 

The book “An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life” has been helpful to me, and I hope that it can be valuable to anyone looking to implement new healthy mental habits into their daily routine in 2023!

Anca Maglaviceanu 

On behalf of the Wellness Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee

Practicing mindfulness: November 2022

I have recently found solace in the practice of yoga as an avenue to explore the topic of mindfulness and I thought of sharing my experience with you in the spirit a Community of Practice.

Typically, when beginning the session, the instructor begins with a pose termed Savasana (essentially lying on your back with your arms to the side, and eyes closed). While in this pose, you are invited to gradually relax one body part at a time, one muscle at a time, and one thought at a time. Although this may seem fairly straightforward, I’ve come to realize that this pose is rather challenging for me. I have no problem twisting, balancing, and stretching, but when it comes time focusing on releasing the tensions in my body and mind, I struggle.

That last part right there “…releasing the tensions in one’s body and mind” is particularly difficult. Often, I find myself ruminating – repetitively thinking about an event to an excessive degree. I know I am not alone on this! Yoga, or any practice of mindfulness, whether that be meditation, breathing, or walking, invites us to bring attention to the present moment without judgement. We are given the space to bring our focused attention to a present moment sensation, thought or feeling without clinging to it, resisting it, or trying to change it. 

One of the goals of practicing mindfulness is to improve you overall well-being. The practice of mindfulness has several benefits, including decreasing the impact of stress, fostering resilience and the ability to cope with negative thoughts and emotions, improving sleep, and brain and immune functions, to name a few. 

Mindfulness is a practice. As such, is not the goal. I encourage you to take a few moments out of your day to tune into your experience both inside and outside of your body, and to see how this translates into the rest of your life.


Kate Noseworthy

On Behalf of the Wellness Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee

The 20% Rule and Prevention of Burnout: September 2022

I attended a wonderful wellness course in San Francisco this summer.

During the breaks, there was much talk about the “20% rule” and how it helps provide meaning in work and prevent burnout.

The 20% rule was published in 2009 in JAMA Internal Medicine/Archives of Internal Medicine. The authors studied a group of over 500 health care professionals and looked at the time spent doing work they felt was most meaningful, and its relationship to professional fulfillment and burnout. They found that professionals who spend 20% or more of their time doing work that was meaningful to them had an almost 50% less risk of burnout compared to those who did less than 20%.  A simple but powerful message.

The takeaways? Firstly, find work that is meaningful to you, whether it’s patient care, writing papers, mentoring and teaching, peer support or improving the student experience. This is work in which you find your flow, where time seems to fly, and what you find personally rewarding. Secondly, do your best to find 20% of your time to do this. Have a conversation with your leaders - it’s definitely good for your wellbeing and professional fulfillment!

Read the paper: Career Fit and Burnout Among Academic Faculty

Warm regards,
Gino Somers
On Behalf of the Wellness Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee

Optimism is a Superpower: April 2022

The weather is improving, the days are getting longer and COVID restrictions are lifting – there’s a note of optimism in the air.

But optimism shouldn’t just be for spring. In the workplace, it’s been proven that optimism is a powerful tool, especially in uncertain times. In a survey of leadership qualities, optimism often ranks as an essential character trait.

To demonstrate the power of a positive outlook, one study examined the effect of several positive interventions on a struggling healthcare system. The researchers incorporated gestures such as praise and recognition, celebrating wins big and small, and sharing notes of encouragement. After six weeks, wellbeing and happiness increased 50% and engagement levels improved. Over a 12-month period, patients were reporting a more positive experience, and even the financial health of the hospital improved!

Being an optimist doesn’t mean being oblivious to issues, concerns, or threats; rather, a modern (or ‘rational’) optimist sees opportunities for improvement, approaches problems with perspective and is grateful when progress is made, however small. On a personal level, we can cultivate a sense of optimism in many things we do. Optimism helps us solve problems, gives us the courage to take calculated risks and provides a better sense of balance and wellbeing. 

Several studies of well-known optimists – Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Helen Keller – have shown, time and again, that a positive outlook precedes success. So go forth and wear your cape of optimism! 

Warm regards,

Gino Somers

On Behalf of the Wellness Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee

The Power of TouchPoints: March 2022

In 2013, just before I became Division Head, I read an article in the Harvard Business Review by Douglas Conant, a businessman with a long list of leadership roles and accolades. It was simply titled “Leaders, Choose Your Words Wisely”, and in it he described the power of ‘touchpoints’. 

Touchpoints are interactions with a person or a small group of people. They can be formal or informal, and can be as short as a few seconds to lasting several days. The common theme is that they are all loaded with possibilities, and can either build or break relationships and confidence. They stay with you. For example, “I’m so proud of what you’ve been able to achieve” or “I’m here to help you.” 

Conant summarizes seven touchpoints in his storied career, in total adding up to maybe 20 seconds of conversation. But all had a profound impact on his life. 

Conant ends his article with the following advice: “You have the opportunity to make a tremendous impact on the lives of the people with whom you work and live. Make the most of it. The next touchpoint is right around the corner — use it wisely.”

Leaders, Choose Your Words Wisely, Harvard Business Review
Gino Somers
On Behalf of the Wellness Inclusion Diversity & Equity Committee 

Sleep habits: March 2022

Did you know that humans are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep? Now more than ever before, sleep disturbances seem to be reaching an all-time high.

In our modern work life, we experience long commute times and undefined borders between start and end times. As a society, we struggle with anxiety, loneliness, and depression, all of which negatively impact the length and quality of our sleep. Such issues have only worsened during the pandemic, with people experiencing irregular remote work hours, grief from losing a loved one to COVID-19, and stress from navigating daily life during the pandemic. In addition, there is now significant social stigma surrounding sleep: a lack of sleep seems to be a proclamation of how hard we work, and we often wear this as a badge of honor. Yet, sleep deprivation is detrimental to our well-being.

While sleeplessness may only seem a minor inconvenience to us now (with our dark circles and the extra cup of coffee we crave in the afternoons), scientists are finding undeniable connections between sleep deprivation and disease.

Insufficient sleep quickly disrupts physiological homeostasis, causing high blood pressure, weight gain, and a weakened immune system. Mentally, a bad night of rest muddles our clear thinking, increases irritability, and reduces our memory and attention span. Eventually, it significantly increases our risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and depression. Thus, a good night’s rest has endless benefits for mental and physical health!

For those interested in developing more healthy sleep-promoting habits, here are some helpful tips to get started:

  • Stick to a regular sleeping schedule: Have a fixed bed and wake-up time (even during the weekend!). This habit will improve the quality of your sleep by reinforcing your daily circadian rhythm.
  • Go outdoors in the morning: Getting natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes in the morning will shut off the release of melatonin and help reduce the brain fog you may experience after you wake.
  • Be active every day: Getting exercise throughout the day is proven to help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep for longer. However, avoid exercising at least 4 hours before bedtime to prevent it from interfering with your sleep by raising your body temperature.
  • Have a bedtime routine: Help yourself wind down by creating a good sleeping environment (dimming the lights, silencing your phone, limiting noises, etc.) and doing a relaxing activity (reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating) for 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Make the bed your haven: Reserve your bed only for sleeping and other relaxing activities to break the mental association between your bed and the feeling of being alert/stressed.

If you are already struggling with disrupted sleep, here are additional tips to help combat those sleepless nights:

  • The 25-minute rule: If you cannot sleep 25 mins after settling down for the night, get out of bed and do a relaxing activity: draw, knit, stretch, or even listen to a soothing podcast. Once you begin feeling drowsy again, go back to bed and try falling asleep. This habit helps break any association between the bed and the act of being awake.
  • Throw away your worries (literally): If you find yourself unable to fall asleep because of intrusive thoughts, try writing down all your worries on a blank piece of paper before bed, crumpling it up, and throwing it away. The act of writing out your thoughts can not only help you process them, but the symbolic gesture of throwing away the paper can empower you and clear your mind.
  • Combat revenge bedtime procrastination: If you cannot stop scrolling through social media or the news before bedtime, you may be experiencing “revenge bedtime procrastination”. This phenomenon is where you sacrifice your slumber in exchange for some free time to catch up on the fun things you were deprived of throughout the day. To put an end to this bad habit, try to reinforce the rule of using your phone/device only while standing up if it’s past your bedtime. This action will help you combat revenge bedtime procrastination and give your mind and body the rest it needs.
  • Most importantly, if you are suffering from long-term sleep disruptions and nothing seems to be helping, then it may be time to seek medical attention. A medical professional will be able to evaluate your personal circumstances, diagnose the problem, and offer additional solutions that will help you get the good quality sleep you deserve.

All of us at LMP are committed to your health and wellbeing. If you want to chat or have something you would like us to address, please feel free to reach out.

Stay Safe!
Anca Maglaviceanu 
On Behalf of Wellness Inclusion Diversity & Equity Committee
This work was adapted from the following articles:

Reaching out: January 2022

The first few weeks of 2022 may not have looked like you had imagined.

We find ourselves in the midst of yet another lockdown – a situation that is all too familiar. In addition to your physical health, we must not turn a blind-eye to the emotional and mental effects that are exacerbated by a new wave. We are burnt out, tired and frustrated. However, we must find the strength to join together now more than ever and show support for our friends, families, peers, and colleagues. 

Being able to identify when someone is experiencing a mental health challenge and requiring assistance is an essential first step to connect them with the resources and support that they may need. Changes in behaviours, thoughts and feelings that are out of character, occurring suddenly or have a significant impact on the individual are indicators that someone may be experiencing a mental health challenge.

If you recognize any changes in behaviours, thoughts or feelings that bring about concern for the safety of the individual, it is essential that this be treated with urgency. In these situations, it is absolutely necessary that you inform someone who is in the position to act (e.g. your Supervisor, Campus Police, or Emergency Services (9-1-1). 

You may be hesitant to address your concerns with this individual out of fear that you will upset, offend, or exacerbate any challenges they are currently facing. It is important to remind yourself that this conversation is essential to better understand the needs of the individual and connect them with an appropriate and helpful resource. Take a moment to share with them the irregular thoughts, behaviours, or feelings that you are concerned with and ask them if everything is okay. In doing so, you are letting the individual know that you are there to support them and that their struggle is not going unnoticed. Listen, acknowledge, and empathize with them, with compassion and understanding to validate their feelings. Take a moment to also recognize your limitations and acknowledge gaps in your knowledge to prevent giving unsolicited, or inappropriate advice. Instead, reassure them that they are not alone, and that help is available.

There is a list of resources and services that promote and support mental health both on- and off-campus. Individuals may need assistance in accessing these services. When possible, you may offer to investigate these resources together.  Finally, after some time has passed, it may be appropriate to check in with the individual to see if their situation has improved, reassure them that your support remains, or suggest additional resources when necessary. 

Adapted from IAR: Identify Assist Refer Online Training.

All of us at LMP are committed to student, faculty and staff health and wellbeing. If you want to chat, or have something you’d like us to address, please feel free to reach out.


Kate Noseworthy and Gino Somers

On Behalf of the Wellness Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee

Finding wellness spaces: November 2021

By now, many of you have set foot onto campus and are beginning to adjust to a new “normal” at U of T. It has been so refreshing to connect in person and we are beginning to see a light at the end of what seems to have been a very long and dark tunnel.

With in-person/virtual classes, assignments, and midterms well underway, you may be feeling overwhelmed. Despite deadlines and exams approaching from a distance, it is essential that you take the necessary time to check-in with yourself and acknowledge your wellness needs. 

Taking a break in your busy day to slow down, reflect and reset is a strategy that will greatly benefit your wellbeing. Not sure where to go? Take a detour on your way home from class to check out our favourite spaces on campus to unwind and recharge:

Indoor Bamboo Gardens, Donnelly Centre

160 College Street – Bamboo trees and tropical shrubs create a luscious canopy inside the building of the Terrence Donnelly Centre (CCBR). Stroll through the Japanese-inspired garden or take a seat at one of the benches immersed within the greenery. With open-lit ceilings and windows, the serene ambiance radiates from all corners.

Meditation Room, Multi-Faith Centre

569 Spadina Avenue, Room 786 – Located in the Health Sciences Building, the Mediation Room offers a place for religious, spiritual and secular practices, including prayer, meditation, yoga and mindfulness. Take a breather in front of the Meditation Room’s wall of greenery and let the sound of the trickling waterfall guide your practice.

Innis Café

2 Sussex Avenue – Renowned for its homemade cooking, made-to-order smoothies and freshly-squeezed juices, Innis Café, located in the west wing of Innis College, is a beloved spot on campus. On nice days, bring your food up to the Innis rooftop patio to breathe in some fresh air and soak up the sun! 

Lester B. Pearson Garden for Peace and Understanding

71 Queen’s Park Crescent East - As you enter this peaceful space, your attention is first drawn to the flowing waterfall that changes into a gentle mist. From the Mary Mounfield student lounge in the Pratt Library, students are able to look out on the waterfall and garden as they take in this eloquent statement of peace of understanding.

Philosopher’s Walk

Take a stroll through this historic foot-path between ROM and the Royal Conservatory of Music on Bloor down to Hoskin Avenue and immerse yourself in a leafy and green winding path. As you sit by the Philosopher’s Walk Amphitheatre, take a moment to reflect and marvel at the natural ravine and changing fall colours.

All of us at LMP are committed to student health and wellbeing. If you want to chat, or have something you’d like us to address, please feel free to reach out: gino.somers@sickkids.ca.


Kate Noseworthy & Gino Somers 
Wellness Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee

Returning to Campus: September 2021

In March 2020, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Since then, we have all had to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape. We went from the pre-COVID model of campus-based teaching to virtual classrooms, working from home, and Zoom meetings within the space of only a few weeks.

There are many of you who didn’t set foot on campus for the entirety of your first year, and everyone had to adjust to remote learning. There were still the usual challenges and concerns about grades, finances and living away from home. And all of this occurred during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that affected almost every aspect of our lives. It’s no wonder our mental health and wellbeing suffered. 

Now, many of you have returned to campus, and this brings anxiety and worry about a new set of challenges. Some of you will be concerned about sitting inside with so many people after socially isolating for so long; some of you have medical conditions that present significant concerns; some of you might be worried about commuting and public transport. These are just a selection of concerns that you might be feeling – I’m sure there’s many more. 

The good news is that the University has worked hard to prepare for a safe return to campus for all students, staff and faculty. The requirement of vaccination proof and health-screening questionnaires are just some of the ways to ensure the safety of everyone as you begin a new year of your studies. 

Here are some tips to help cope with the anxiety and concern you might be experiencing with your return to campus:

  1. Remember, feeling anxious during times of transition or in a new environment is a completely normal reaction. Accept that things will be different and will feel ‘alien’ at times. 
  2. Reach out to friends and fellow students. Join campus clubs. Make plans and have something to look forward to during the week.  
  3. Take care of yourself. You can take proactive steps today to maintain your health, like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating healthily. Give yourself time to adapt to this new environment. It’s a massive change for many of you. 
  4. Look out for and help one another. Helping others is very beneficial for your sense of wellbeing.  I remember when, feeling totally overwhelmed in my first few weeks of medical school, helping someone with a sprained ankle get to the clinic – a small task but one that filled me with a sense of accomplishment. 
  5. There are resources at the University to help you keep on top of COVID-related news, mental health and wellness – these are pasted below. 

University of Toronto, resources for returning students

Health and wellness support for students

Remember, all of us at LMP are committed to student health and wellbeing.


Kate Noseworthy & Gino Somers
On Behalf of the Wellness Inclusion Diversity and Equity (WIDE) Committee

Flourishing above languishing: May 2021

It has been fourteen months since COVID19 was declared a pandemic, and many of us are feeling exhausted, struggling to see light at the end of the tunnel. Recent articles in the New York Times caught my attention; they dealt with languishing and flourishing, two very different states of mind.

You may need a subscription to access these articles from The New York Times.

The first article, There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing, by Adam Grant, considered the state of languishing. This lies somewhere between thriving and burnout, where we are feeling ‘okay’ but lacking meaning and purpose. It was described as a feeling of “stagnation and emptiness”. The article made the point that thriving and burnout are not absolutes, but points on a scale with many stages, including languishing, between the two.

The second article, Don’t Languish, Flourish, by Dani Blum, spoke about the state of flourishing. She wrote “[flourishing] is living the good life … in a state in which all aspects of a person’s life are good.” We are thriving, living fully with meaning and purpose.

There are several actions that can help us move from languishing to flourishing and thriving. The good news is that these actions are accessible and simple!

  • Focus on small goals and celebrate small things. Tiny victories – finishing that report, cleaning a desk, finally getting to that email after 5 weeks – all these can and should be savored.
  • Practice gratitude. Creating a weekly ritual to reflect upon what we are grateful for. Personally, I feel good by doing this while commuting on Friday night.
  • Random acts of kindness. It is scientifically proven that helping others helps us flourish. Thanking someone for the role they play in our life. It can be a colleague, a family member or a mentor.
  • Look for significant others. As the weather gets warmer, reconnecting with those that fill a need in our life, those who help us smile, feel good and appreciated – someone to exercise with, a sports fan to commiserate with, or a dog park acquaintance.

Many of us are somewhere between languishing and flourishing. Using these few tips may help push the scale more toward flourishing. Thrive on!


Gino Somers

On Behalf of the Wellness, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee

Supporting psychological safety: April 2021

There are many definitions of psychological safety. In essence, it is creating an environment where people can be themselves. This allows everyone to feel comfortable speaking their mind, trying out new ideas, making mistakes, and talking about vulnerabilities without fear of consequences. Psychological safety can cause subtle shifts in mindset; seeing the workplace as challenging (with rewards for work well done) rather than threatening (with punishment for mistakes).

Many studies have shown that psychological safety enhances team building, allows for innovation, and creates a more harmonious and happier workplace. On an individual level, it allows us to become more resilient, more open-minded, and more adept at finding solutions. At the institutional level, psychological safety improves the retention of staff and increases diversity, inclusion, excellence, and productivity.

So how do we foster psychological safety in our teams?

Each one of us can play an important role by setting the following examples:

  1. Ensure you give everyone on your team the chance to put forward their ideas and opinions. With so many virtual meetings, it’s even more important to make the extra effort to be inclusive and actively ask for ideas and divergent opinions before deciding on a course of action.
  2. Approach conflict as a collaborator not as an adversary. Strive for win-win situations.
  3. Treat the other person as you would yourself, with hopes, anxieties and vulnerabilities, and the need to be respected, just like you.
  4. Replace blame with curiosity. Be genuinely interested in exploring other people’s opinions and perspectives.
  5. Foster a sense of belonging – everyone has a different, but vital, role to play for the success of the team.

There's lots of online resources you can access if you want to know more about psychological safety. 

What is psychological safety? On the Friday blog

High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It in the Harvard Business Review

How to Foster Psychological Safety in Virtual Meetings in the Harvard Business Review

Gino Somers

On Behalf of the Wellness Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee

This is the right decision…isn’t it?: March 2021

For all of us, decision-making is challenging at the best of times, and this difficulty is amplified during a crisis.

It’s well known that thoughtful deliberation about each alternative is important and leads to better outcomes. However, there’s a point where helpful deliberation turns into overthinking, and leads to fatigue and unnecessary delays.

If you can relate to this, here are some ideas to help with “thinking on your feet”:

  1. Perfection is the enemy of the good (Voltaire). You simply cannot know everything there is to know before deciding on a course of action. Ask yourself: “Based on the information I have at this moment and my experience, what’s the best next step?”
  2. Perspective and priorities. Problems come in all different sizes. Is this a problem worth obsessing over? If you’re unsure, ask yourself how you might feel about the problem in 10 days, 10 weeks and 10 months. This will help choose issues worth spending more time on.
  3. The science and art of medicine - trust your gut. Research has shown that by combining analytical thinking with intuition leads to better, faster and more accurate decisions than relying on intellect alone.
  4. Boundaries. Set aside time to make specific decisions. Give yourself a time limit, make that decision, and move on.

Gino Somers
On Behalf of the Wellness Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee

This has been modified & condensed from a recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Melody Wilding: How to Stop Overthinking Everything

You need more ‘Significant Others’: February 2021

There was an interesting article in the New York Times a few weeks ago, simply titled “We Needed More Significant Others”.

The author’s husband had just had his right foot amputated after a diagnosis of osteosarcoma, and what followed, she said, was “the hardest year of our lives”. After surgery followed chemotherapy and pain management issues, and all of this during the year of COVID. What helped them get through this, she said, was the discovery of “other significant others.”

“Other significant others” is a phrase used by psychologists for people who meet different needs in your life.

I’m sure you all understand the concept: like team sport, or a choir, or an orchestra, each person plays a specific role, the sum being greater than its parts.

So, find those people – someone to exercise with, someone you can talk about work issues with, someone to commiserate with about sports, someone with whom you can discuss research ideas, or people at the park to swap dog stories with (it’s a real social event in our neighbourhood!).

According to the experts, this is something that allows us to thrive, not just survive.

Gino Somers

On Behalf of the Wellness, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee

January Blues: January 2021

January often brings feelings of melancholy and dreariness. It’s a far cry from late November and December, when the approaching holiday season provides us with added energy and goodwill.

So why does January feel so ‘blue’?

There are several reasons:

  • the holidays are over, and we are facing another year of hard work and long hours;
  • debts need to be repaid;
  • we tend to eat more and exercise less over the holidays, which can make us feel sluggish; and
  • days are shorter and colder.

We also have COVID to contend with, with rising case numbers, another lockdown, and remote learning for students of all ages.

Also thrown into the mix are continued travel restrictions, which meant that many of us were unable to connect with family as we normally would this time of year.

So, it’s no surprise that in 2021, January might be particularly challenging.

What can we do to fight the January blues? Here’s some general advice and some COVID-specific developments that might help:

  1. Exercise and outdoor activities. Getting outside, exercising and soaking up some sunshine are all beneficial for your wellbeing and mental health. Simply a walk around the block can be beneficial.
  2. Actively gauge and reduce your screen time on all devices. I’ve been surprised that every week since early December, my screen time has increased. My aim is to decrease my nonwork-related screen time in the coming weeks. I’ll keep you posted on my progress!
  3. Do something that brings you joy. Clean one area of your house; read that book you’ve been meaning to finish; start a “January hobby” that you can ditch on the 31st if you want (I’ve started experimenting with a form of poetry called ‘cento’).
  4. COVID developments. Over the coming months, the vaccine will become available to many of us, bringing a greater sense of safety and the first step to increasing social activities and the ability to see family and friends more easily.
  5. Last but not least, the Temerty Faculty of Medicine has prioritized wellness, so an emphasis on your wellbeing will extend well beyond COVID.

I wish everyone a healthy, safe and productive 2021, and encourage you to reach out to friends, colleagues or mentors to share your thoughts and experiences.

Gino Somers

On Behalf of the Wellness, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee

How did I get here? Imposter syndrome and how to fight back: December 2020

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong at U of T? You feel your evident success is based on luck or timing or some other undeserved twist of fate? That you’re just one failure away from being ‘found out’?

This is imposter syndrome, and it is common in highly successful, high-achieving individuals. It’s even more prevalent now, during these unprecedented times of COVID and all its upheavals. I’ve certainly had my share of moments where I’ve felt inadequate, unqualified or just plain useless, and I’m sure I’ll come across them again.

Here are some tips from the experts:

  1. Recognize these moments for what they are. Is there a pattern to these feelings? Do you find certain situations that trigger these emotions?
  2. Review the facts. Look at your CV. Remember how grateful your mentors, mentees and colleagues are for the work you do. You are qualified, you are capable.
  3. Talk about these feelings with a trusted colleague, mentor or friend. You’ll be surprised at how many of us have had similar thoughts and feelings.
  4. Be kind to yourself. Working during a pandemic takes courage, determination and compassion. We are ordinary people doing an extraordinary job in extraordinary times.

If you’re interested in further reading, here are some links:

Gino Somers

On behalf of the Wellness Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee

Connecting across the great divide during COVID: November 2020

It’s already November, and the holiday season is fast approaching.

For many of us, this is a time to travel to reconnect with family, disconnect from work and immerse ourselves in holiday traditions.

Although this year has prevented us from traveling, there’s no reason we can’t still celebrate, albeit in a different way.

Several websites have devoted themselves to finding novel ways of reconnecting with loved ones during the pandemic. Here are a few highlights (I especially like #5!):

  1. Organize an online quiz or trivia night with family members. There are several websites that you can use for this, or you can design your own questions – the possibilities are endless!
  2. Try cooking together in a virtual kitchen. I’ve provided an example of one such service below (one that I personally tried as part of a recent conference I attended – it was great fun!), but I’m sure there’s many more out there that you can use to book a group cooking extravaganza.
  3. Watch a movie together. You can do this formally, through apps such as Netflix Party, or just hit ‘play’ at the same time and text/chat away while eating popcorn. ‘Christmas Vacation’ is my personal favorite!
  4. Take a virtual group tour of the Louvre (or any of the Smithsonians, or Tate Modern – whatever takes your fancy). There’s lots to choose from and it’s free!
  5. If you’re all Zoomed out, try writing a letter or card to someone. It’s such a lovely surprise to get a handwritten note, when most things are digital and disappear into the ether…

What are you waiting for? Start planning!

Cooking classes from the Institute of Culinary Education

Gino Somers

On Behalf of the Wellness Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee

Self-care is not optional: November 2020

We are heading into the eighth month since the pandemic, and many of us have had a very different 2020 to what we imagined in February!

It's also November, with all that entails: shorter days, colder weather and less sunshine and outdoor activity. Add increased academic activities and deadlines, the upcoming holiday season, no wonder some of us are feeling 'pandemic fatigue'.

In the midst of all that, we have to take care of ourselves first.

You might think that you're too busy to practice self-care or even read about it - but it's during crises that we need to find time to reflect and recharge. Self-care is directly beneficial to your work performance - it improves decision making and boosts productivity, and is an essential part of maintaining resilience. It's like putting your own oxygen mask on first.

Here are a few tips

  1. Set boundaries. For example, set a hard deadline for checking emails and work messages, and stick to it. Turn off notifications while you watch your favourite show, read a book or exercise.
  2. Bring home to work. We all take work home, but try bringing a little of your home life to work. Schedule time for 'micro check-ins' with your significant others via text or phone. Put a sticker on your laptop (my favourite is Captain America); ask your partner/children to put notes in your bag; eat a favourite candy or treat from childhood.
  3. Schedule downtime at work. Set aside time for checking in with your favourite news or wellness site, sports team (go Gunners), YouTube channels, or social media apps. Take a moment to peer out a window and see what's outside or better yet get outside for a moment or two. Relish the escape from reality for a brief period.
  4. Be in the moment. Enjoy what you do, take pleasure in your amazing ability, and remember - we are ordinary people doing an extraordinary job in extraordinary times.


"Serious" Leaders Need Self-Care, Too an article in Harvard Business Review

Mental health awareness: October 2020 

October was Mental Health Awareness Month in Canada. Many people have been experiencing stress and poor mental health due to the fear and uncertainty that surrounds the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness or mental health issue, but 5 in 5 Canadians has mental health – we all need social connection.

Social inclusion and social integration have been identified by the WHO and the UN as important protective factors for good mental health. During these times, it is important to check-in with yourself and others regarding your mental health and well-being or reach out to others for help.

The Ontario government has announced an expansion of online and virtual mental health supports like BounceBack. BounceBack is a free, guided self-help, life-skills program for people who are experiencing mild-to-moderate anxiety or depression. 

Anxiety Canada has been working to develop free digital resources based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that teach people about anxiety and how to cope. You can download the MindShift CBT app for free here from their website.

  • Need Help? Call ConnexOntario at 1-866-531-2600
  • If you are in crisis, please call 911 or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 . You can also contact crisis services at 1-833-456-4566 toll free (In QC: 1-866-277-3553), 24/7 or visit www.crisisservicescanada.ca
  • U of T also has a full list of resources or visit the LMP page: How to get help.

Asking for help: October 2020 

We have been trained throughout our personal and professional lives to be self-reliant and not to bother anyone. These days, more than ever, we are beginning to appreciate the healing power of asking for help and of lending a helping hand. In the next week, try asking for help from a colleague or a family member. 

“Pooh, what is the bravest thing you ever said?”, asked Piglet. “Help”, said Pooh. 

TED talk - How to ask for help by Dr Heidi Grant 

A man in scrubs looking tired

Physician wellness and burnout

Dr. Julia Keith, Neuropathologist and Director of Wellness, Laboratory Medicine and Molecular Diagnostics at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Associate Professor in LMP, reviews some of the literature around wellness for physicians.