How to Practice Self-Care in 5 Minutes

lady in the sun

You might be feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders today. You’re trying to run more errands than you have time for and you just remembered you forgot that important thing you were supposed to do last week. Maybe you’ve been swallowing some tough emotions and haven’t been able to connect with that person in your life who’s a wonderful listener. Practicing self-care might be the last thing on your mind.

Do you have 5 minutes to spare? Just 5.

Click here for a list of 98 ways to practice self-care in 5 minutes or less, or try any of the following suggestions. How did you feel after?

STRETCH | Stand up and raise your arms slowly over your head. Roll your head from side to side. Interested in yoga but not sure you have time? Read The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Yoga to learn how to practice yoga anywhere, anytime!

MEDITATE | Try this 5 minute guided meditation.

DANCE | Put on a song you love and let loose!

CALL A FRIEND | Sometimes when we’re having a tough day, what we need most is to connect. Pick up your phone and call someone who always makes you smile. If you can’t get a hold of them, leave a message and tell them you’d love to talk soon.

How do you practice self-care in 5 minutes or less? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!

Cassandra Van Dyck


3 Non-Traditional Energy Drinks


When you’re tired and having trouble getting through your day, you might be tempted to reach for a big cup of coffee, or, if you’re really fading, an store-bought energy drink. You know the ones – they’re fizzy and taste sort of like pop, but have a medicinal undertone. These drinks are highly caffeinated and often contain loads of sugar and other ingredients that might not be the best for your health. They give you the boost of energy you’re looking for, but you could end up feeling worse in the long run. Energy drinks have been known to cause headaches, anxiety, and to disturb sleep.

With all that’s on a caregiver’s plate, it’s common for fatigue to creep in. So, what should you reach for when you’re feeling a dip in energy but still need to get some things done? Here are 3 suggestions.

WATER | Sometimes when you’re tired, you’re really just thirsty. Ask yourself how much water you’ve had today. Fill up and drink a glass or two, then reevaluate your energy levels. Not a fan of water? Add lemons, cucumber, or berries for a delicious infusion!

SMOOTHIE | If you’re feeling tired and craving a boost, your body could be telling you that you need some fuel. A smoothie packed with nutritious ingredients is a great way to get some nutrients and give your body some lasting energy. Avoid adding too much sugar if you want to prevent a crash. I love this recipe by Carley Mendes.

MATCHA | If you’re an avid coffee drinker but you’re not crazy about how you feel after drinking a late afternoon cup, consider matcha. Matcha still contains caffeine, but less than coffee. It can be heated and whisked in to water or milk and mixed with sweetener for a delicious take on a latte. Click here for a recipe.

What do you do when you’re tired and need some energy? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!

Cassandra Van Dyck

Review of: ‘They can’t find anything wrong!’

What do you do when you feel ill, and go to the doctor, but all the tests come out normal?  In his book ‘They can’t find anything wrong! : 7 Keys to understanding, treating, and healing illness’, Dr. David D. Clarke (Sentient, 2007) addresses just that issue.

Here are some things you need to know if you find yourself in that situation:

  1. The 5 Types of Stress:
  • childhood stress
  • stress occurring now
  • stress from a traumatic event
  • depression
  • anxiety disorders

2. Next here are the 7 keys:

  • understand that your symptoms can be diagnosed and treated
  • search for the sources of stress
  • care for yourself
  • get better by writing
  • employ appropriate therapies
  • overcome resistance
  • become the person you were always meant to be

Here is something you might like to try:

Make a Hero Award for Yourself:

Before you make the Hero Award, it is sometimes useful to list every difficulty you’ve endured. Put the card where you will see it every day. Keep the card until you no longer need it as a reminder.  Keep it for years or as long as you need it. (I made my Hero Card on an ordinary index card using coloured pencils.)

It may be helpful to write a letter to a parent that caused you stress.  You can write it to an imaginary child that could have gone through the same stress as you did, and comfort that child.

Here’s more advice from Dr Clarke:

Take 5 hours per week for personal self-care.  Many people find it helps to leave the house during this time so you don’t get distracted by unfinished work.

For more info, consult Dr. Clarke’s website

Take good care,

Calm Pond

A Loving Kindness Guided Meditation


How was your holiday weekend? You might be feeling tired today, or perhaps a little stressed. Holidays and dinners can be fun and relaxing, but they can also feel stressful and involve a lot of work! Today is a great day for a little self-care. 

Have you tried loving kindness meditation?

Read all about it here. 

Set aside 20 minutes for yourself today. Create a space in your home that you find calming and peaceful. Make a cup of tea, or if you have some extra time, run a hot bath. Once you’re comfortable, take a comfortable seat, and try this guided meditation.


Cassandra Van Dyck

3 Ways to Build Resilience

resilience plant picture

“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and and belonging.” – Brene Brown

How do you react when times get tough?

Your loved one’s health is declining. You have a growing to-do list and feel that you have no support. Money is tight. You’re having trouble finding respite. You’re having a hard time getting enough sleep. 

There are so many stressful situations and obstacles that come with your caregiving role that are not within your control. Although you can’t always prevent tough situations from occurring, you can decide how to respond to them.

The ability to recover and respond to a challenging situation is called resilience. Some people seem to have it in spades, while others struggle to bounce back from setbacks. Your ability to be resilient is based on lots of things – the way you were raised, your unique disposition, and your current challenges. Some days you might feel very resilient, and others you think you can’t handle one more thing. You might be going through a particularly hard time because of recent changes or challenges. There are a lot variables.

No matter where you’re at, there are things that you can do to boost your resiliency. Read on for 3 suggestions.

CRY | No, really. Remember that resiliency does not mean that you are not effected by the tough things that are happening in your life. You do not need to shut out emotions or pretend that everything is okay when you  feel underneath that it is not. In fact, doing so can make things worse. It is important to be able to express emotions and to be able to reach out for help when you need it. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back; it is not the denial of emotions. Resiliency requires vulnerability. The better you are able to experience and feel tough emotions, the easier you will be able to move on from them and reach out for support.

CONNECT | Who do you call when you need to talk? If they’re not available, who’s your back up? Try creating a plan for yourself to refer to when you feel that you’ve reached the end of your rope. Write a list or create a map of your support network. Add family, friends, professionals, and network groups. Resiliency does not mean going it alone. Having support when you need it will help you to work through hardships so you can move forward.

PRACTICE SELF-CARE | We talk about self-care a lot, and for good reason! You cannot expect to respond to challenging situations with resiliency if you are not taking care of yourself. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. Make time do the things that you love.

Cassandra Van Dyck

3 Tiny Indulgences


Practicing self-care does not, and should not, cost money. 

This is important to remember, to share, and to practice. Although many practitioners offer valuable services, self-care is often marketed to the public by companies and individuals to make money. Self-care can and should be practiced by all caregivers so that you are giving yourself the same care and attention that you give to your loved ones. For some tips on practising self-care, click here. 

Every now and then, however, it can be nice to spend a small amount of money and indulge in tiny indulgences that makes you smile and relax.

Here are three ideas:

FOOT OR CHAIR MASSAGE | If you would like to relax, search your neighbourhood for practitioners that offer foot reflexology or chair massage. The cost of these services tends to be less, and deals can often be found on groupon.

PASTRY AND A WARM DRINK | There are so many cafes on the North Shore, and for under $5, you should be able to purchase a delicious treat and drink. If you’re worried about the price, opt for drip coffee or a cup of tea. Carve out an hour to sit at the coffee shop and read a book or a newspaper, write in a journal, or do nothing but enjoy your treat.

SAUNA OR HOT TUB |Drop-in to a local rec centre and spend some time in the sauna or hot tub. It should cost no more than $6 to spend a couple of hours relaxing and rejuvenating.

What sorts of tiny indulgences do you splurge on? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!


Cassandra Van Dyck


Incontinence Care: Insight from Maureen McGrath


In the July/August edition of the Family Caregivers’ Grapevine, we published an article featuring tips and resources for incontinence care. A reader pointed out that VCH’s Continence Promotion and Management Program is no longer in operation.

Not sure of where to redirect readers, we connected with North Shore’s own Maureen McGrath, a nurse continence advisor with Doctors Stephen Kaye and Carolyn Donnelly, for some more information on this important topic. It became apparent quite quickly that McGrath is passionate about getting help for those suffering and that she has a wealth of knowledge to offer. Read on for Maureen’s tips and resources.

McGrath shared that there are only three bladder and bowel clinics care programs in BC covered by MSP, and they are located at St. Paul’s Hospital, Abbotsford General and Richmond General Hospital. The wait is anywhere from 4-9 months for clinics covered by MSP. A patient can receive care in McGrath’s clinic within a week or two.
”It has been my experience that although speaking to a family doctor may be a good first step if he/she is trained in diagnosis and treatment of urinary incontinence but referral to a specialist such as a gynecologist or uro-gynecologist may be necessary. Patients may also self-refer to a Nurse Continence Advisor (NCA),” says McGrath. “Urinary incontinence is complex and diagnosis is key to treatment.

There are 5 different types of urinary incontinence:

1. Stress
2. Urge
3. Overflow
4. Functional
5. Mixed

Bladder Health education is integral to success. That said, diagnosis through proper assessment is key and which is within the scope of the NCA. “We do a history, medication review, ascertain contributing factors, provide diagnosis and treatment recommendations.”

Here are a few recommendations for caregivers:

  1. Dilute urine is less irritating to the bladder than concentrated urine. Drink enough water based fluids so your urine is clear 90% of the time.

  1. Treat constipation by increasing fibre, ensuring adequate fluids and taking advantage of the gastrocolic reflex. Constipation is a contributing factor to urinary incontinence.

  1. Moisturizing your vagina is just as important as moisturizing your face. Upwards of 75% of women lose estrogen, the hormone regulator of the urogenital tract and vagina. Personal moisturizers like Gynatrof or low dose localized estrogen treatment is important for vaginal health and may help to reduce the risk of a urinary tract infection (UTI)I (which may lead to leakage of urine). It is very dangerous for women over the age of 65 to get a UTI as it places them at risk for sepsis.

  1. Kegels are important but must be done appropriately by squeezing the rectal muscle (the muscle that prevents you from passing gas) to the count of 3, holding it for 3 and releasing it to the count of 3.

  1. Bladder irritants in moderation. (bubbly drink, spicy foods, tomato, chocolate, citrus, vitamin C, caffeine (limit coffee to1 cup/day) to name a few.

  1. For stress urinary incontinence (leaking with cough, sneeze and/or exercise) or a pelvic organ prolapse that results in urinary retention, leakage or discomfort, a pessary which is a small medical grade silicone device to support your urethra, bladder or uterusis a great conservative option that resolves the issue immediately and gets a woman back to her regular activities!

McGrath thinks the most important piece of information is that THERE IS TREATMENT! “Leaking urine is never normal. One doesn’t have to suffer needlessly.”

Maureen is in private practice in North Vancouver at #103-1221 Lonsdale. To book an appointment email her directly at: 

For more information on Maureen McGrath and her work, visit:

or listen to The Sunday Night Sex Show on News Talk 980 CKNW

Thank you so much for your insight, Maureen!

Mindful Monday no. 56 – Random Acts of Kindness


I live with my small family in a small apartment in North Vancouver. We are lucky enough to live close to the mountains, to grocery stores stocked with healthy foods, good coffee shops, clean parks, and good public transit. Unfortunately, we do not have a balcony or a yard, which means we don’t have access to space for growing flowers or food. Last summer while walking with my then tiny baby, I noticed a neighbour who lives in a big, beautiful home had left out buckets filled with bundled bouquets. There was a sign next to the buckets that said, “Take a bunch.” I smiled, picked a colourful bunch, and carried it home. It made me so happy that these generous neighbours continued to offer free bouquets this summer. I keep an eye out for the red buckets on their lawn every time I pass by their home, and recently have started collecting bouquets to hand out to other locals on my walks. I love watching the smile that spreads across someone’s face when they’re offered flowers with no expectation for payment and for no reason at all.

Receiving a random act of kindness, like a free bouquet of flowers, can change someone’s day. Choosing to deliver a random act of kindness will change yours.

Have you ever been having a tough or stressful day and then made eye contact with someone as you’ve held the door for them? How did you feel after that small interaction? Maybe you exchanged a smile or they nodded in appreciation. Did you feel differently than before?

Today, I invite you to do one random act of kindness for someone else. How did you feel before? How did you feel after? Write your observations down, or share them with a loved one.

Need some ideas for ways to provide random acts of kindness? Here’s a few:

hold the door open for someone

tell a joke

leave a kind note on a stranger’s windshield

pick some flowers for a neighbour

buy the person in line behind you a coffee


What kinds of random acts of kindness have you provided or received? We’d love to hear from you.


Cassandra Van Dyck



Foodie Friday – A Simple Fall Meal


A friend introduced me to the simplicity and deliciousness of this meal years ago and I return to it every fall when the days start to cool. It is inexpensive, quick, nourishing and won’t create stacks of dishes. It easily makes extra so you can eat it for lunch for a few days after. Read on for the recipe and enjoy!

Autumn Bake


root vegetables such as potatoes, yams, squash (acorn and butternut are great choices), carrots, beets, garlic, and onions


olive oil

salt & pepper


Pre-heat oven to 375F. Chop vegetables in big pieces and place in a large casserole dish. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place in the oven and stir every 15 minutes or so for approximately 45 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and browned.

Make quinoa on stove top.

Combine quinoa and vegetables in a bowl. Eat as is or add avocado or a boiled egg.


Cassandra Van Dyck


Pain, inevitable; Suffering, optional

The other day I was reading Anais Nin’s diaries and came across this quote:

” The secret of joy lies in the mastery of pain.”

Of course, as the saying goes: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

It is not the pain, but the aversion to pain, that causes suffering.

It works out too this simple equation: Pain + aversion=suffering.

In the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truths, individuals are prompted to acknowledge the simple inevitability of suffering.  That said, in the Western world, we have access to treatments for both physical and emotional pain, and we have every right to seek them.  For me, I take an over-the-counter medication called ‘Antistax’ for achy legs.

And oddly, in my experience at least, it is not my own pain and suffering that is so unbearable, but the pain and suffering of the loved ones in my life.  Is this true for you also?

Wishing you well,

Calm Pond