Review of Meal Replacement Shakes

There are many meal replacement shakes on the market.  Here are some of the big names:

Boost Original-Chocolate has 26 essential vitamins and minerals and 10g of Protein.  See also Boost 100 calories and Boost Plus.

My personal favorite: President’s Choice Ultra-Shake (lactose-free) with 15g of Protein.  Their strawberry flavor tastes quite good.

Ensure Original has 9g of Protein and 26 vitamins and minerals.  See also Ensure Light (70 calories, 12g of Protein, 23 vitamins and minerals).

Bottoms up!

Calm Pond


Finding your Voice

Caring for a spouse, aging parent, or relative often takes a lot of time, energy, patience, and creative thinking. Whether you live in the same house or make regular visits to help out with everyday tasks, caregiving can call upon a level of strength and fortitude you never imagined having to put to use. Being a helper means that you are putting a whole lot of attention towards meeting your care partners’ practical and emotional needs, and sometimes loved ones aren’t so willing to accept assistance or ideas. There may be long-standing family conflicts, hurt feelings, or communication patterns that make it challenging for you to feel peaceful about caring for someone.
Any of these factors can make the caring relationship fraught with stressful experiences. It is important to recognize that your needs are important too! You have points of view that matter, wisdom to share, and legitimate concerns about your loved one’s safety or well-being. You also have other things happening in your life that beckon for your attention, such as career aspirations or goals you’re working towards, relationships that need time and love, and other interests and passions you enjoy being part of.
While it makes sense that you have probably needed to reschedule and re-prioritize some of your activities, I am inviting you to make your voice heard. I think of Voice as being the essential part of you that knows who you are and what you care about.

The first step is noticing your voice- Tuning in. Next comes be curious about what the message is- Exploration.  Then it’s time to share that message with others- Expression. Your Voice is a powerful tool of expression, and can be shared with yourself, close friends and family, and even with the wider community.


Here are 3 ways to start exploring your Voice:

Pause and breathe. Each time you notice a stirring of emotion, pause for 10 seconds and breathe. Acknowledge that you are feeling­­­­­­­­­­­ __________, and that it has a message to share with you.

Keep a small notebook to write in. (Be sure that it’s for you only, and that nobody will read it). When you have a frustrating or stressful encounter with your loved one, spend 5 minutes writing your thoughts down. A day or two later when you’re feeling calm, read through it and see if anything important stands out to you. This can help you to identify where you may need to speak up and share your opinions or honour your needs a little differently.

Get involved in a singing group. Singing is really good for the spirits. Letting yourself have fun with tone and a range of sound is a terrific activity for exploring your own Voice in a natural way, with the vocal instrument itself.

Impromptu Rock Choir meets weekly on the North Shore and in Vancouver:

Zoey Wren leads a song circle in Port Moody and occasionally in Vancouver:

North Shore Community Drum Circle meets monthly:

What helps you share your Voice?





Mindful Monday no. 75 – 5 Things to Say and Do When Someone Is Grieving

fog-1803877_1920When I was in my early twenties, my friend’s mother passed away. She had been battling cancer for around three years and was cared for at home by her two children, husband, and a health care team.

I didn’t know what to do.

My first instinct was to let her know that I was thinking of her, that I was there if she needed anything, and to tell her that I was sorry for her loss. I thought I should stay away to give her and her family space.

When I passed on these instincts to a mutual friend, she said, “No. I think we should cook a meal that can be heated up to eat when they’re ready for it. We should stop by her house and be prepared to stay or leave. We have to do something.” So, that’s what we did.

I am so grateful for this friend’s advice. By showing up and offering a hug and a meal, we let our friend know that we cared and we eased some of the day-to-day stress by taking one thing off her to-do list.

What strikes me all these years later is my initial reaction to my friend’s loss. Death is something that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives, and it is never easy. So why is it hard for so many of us to know what to do, or what to say?

Sheryl Sandberg worked with psychologist Adam Grant to address this topic in her latest book, Option B. They call it “the elephant in the room.”

SHERYL: When I saw someone two weeks after Dave died, or even two months, and they didn’t acknowledge it at all, I felt totally invisible. I felt like they didn’t get it at all, and I felt really alone. And I know that just like I had done, when I was on the other side, they just didn’t know what to say, so they didn’t say anything at all.

ADAM: Psychologists years ago came up with a term for this. They called it the Mum Effect.

The Mum Effect: People avoid discussing upsetting topics

ADAM: Knowing that nobody likes to pass along bad news. Some people are afraid that, you know, the messenger will be shot.

ADAM: But in other cases, you know, it’s just as likely that people don’t want to remind others of something painful. One way that people are able to overcome the Mum Effect is to open up. To say, hey, you know, this is what I’m going through.

“I think the most important thing we can do for someone who is dealing with hardship is to acknowledge it,” says Sandberg. People often stay silent because they don’t want to remind someone of the pain they’re experiencing, as if it would take another person to remember. “The problem with that silence is that it doesn’t acknowledge pain.”

It can be challenging to know what to say or what to do when someone is suffering, but it is not harder than what the other person is going through. If you’re struggling to know what to say or do for someone who has lost a loved one, here are 5 examples:

“I know you’re suffering, and I’m here to talk if you want to.”

– Sheryl Sandberg

“How are you doing today?”

– Sheryl Sandberg (Sandberg believes that including “today” in this question is a short-hand way of letting the person know that you are aware they are going through a hard time, and that you want to know how they’re doing in that moment.)

“I’m sorry for whatever challenges might lie ahead for you, but I’m here and willing to help. Would it be okay if I call next week just to check in with you?”

Ed Preston, The Elephant Journal

Show up.

Phone calls, emails, and text messages are great, but showing up (with no expectations to stay) with a hot meal will have more of an impact.

Be specific.

The sentiment behind statements like, “Let me know if there’s anything you need,” is a kind one, but when someone is in pain it can be hard to reach out. Ask the person what their favourite breakfast is and bring it. Ask when you can come to do their dishes and wash their clothes.

Have you lost a loved one? What helped? What hurt? We’d love to hear from you. 

For more posts on coping with grief, read this, this, or this.

Cassandra Van Dyck

Is Red Bull Safe to Drink?

‘We all know the feeling, we’ve been there: it’s 2 pm and you’re faced with a ton of things to do, but you’ve run out of energy completely.  So, what are you going to do?  Well, some of us might just reach for a Red Bull for an instant energy boost.  But is it safe?

According to the Red Bull website, it is.  Each 250 ml can of Red Bull contains 80 mg of caffeine, or about the same amount of caffeine as  a small  cup of coffee.  According to EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) 2009, the ingredients of energy drinks such as Red Bull are of no concern.

Yet, health experts, such as Dr. Oz, recommend a maximum of 400 mg of caffeine a day. So if you just drink one Red Bull in the afternoon, okay, but if you drink many Red Bulls, maybe you should think it over first.

Red Bull Sugar Free contains all ingredients in original Red Bull except sugar, which is replaced by aspartame and sucralose.  Two of the primary ingredients in Red Bull Sugar Free, taurine and caffeine, can have significant side effects that you should be aware of.

So I guess, the moral of the story is: ‘buyer beware’.  As a smart consumer it pays to know just what is in what you are drinking.  And yes, sometimes we all reach for a Red Bull at times, it’s human nature.  Just be aware.

Calm Pond

Depression and Seniors: Signs to Look Out For and How to Get Help


Depression is not a normal part of aging, yet it effects a great deal of seniors. Although statistics report a large number of people suffering, most do not seek treatment. There are many reasons for this. Depression may present differently in the elderly than in younger adults and can also be overlooked because of the prevalence of other health concerns, sleep problems, lifestyle, or grief.

When is it depression?

You may suspect depression in a loved one if:

they have lost interest in activities they used to enjoy

they express feelings of hopelessness or helplessness

they have a lack of motivation or energy

they have lost weight/interest in eating

These symptoms may also be present with certain health conditions or when a loved one is grieving. While you can’t diagnose the person you’re worried about, you can look for signs, ask them questions about what they’re going through, support them, and get support.

What do you do if you suspect your loved one is depressed?

Realising a loved one may be battling depression can be very hard for caregivers. You may feel frustrated or lost and unsure of how to help. Your care partner may be resistant to seeking help and might not want to talk about what they’re going through. So, what can you do?

Ask questions. 

You may be noticing some symptoms of depression, and you’ll want to ask some questions to get some clarity. These conversations can be tough. Try using phrases like, “When did you start feeling like this?” “What can I do to help?” Use active listening so your loved one knows they’re being heard.

Encourage your loved one to get help. 

It takes a lot of vulnerability to share with someone that you are feeling depressed, so your loved one may be reluctant to talk to a health care professional about what they’re going through. Let them know that you care about them and want to support them to get the help they need to feel better. Offer to make an appointment for them and join them for their first visit if you can. If your loved one knows you are willing to walk with them on your journey, they may feel more comfortable asking for help.

If you suspect your loved one is struggling with depression and they’re unwilling to get support, or if you suspect they may be suicidal, reach out for help. Talk to your doctor, or call The Crisis Centre: 1-800-SUICIDE

Supporting someone with depression can be overwhelming and cause stress for the caregiver. If you are caring for someone who may be depressed, make sure you are getting the support you need as well.

Cassandra Van Dyck




My Favourite Grounding Meditation


This meditation can be done anywhere without anyone being none the wiser. It’s extremely helpful if you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or scared.

Take a deep breath in through your nose, out through your mouth. 

Look for three things in the room and notice them, one at a time.

Listen for three things and notice them, one at a time.

Feel for three things and notice them, one at a time.

Take a deep breath in through your nose, out through your mouth.

Cassandra Van Dyck 

Mindful Monday no. 74 – Fight or Flight


I was invited to try out a zip lining and high ropes course this weekend. Participants are strapped in to harnesses and the harnesses are tied in to cables. People are led through the trees to navigate obstacles and slide down long lines, many feet in the air. From beginning to end, you are attached to a cable. Barring some horrible accident, the chances of injury are slim. Even though I knew this, my childhood fear of heights kicked in, and I had to take some very deep breaths and let out a few loud noises to talk myself in to completing the course and not calling for help to somehow get me down.

This experience got me thinking about mindfulness and fear. Just like when we are feeling overwhelmed and stuck, fear can be paralyzing. Whether you’re standing on the edge of a platform about to trust a cable to safely carry you to the ground, or you’re sitting with your loved one in a doctor’s office processing a diagnosis, fear can show itself in one of two ways: fight or flight. 


Sometimes (often) it can feel easier to escape the situation you’re in than to work through it. Although it conjures up visions of flying away, flight isn’t always a physical reaction. People can escape by hardening themselves to a situation, by using substances to numb difficult emotions, or by avoiding or procrastinating things that are causing fear (paying bills, calling health care professionals, etc.). Flight is not always a bad thing. Sometimes fleeing a situation or checking out for a little while can help us cope with trying times and renew our energy so we can better face challenges. In tense situations when emotions are high, sometimes it’s better to walk away and plan a response than to react.

Flight becomes a problem when we are avoiding problems, people, or experiences that need our attention and energy. It becomes a problem when it’s our immediate response to flee and when we lose the ability to think rationally about fears so we can tackle them. A flight response rarely makes obstacles go away.


The word can have negative connotations if we imagine a heated argument or a boxing match, but this is the drive that can prompt us to face challenges and work out plans to address problems and get the support we need to keep going. As mentioned, it can also cause problems. If fight is causing us to react, we may not have the perspective to best face tough times. We might say things we regret and we might not know when to walk away and give ourselves a break. Constantly being in “fight mode” can cause burnout.

How do we know when to fight or take flight?

There are many ways to talk about and interpret the flight or fight response that is so ingrained in us. One of the most useful ways it can be used and thought of is in reaction to situations that cause a lot of fear. If you are feeling paralyzed by fear, here are three questions to ask yourself to help you decide what to do next.

First, ground yourself.

 Try taking a few deep breaths to stabilize your breathing and connect to your emotions. If you’re having trouble staying calm, try my favourite grounding exercise. Now that you feel grounded, ask yourself the following:

What is my fear?

When we’re scared, emotions can be intense and we may lose track of what we’re really scared of. Identifying the root of the fear can help us address it.

Is my fear rational?

Often times the fear you’re feeling will be rational, but sometimes it is not. Sorting out whether you’re feeling a rational or irrational fear will help you answer the next question.

What do I need right now?

This is the question that can help you decide whether to fight or take flight. Maybe what you need in your moment of fear is answers from your health care professional or to express what you’re feeling. You might also some time to give yourself a break and work through your emotions.

If you’re choosing fight or flight mindfully, either response can give you what you need. When we ground ourselves in moments of fear, we allow ourselves to make decisions rather than to simply react. 


What do you do when you’re feeling scared? We’d love to hear from you!


Cassandra Van Dyck