A cozy place to unwind


Fancy a cozy place to unwind?

It’s mid-winter, and with the darker days and cold air, it can feel so comforting to find a cozy hang-out spot. I might suggest that it is an essential part of one’s self-care routine to plan relaxing time for yourself; time when you are ‘off duty’ from caregiving.
You may think, “I am never off duty!” And while caregiving is a current reality in your life, and though its demands may occupy a lot of your mental and physical energy; I am a huge advocate for finding ways to take mini holidays. These short breaks can happen alone, or with a friend who is comfortable to be around.

Each person has their own idea of what cozy feels like. When you walk into a café or restaurant and feel yourself go ‘ahhhh’, that is a good sign! Any chance that you have to breathe easier, relax a little, and spend time enjoying a warm drink is time well spent.

Here are a few reflection questions to mull over during your break:

What is my heart needing right now, in order to feel at ease?

During my day, when can I find ten minutes to pause and connect with my breath?

How is my inner voice or my intuition speaking to me?

What do I appreciate about myself?

I’d like to share a couple ideas on cozy local places:
Pinnacle Hotel Lounge in Lower Lonsdale

Encore Café in West Vancouver, near Ambleside

Afghan Horsemen restaurant in False Creek, Vancouver

Golden Aura Café in Kitsilano, Vancouver

Enjoy your mini holiday! May it bring you joy and uplift your spirits.




Mindful Monday no. 18 – A Grounding Exercise


Have you ever found yourself in a crowded place, or perhaps somewhere quiet, and noticed your mind racing from one thought to another? Maybe you’re waiting in line at the grocery store and worrying about the cost of what’s in your cart while shuffling to avoid contact with other shoppers. Maybe you’re sitting in traffic, staring at a long lineup of red lights and you suddenly remember you forgot to pick up food for dinner. These situations are common and often cause thoughts to reel out of control, which may leave you feeling overwhelmed and flustered.

When we feel overwhelmed, it can be hard to pull ourselves away from the perception that we are unable to do anything to change our mindset. While it may be hard to leave the grocery store lineup or get out of highway traffic, we can do something to help us feel calmer and in control of our actions. The following grounding exercise is simple and can be performed anywhere.

With your eyes open or closed, take three deep breaths.

First, notice three things that you can feel. It may be your legs on your chair, your feet on the ground, or your coat on your skin.

Second, notice three things you can hear. It may be the sound of the radio, the whistling wind, or the passing of your own breath through your nose.

Third, notice three things you can see. It may be the lines on your hands, a person nearby, or the shape of a door handle.

Finish by taking three more deep breaths. 

This exercise allows us to tune in to environment and our bodies so we can better adjust to and notice what’s happening around us.

What helps you when you’re feeling overwhelmed? We’d love to hear from you!

Words by Cassandra Van Dyck

Review of Paul McKenna’s : I Can Make You Sleep

Paul McKenna’s  I Can Make You Sleep is about $12 on Amazon. A quick, easy and relaxing read (includes a hypnosis CD). My two favourite exercises were:

  1. Systematic Relaxation
  2. Release the Day (go back gradually over all the activities of your day)

Calm waters & stones

The book is written in special hypnotic language which you can read every night and fall asleep. The CD helps also. See www.mckenna.com for more info.

You have the option of purchasing this book from www.amazon.ca, or borrowing it from our Caregiver resource library at Capilano Mall, or from the West Vancouver library at www.https://westvanlibrary.ca/.

Sweet Dreams!
Calm Pond

Relaxation for mind and body

Nowadays, life can be rather hectic.
Things move at a fast pace- there are many forms of communication available to us, and along with that comes LOADS of information.  At times, the stimulus of ideas, information, colour, and sound can be overwhelming for the mind and body. This constant flow of stimulation creates an internal buzz that is not entirely healthy for our systems, which need adequate time to unplug, unwind and be revitalized.

One way to give your system a rest is to utilize relaxation app’s. These are programs you load onto your cell phone through the App store, and you can easily listen to the programs anytime you’d like. Caregivers, you can even listen to a 1-minute relaxation as you wait for a Doctor’s appointment.
Many of the relaxation app’s are free or low cost, and can be used on both Smart phones and Android type phones.

Here are a few App ideas:

Robin Rice 1 minute meditations

Zen daily quotes for peace, meditation and well-being

Meditation Studio by Gaiam Inc.

Relax and sleep well by Glenn Harrold

Free relaxing sounds of nature and spa

Relaxation tips online:

5 beginner meditations: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-17238/5-beginner-meditations-to-help-you-relax-sleep-better.html

1 minute meditations with Robin: www.robinrice.com


Fabric & boquet
May you feel a sense of peacefulness as you incorporate relaxation sessions more and more into your life. I would be glad to hear what kind of difference it makes for you!




How to Talk to Your Doctor


In Canada, navigating the health care system is not without its challenges. Finding a family doctor can be tough, and getting the needed time with your GP once you have one may be even harder. Due to high demand, appointments are usually kept short. Many patients struggle to express their concerns in the allotted time and leave appointments feeling they have not been heard. It may sometimes feel that this common situation is out of your control, but there are things you can do to help make sure your needs are met by health care professionals.

The following tips from Literacy Partners of Manitoba may help you to talk to your doctor more efficiently, understand the kind of care and medications you will be receiving, and ensure your voice is heard.

Remember Your Rights

I can expect:

  • to be told what’s happening to me
  • to have my questions answered in words I can understand
  • to know the possible treatments, and to say yes or no, and to change my mind
  • to be treated with dignity, kindness and respect at all times
  • to know that my health information will not be shared with anyone without my agreement

Plan Before You Visit A Doctor

  • Think of what you want to talk about before you go. You can take someone with you to help you talk to the doctor.
  • Write 2 or 3 words that will remind you what you want to ask.
  • Ask the most important things first.
  • Tell the doctor as much as you can about what’s bothering you.
  • Know what medicine you are already taking (including aspirin and cough syrup, etc.)

At the end of your visit…

You might say, “Doctor, I just want to make sure I understand.” Then ask these questions:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?
  4. Will I get better? How long will it take?

Write down the answers.

If you still don’t understand…

You might…

  • say: “This is new to me. Will you please explain that to me again?”
  • ask: “What does that mean? I don’t understand that word.”
  • ask for a picture of the medical problem
  • ask the doctor to write things down
  • bring someone to the next visit
  • call Health Links and ask them to explain (786-8200, 1-888-315-9257)

Ask Questions About Medicine

  1. What is the name of this medicine? Can you write it down for me, please?
  2. What will it do for me?
  3. Are there any problems that the medicine might cause?
  4. How much does it cost?
  5. Are there other medicines or treatments that might help me with this problem?
  6. When should I take the medicine?
  7. How should I take the medicine?


Words by Cassandra Van Dyck




Mindful Monday no. 17 – Stress Relieving Stretches


In the midst of busy days, sometimes all you need to reset your mood is some simple stretches. When our muscles are tight, it not only affects our bodies – it affects our minds. “Unreleased stress can result in an aching back, headaches, and a not-so-jolly disposition,” says Melynda Saldenais.

The following stretches take only a few minutes to complete and can be done anywhere. The next time you notice your muscles are tense, try them out!

Focusing on your breath is relaxing and restorative. Take a minute or two, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat 10 times, for a set. Do three sets. It’s almost like taking a nap!

Shoulder and Neck Stretch
Sit up straight in your chair with both feet on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Place both hands behind your head at the base of your neck and interlock your fingers. Tilt your head toward the floor and press your shoulder blades together. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat 3 times.

 Arm Stretches
Sit up straight in your chair with both feet on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Interlock your fingers and stretch your arms straight out in front of you. Rotate your wrists so your palms face away from your body. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, then raise your arms over your head, hold for 10 seconds. Repeat three times.

 Leg Stretches
Sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Raise one leg and straighten it in front of you. Hold for 10 seconds and rotate your ankle to the left and then to the right. Repeat with the other leg. Do 5 repetitions with each leg.

Lower Back Stretches
Sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lean forward and try to grab your ankles with both hands. Feel the stretch in your lower back! Hold for 10 seconds and repeat three times.

Words by Cassandra Van Dyck

Stretches by www.zenfullydelicious.com

The Way to un-do your frustration

As a preview to our January 18th self-care session on Transforming frustration into life force, this post will let you get to know the passionate work of our speaker, Seth Lyon.

Jaws tighten, teeth gnash and guts churn. The mind races, marshaling it’s arguments, it’s justifications, we lash out with harsh words or we stifle it down and seethe silently which makes us sick.

Frustration, anger, rage.

There are many ways that we, as a culture, “deal” with these powerful emotions, ways that usually result in us either hurting others or ourself, and so the energy of these emotions is never actually processed and transformed effectively into what it really is – energy. Lifeforce.

Why? Why is it so hard for us to really understand and harness this energy?

For 300,00 years or more we evolved as a species under conditions that could not be more different that the ones we live in today. We hunted and gathered and roamed the world. The threats we faced were real and aggression, when it was needed to protect ourselves or others, could be channeled into smashing that saber-toothed tiger, or the invading human, over the head with our club. Simple. Now we live much “safer” lives. We have technology, we have civilization. But are we really safer?

The steady rise in the different ways that our bodies have found to make us sick seems to suggest otherwise.  The rules and norms of polite society has made it unacceptable to bash people over the head, yet we still occasionally feel threatened just as we did 100,000 years ago. Only now, instead of actual threats that are in front of our face we usually have more persistent and subtle forms of aggravation to deal with.

Pollution and environmental degradation. Stressful deadlines and non-stop schedules. Hard, unyielding surfaces surround us and disconnection from all that is green, nourishing and soft in the world has become the norm. Not only these, but also the stresses and frustrations and power-trips of the people around us that also are marinating in this toxic stew we call society. As a culture we value persistence and hard-headedness, practicality and no-nonsense achievement, the ability to push through and shove down “emotional weakness”. But at what cost?

When we live in a world that is by it’s very nature hard and unyielding, when we are disconnected from the subtle and soft, our insides also become hard and unyielding and we become disconnected from what is soft and subtle within ourselves. We ignore the messages of our body until it makes us sick and then we take a pill to try and “make it better”.

There’s got to be a better way.Today I want to talk about how to actually transform, and not just “deal with”, the emotions and energy of frustration, anger and rage, which sometimes are a response to actual threat, but more often are the result of the body being ignored while marinating in a toxic stress-stew. The pickle that we’ve gotten into is that, in order to function as a society, we really can’t go around bashing everything that annoys us over the head. Yet holding it in, taking a deep breath, “sending love and light” to the frustration – all of this will simply repress that energy and make us sick in some way.So what’s the answer? Healthy Aggression.This is tricky work and when I work one-on-one with my clients I need to use all my tools to carefully guide them through understanding and transforming their rage… but it’s tricky because it’s so powerful. We’ve been told so often and in so many ways (especially if we are survivors of trauma) that it’s either not okay, or not safe, to express these emotions. So a lot of the time, at the moment this energy is cresting to it’s peak, there comes an equally strong, habitual shut-down response in order to stifle it.It takes time and patience and skill to process this stuff in a powerful and effective way, to uncouple the rage from the shame and grief that so often are layered together with it like an emotional onion, and so I can only offer so much in the way of advice to the masses, but something is better than nothing.
It is possible for you to start practicing a couple things on your own that can start to change and redirect the habitual pathways of unhealthy externalization (lashing out, temper tantrums, road rage) and internalization (suppression, depression, sickness) that have become the norm.

Here are two tools for you to try out on your own:

1. Be the animal you are: Like it or not we are mammals. Human animals. Yes we have a big ‘ol neocortex that lets us do all sorts of wonderful things that set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, but that big ‘ol neocortex is also what totally screws us up as it enables the stifling of our instinctive responses. One way to tap into the real power of aggression is to learn from our simpler, and much wiser, animal friends. Try this the next time you are feeling frustrated or angry….Notice your upper lip and encourage it to lift up a little bit. Don’t force it, just help it along. If you are an angry mammal your lip WILL want to raise in a snarl, guaranteed, but if you force it to happen all at once (in contradiction to a lifetime of being polite and unconsciously stifling this response) you will be missing the organic urge that is most important. Just play with it. Lift one part of you upper lip a little bit and see if a snarl wants to naturally emerge, notice how when that happens your eyes will also get involved – they will narrow and tighten (an evolutionary response to enable clear focus on the threat). Really allow and feel that fundamental expression of anger that wants to happen in your face.

Let out a little sound. Don’t plan it, just see what sound wants to emerge from your throat when you have your facial muscles mobilized in this way. Feel your face and hear the sound. Feel the energy that is rising in you.

2. Snap frustration’s little neck: Fundamentally, anger is a self-protective response. It’s the emotional part of the life force mobilization that surges through the whole organism so that it can defend itself. It wants to hurt and kill. No way around it, the energy of self-protection wants to annihilate that which is threatening it or it’s young ones (think of a mama bear protecting it’s cubs from a predator).

Now, that unreasonable deadline that your short-tempered boss just hurled at you can’t be killed, and you really should’t kill your boss either – not helpful. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t channel the energy that wants to attack in a useful way.

Try this – find a towel or a jacket or something that you can roll up into a thickness about the same as your wrist or forearm – thin enough that you can get a really good grip, but thick enough that your hands have to work a bit to grasp it. Grab that roll with your palms facing down so that you are holding onto it like you would the handlebars of a bike. Now, let all that frustration, all that anger, all that ENERGY into your hands. SQUEEZE! TWIST! MORE! Squeeze and twist that towel as if it were a neck you were trying to snap. It’s ok – it’s just a towel, your not going to hurt it’s feelings.

Do this in conjunction with snarl and letting out some sound. REALLY do it. Commit all that frustration to the task as if your life depended on it. Cause it kinda does.

These two simple exercise are simple and powerfully effective ways to transform frustration and anger. They also can potentially break a dam that’s been holding back helplessness and grief so make sure that you are in a place that is safe when you do them.

The KEY to these practices working for you is that you feel the ENERGY!!

The emotions that have had you fuming are simply the surface presentation of a huge biological urge, and the energy that is in that urge, once it’s given a healthy channel to flow through so that it can be expressed, becomes something wonderful. It becomes vitality, creativity, focus and drive. When it’s left unexpressed and stifled it becomes depression, rage, hatred, anxiety and illness.

Take the power back for yourself. Real power. Take responsibility for the anger within you, take ownership of your own frustrated life energy and allow it to transform through expression and action and you will heal a little bit of the rage and hatred that has been ruling this world for so long.

Your body knows how to do this, you just need to be willing.

-Seth, guest blogger


Mindful Monday no. 16 – Setting Intentions for the New Year


If the early days of the new year has motivated you to write down resolutions for 2016, you are not alone. At this time of year, many people make lists of things they’d like to change. A shift in diet, increased exercise, and breaking habits are common goals. While your intentions may be good, you might have experienced the disappointment that can come with broken resolutions. It has been reported that gyms see up to a 35% increase in membership sales in January, but that 18% of new members cease to come in February. Many trade holiday sweets for salads for awhile, but find themselves stopping for fast food more often than they’d like before winter is over.

Setting and breaking resolutions may be common, but it can effect us negatively. When we repeatedly set goals and fail to accomplish them, we may feel guilt, a lack of motivation, and shame. Resolutions are often broken because people create guidelines for themselves that are nearly impossible to follow. Those wanting to increase their activity levels may feel that they must make it to the gym a certain number of times per week. Many hoping to change their diet think they have to stay away from unhealthy foods altogether, and some hoping to change habits make plans to quit cold turkey. When there is a slip-up in these strict rules, people may think that they’ve failed and should give up completely. Before they know it, they’re spending evenings on the couch, over-indulging in sweets, and feeding the habits they’d like to break.

If the above sounds familiar, it may be time to change your plan of attack. Begin by considering the intentions behind your goals. If your resolution is to exercise a certain number of times per week, you may be feeling that your body is not feeling as good as it could be. If you’re thinking a lot about a changing your diet, you may be feeling that you could be eating healthier foods. If you’d like to break a habit, there may be something in your life that you’re continually doing that is not serving you. These voices are worth listening to, and they can influence lasting change.

Before writing a list of resolutions or goals, spend some time reflecting on the previous year. If you’re looking for some guiding questions, click here. Understanding why you want to make changes in your life can help clarify intentions so you can take action.

Once you have spent some time reflecting and your intentions are clear, you may feel that you’d like to set goals so you can see some changes take effect. If you choose this route, remember these key guidelines:

Be kind to yourself. Goals are often thrown out the window when we feel that we’ve failed. We beat ourselves up for breaking one of our own rules, decide there is no point in trying, and soon find ourselves repeating the same patterns we were trying to escape. If you stray from your intentions, accept it, reflect on what caused you to, and try again. Remember to practice self-compassion. Remind yourself that you are making changes and setting goals because you care about yourself.

Do not create goals that result in feelings of lack. When people set goals to change habits, they often go off track because they feel that there is something missing in their lives. They’re missing watching their favourite show because they’re at the gym, they’re hungry because they’re denying themselves food, or they’re at a loss for how to relax because they’ve quit smoking. Focusing on what’s missing from your life now that you’ve decided to make changes will only cause the need for what you’re giving up to increase. Instead of thinking about what you’re no longer doing, think about what you’re adding. If you’ve begun to exercise, you may feel more energized than usual and might even find that you don’t need as much rest during the day because you’re sleeping better. If you’re focusing on changing your diet, think about adding in healthy foods rather than taking away ones you enjoy. This shift in focus may inspire new recipes and the discovery of new foods. If you’re giving up cigarettes, consider trying meditation or yoga to learn new relaxation tools.

Did you set intentions for the new year? We’d love to hear from you! 

Words by Cassandra Van Dyck

Photo by Perry Miotto