How stress affects the body

By Dr. Ann Grimwood, Naturopathic Doctor in North Vancouver

We look forward to having Dr. Ann join us at our April 19th caregiver meeting. It is always helpful to learn more about self-care-  paying attention to when the body is becoming worn out from the constant demands of caregiving responsibilities. You are showing yourself a little bit of love by reading this post!


When a stressful event occurs, be it mentally, emotionally, or physically, the brain reacts by initiating a hormonal chain reaction. The hypothalamus secretes a hormone called a corticotropin-releasing hormone, which stimulates the pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone, resulting in the adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys, to release cortisol and epinephrine. Cortisol and epinephrine assist our bodies, physiologically, in dealing with that stressful event. Our breathing rate increases, our blood pressure rises, we start to sweat, and our digestive juices switch off to help us conserve energy. When the stressful event has passed, cortisol tells both the hypothalamus and the pituitary to stop the hormonal chain reaction because the body is no longer in need of cortisol and can now relax. But, if the stressful event persists, the hormonal chain reaction is prolonged. The body and mind do not have the opportunity to rest and regenerate, and the adrenal glands become too depleted to secrete cortisol – simply, they are burnt out!

 All too often, my patients tell me how they cannot sleep, they feel completely drained all day long, they cannot think straight, are anxious, they crave chocolate or potato chips, and they seem to pick up every cold or flu that walks through the door! Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. In fact, these are all signs that your body is unable to mount an appropriate stress response and your adrenal glands are not functioning optimally. When we are constantly exerting our energy to help and care for our loved others, to perform at work, we often forget to care for ourselves.

Daily self-care practices go a long way in helping you to increase your energy and combat stress.
One practice I subscribe to and I often encourage my patients to try is 10 minutes of meditation per day. It’s simple and easy and you can do it anywhere! I prefer guided meditations (where someone talks to me and guides me through the meditation) and use an app on my phone called Headspace.



 Meditating helps to shift your body from a stressful state to one of relaxation. Go on, give it a try every day for one month, and watch how your body and mind start to shift!

 With kind regards,
Dr. Ann Grimwood






Mindful Monday no. 71 – “Simple Matters”


“…To find the air and the water exhilarating; To be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; To find a quest of wild berries more satisfying than a gift of tropical fruit; To be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wild-flower in spring — these are some of the rewards of the simple life.” – John Burroughs

We’re one week in to spring’s embrace, and although Vancouver’s beautiful blossoms have not shown themselves in regular late-March fashion, you may be feeling some familiar patterns and inclinations emerging. Have you felt the urge to do some spring cleaning? I know that for whatever reason, I always seem to want to go through each and every one of my belongings at this time of year and get rid of what’s not working for me. I rearrange furniture, hang new things on the walls and do a deep clean of my kitchen and bathroom. Although this ritual can take be quite time consuming, doing so always leaves me feeling refreshed, organised, and inspired. Having a clean, simple home that is arranged mindfully can ease worries and stress. Arranging and living in our homes with mindfulness can be an act of self-care.

I recently stumbled upon Erin Boyle’s blog, Reading My Tea Leaves. Boyle writes regularly about living simply in her small apartment in Brooklyn with her two children and husband. I bought her book, Simple Matters, after devouring several posts and deciding to use some of her tips in my own apartment.

Living with Less and Ending Up with More

The book is filled with tips and thoughts on how to simplify our homes and our habits. Boyle advises readers to be conscious of what they bring in to their homes, so clutter and garbage do not accumulate. While Boyle does not provide instructions that are as simple as Marie Kondo’s, she appeals to readers who like to think about the many ways they can live their lives in mindfully and simply.

Here are some of Erin Boyle’s tips for a thriving, simple life.

Grow Something. “…a houseplant collection can be just what a home needs to feel alive…”


Practice Self-Care. “I don’t eschew modern medicines, but I do relish the ability to calm my nerves with a hot pot of tea.”


Make It Smell Good. “Every spring I buy a bunch of hyacinths, and every spring I have to open the windows and air the place out afterward.”


Explore “After you do the work of making your home a sanctuary, get yourself out of it again.”


Have you felt the urge to do some spring cleaning? We’d love to hear from you!

P.S. – Erin Boyle’s most recent post is all about spring cleaning!

Photos by Reading My Tea Leaves

Words by Cassandra Van Dyck


Nooroz is a time of renewal

I am fascinated by the Persian New Year, which is vibrantly celebrated in North and West Vancouver. There is a thriving Persian community on this shore, many of whom provide emotional and practical care for elderly family members, friends, and loved ones.
Last year I attended an outdoor  Nooruz celebration, where I was mesmerized by people jumping over the flames of fire for a fresh start to the year, saying , “Zardi- ye man az toh, sorkhi-ye oh az man!”  While my friend and I joyfully danced to live music, I truly felt a part of the compelling richness in this ancient and beloved tradition.

Enjoy reading this article about the background of Nooruz and what the Haft seen table means. Maybe you’ll even notice some of the beautifully decorated haft seen tables in your local shops and community centres.


Happy New Year and let us welcome the inspiration of spring!







Mindful Monday no. 70 – How to Let Go

pexels-photo-24175 (1)

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” 

– Lao Tzu

Letting go is a choice that we make to free ourselves of  unmet expectations and idealist notions of how something should be. It is about embracing what is, rather than clinging to what we want to happen. 

Letting go is also about stopping our attempts to control of a circumstance, a person, or an outcome. It is radical acceptance. 

We need to let go of many situations in our life. Bitterness and resentment can grab a hold of us if we do not actively let go of these emotions. We stay in toxic relationships, we remain in dysfunctional situations when we do not let go. As you become aware of the need to let go, consciously make the effort to release your feelings and focus on the present and your own well-being (here are some ideas from Tiny Buddha!) . 

Here are 9 affirmations to recite when you need to let go: 

  1. I let go of situations that do not serve me to make room for opportunities that will fuel me. 
  2. I let go of the need to control and I allow the moment to happen. 
  3. I let go of the need to judge others and focus on my own happiness. 
  4. I release my emotions as a way of letting go. 
  5. I let go of the past and focus on the present moment. 
  6. I let go of the need to control others and the stress that accompanies this need. 
  7. By forgiving others, I become free. 
  8. I let go of the past and I am free to move forward with my life. 
  9. I honour my emotions by expressing and releasing them. 

Do you have any tips for letting go? Please share them in our comment section. 


Easy recipe for Irish Soda Bread

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, a recipe for Irish Soda Bread.  Once on a trip to Ireland I ate Lobster Bisque and Irish soda bread and enjoyed it very much. I hope you will too!

Soda Bread With Onion

These are the ingredients:

1 Large onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil

3 cups (500 g) white bread flour

1/2 teaspoon  salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 1/2 cups (600 ml) buttermilk

2 teaspoons caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C) and grease a baking sheet.

In a heavy pan, cook the onion in a tablespoon of the oil until dark brown and crisp but not burned. Cool.

Sift the flour and salt together. Dissolve the baking soda in 1 tablespoon of the buttermilk. Add this, with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, to the rest of the buttermilk.  Add the onions and seeds to the flour. Make a well in the center and add the liquid. With a fork, mix it all together thoroughly, mixing lightly until you have a fairly smooth texture, but don’t knead.

With floured hands, shape the mixture into a round cake, cut a cross in the top, transfer to a baking sheet, and bake until the loaf gives a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom, about 40 minutes.

Note: If buttermilk isn’t available, use fresh milk and 2 teaspoons of baking powder.

From: The Best of Irish Country Cooking by Nuala Cullen (2015)

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Calm Pond

Foodie Friday: 9 Saint Patrick’s Day Recipes

Whether you have Irish blood or not, Saint Patrick’s Day is a fun cultural celebration of all-things from Ireland. Every year, people wear green head-to-toe or get pinched. Talk of leprechauns abound and fiddle music is on repeat. While these stereotypical Irish activities are fun, we also love exploring different country’s traditions in terms of their cuisine.

pexels-photo-103676.jpegHere are 9 traditional and modern Irish-themed recipes to prepare this Saint Patrick’s Day:

Side Dishes

Main Dishes

Beverages and Dessert

What are your Saint Patrick’s Day traditions? Let us know in the comments!


Mindful Monday no. 69 – 15 Ideas for Mini Breaks


Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well.

—Louisa May Alcott

As we are pushed to meet the demands of a caregiver’s life, we fantasize about a full day or two of respite rather than a series of smaller breaks that better fit into our regular routine. When days off may seem like  a dream, do what you can to incorporate more time for yourself to ensure your own health and wellness.

Here are 15 ideas for mini breaks when you are short on time:  

2 Hours or Less

  1. Drop in to a yoga class.
  2. Pour yourself a hot bath with some Epson salts or essential oils.
  3. Read your favourite magazines or journals at a local cafe.
  4. Watch a current movie that has received rave reviews.
  5. Bake, stew, steam, can, pickle, ferment. Here are some ideas.
  6. Book a massage appointment.

2-4 Hours 

  1. Visit an art gallery or studio for inspiration.
  2. Visit a speciality shop (like the Vancouver Pen Shop or Michael’s) to buy yourself something that feeds your interest.
  3. Get tickets to a local theatre production.
  4. Stop by a local venue to hear some live music.
  5. Swim, steam, and sauna at the local aquatic centre.

4 Hours or More

  1. Go on a hike or walk in the local mountains.
  2. Take a day trip to White Rock, Steveston, or even Bowen Island.
  3. Create a home spa: combine a hot bath with some robe-lounging time with your favourite magazines.
  4. Visit the cat sanctuary in Richmond.
  5. Learn more about local history at one of the Lower Mainland museums.

If you are even more short on time, see our round-up of 98 ways to practise self-care in 5 minutes or less.


Finding Self-Compassion

Recently, I took a course in Self-Compassion, and here is some of what I learned:

Quote from Pema Chodron:

Compassion isn’t some kind of self-improvement project or ideal that we’re trying to live up to. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at.


According to Paul Gilbert’s model of self-compassion, we can have two reactions to a stressor:

  • we can trigger our “threat protection system” which involves suffering and fear, and releases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline
  • we can evoke the affiliative  state and find connection to others and be soothed by kindness, which releases the positive “feel good” hormones serotonin and oxytocin

Be a good friend to yourself at all times, especially in moments of distress.  Ask yourself: “what would I say to a good friend if he or she were in my situation?”

Let us all start by being kind, for we all travel a difficult journey in life.

Calm Pond

Mindful Monday no. 68 – 6 Tips to Overcoming Overwhelm


Are you feeling overwhelmed with your to-do list? Are you feeling paralysed by all that is on your plate? This is an all too common scenario for caregivers who are juggling multiple demands and roles.

Here are 6 tips to overcome your overwhelm: 

  1. Take care of yourself. Anxiety fuels our overwhelm so it is important to practise self-care. Make time to calm anxiety with breathing exercises. Write a worry script. Ensure you are well rested and eating healthy foods. Without your own health and well-being, nothing will get accomplished.
  2. Give your attention to the things that provide a return. When we invest our limited energy, we want to ensure that we are focusing on responsibilities and tasks that provide some semblance of a return. Ask yourself, Is this worth the effort when I am already overwhelmed?
  3. Prioritize your tasks. What is most important for today? …this week? …this lifetime? When we pay attention to the things we find important rather than the things we should do, we are honouring ourselves and our own well-being. On a short-term basis, listing out 2-3 priorities for the day sets yourself up for success. On a long-term basis, you are focusing on those goals or dreams that feed you.
  4. Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is overrated. When we try to do too much – especially in a state of overwhelm – we accomplish less at a lower quality than if we focus on the task at hand. Single-tasking your to-do list helps to reach the process of completion quicker so that a feeling of accomplishment can motivate you to get more done.
  5. Change your location. Get out of the house. Move your desk. If you are struggling to find time to fill out some paperwork, try changing locations. Bring the paperwork (and only the paperwork) to a cafe where you can focus on the task without the nagging of other to-do’s around you. Order yourself a latte and work until the task is completed.
  6. Say no. One of the best ways to overcome overwhelm is to not take anything else on. This is what no sounds like:

“I would love to help you but my plate is full right now.”

“I’m sorry but I am not taking on anything new right now.”

“I don’t have the time to put into this project at this time.” 

“Thank you for thinking of me, but I don’t have the capacity to do this task.” 

Or if you are feeling pressured, give yourself a time delay:

“Please let me think about it and I will get back to you by Thursday.” 

If, after reading these tips, you are feeling like you are stuck in a cycle of avoidance and procrastination, please read our post on how to manage.