2 Aromatherapy Blends for Emotional Distress

spring beauty

My mum used to take my sister and I to Lonsdale Quay when we were little. I remember the smells of the market and the feeling of jumping in to the ball pit clearly, even though it was years ago. We would weave in and out of stores and sample fudge from the candy store. We’d feed the birds and make wishes before throwing pennies in to the fountain. One of our stops was always at Saje. My mum would smell the oils and we’d never leave without a spritz of fairy mist. I remember closing my eyes, hearing the pump click, and feeling of a light mist on my cheeks. The smell was sweet, but not too sweet. It was one of the first times I can recall really paying attention to what it felt like to consciously breathe.

Aromatherapy can be a powerful tool for combating emotional distress. Scents can trigger memories, calm nerves and increase energy. You can harness the scents by soaking in a bath, applying a cream, massaging with oils, using an inhaler or a mist spray, or by self-application. Through exploration and trial and error, you will discover which methods work best for you, and when. 

If you are trying to soothe emotional upset, massaging with essential oils can be a wonderful way to calm your mind. No partner, no problem! Some say that self-massage (or Abhyanga) works just as well, if not better.

“When having an emotional upset of dealing with an upsetting situation, these formulas can help. Massage one of these formulas into the abdominal area, back of the neck, shoulders, back, and upper chest for at least 30 minutes and until the oil is fully absorbed into the skin. After the massage, dab on cornstarch to dry off any remaining oil.” – D. Schiller and C. Schiller

emotional upset blend no. 1

aromatherapy blend no. 2

We’ve written about aromatherapy several times on the blog, and for good reason! There’s a lot to cover, and many people find that aromatherapy can help them to manage emotions that come up in their caregiving journeys.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive look in to the world of aromatherapy, pick up a copy of Aromatherapy for Life Empowerment: Using Essential Oils to Enhance Body, Mind, Spirit Well-Being. Recipes in this post were taken from this book.


Cassandra Van Dyck

Finding the humour no matter what

When was the last time you had a really good belly laugh? At any age, it feels liberating to laugh without holding back. Whether a humorous joke tickles your funny bone or you recall a silly moment you shared with a friend, finding a reason to laugh is so important. You might be feeling stressed to the max about a loved one’s health decline, or overwhelmed with your to-do list. On other days, anxiety and feelings of insecurity might loom large, making it seem impossible to find life’s brighter side.
Think of laughter as medicine for your spirits- freely received and abundantly powerful. Even when life feels uninspiring or downright gruelling, finding the humour somewhere has an impact on your health.

Laughter is healthy because it:
Gets the oxygen moving through your system. Hello energy!
Helps unstick your mind from its worries for a few minutes.
Pushes the reset button and introduces new possibilities.
Gives you the chance to share a joyful moment with someone.


You have permission.
Having a chuckle doesn’t mean you’re disregarding the importance or weightiness of whatever situation you’re in, yet it allows you the chance to breathe a little in the midst of the challenges- to rise above the hardships for a moment and gain some energy for the long road. Many caregivers find that sharing a bit of dark humour with good friends helps them find perspective, and deal with stress. For example, seeing the lighter side of an unusual or surprising interaction with your loved one can boost your comfort level in seeing the humour within an otherwise hard scenario.

This looks like a fun little book, filled with quips that range from classic to modern day humour. https://www.amazon.ca/Little-Book-Humorous-Quotes/dp/0578086433/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497394380&sr=8-1&keywords=humorous+quotes

What made you laugh recently? Please share.


Plant-based remedies for Menopausal symptoms

Dear Readers,

For those in the perimenopausal or menopausal stages life can be a challenge: conditions such as insomnia, weight gain, hot flashes, or memory problems.  I personally have dealt with all of those in the last few years, and it can make life difficult. (Challenging enough if you are a caregiver, right?)

So what do you do?  Well, one of the options is to take plant-based remedies, which are fairly safe.  Two of these that I’ve tried are: Promensil and Estroven.

Here is some info about each one:

Promensil contains red clover isoflovones.  Isoflovones are phytochemicals found only in plants, also a type of phytoestrogen (plant hormone) that resembles human estrogen.

Estroven comes in a variety of “flavours” depending on what your symptoms are. I have tried “Estroven Sleep Cool” which contains Black Cohosh and soy isoflavones.

You can read some  online reviews on Estroven for more information.

I hope this brief article has proved helpful to you in some way.  If you are interested in more articles about perimenopause, menopause, or women’s aging issues such as weight gain or memory problems (to name a few), simply post a comment and I will post more articles on this subject.

In the meantime, sweet dreams everyone!

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: http://www.impromptumusic.ca/

Zoey Wren leads a song circle in Port Moody and occasionally in Vancouver: http://zoeywren.com/work-with-me/womens-heartsong/

North Shore Community Drum Circle meets monthly: http://www.drummingandhealth.com/health/spirit-drum/

What helps you share your Voice?





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

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





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

Notes on Emotional Eating Book


Hello readers:

These are my notes on Craighead’s book (2006) ‘The Appetite Awareness Workbook (how to listen to your body & overcome bingeing, overeating & obsession with food.’

-She talks about EEE (effective emotional eating) in which you eat because you feel something unpleasant or distressing but you don’t overeat.

-You have a right not to be hungry.

-Her recommendations: eat 3 meals a day and 2 or more snacks at regularly scheduled times

-The normal range for BMI (body mass index, Google ‘BMI calculator’ to find your BMI) is 19-25. Anything in the 25-30 range is overweight, and a BMI of 30 and above is considered obese.  Most American women are in the 24-26 range.

-If you are under stress you can postpone your weight loss plans and just eat normally, this way you will at least not gain any weight.

-As you get older you have more responsibilities which makes it harder to have the time, energy and leisure to devote to losing weight or maintain a thin body

Hope you find these notes helpful. For me personally, I felt better when I read the part about not expecting myself to lose weight when I was under stress.  It gave me permission to eat some of my favorite foods without feeling guilty. Of course, I still guarded against overeating.

Bon appetit!

Calm Pond


How to Express Yourself Through Creativity

pexels-photo-254717.jpegCreative expression can be a helpful tool for self-care, as it facilitates the expression of our innermost thoughts, feelings, and reflections. The creative process is about letting go of self-judgement and exploring the process with curiosity. These are useful skills for when we cope with the challenges of caregiving.

It also provides the time to process our emotions, to take time to sit with our thoughts and feelings, in order to find ways to get them out. Getting them out—expression—relieves us of rumination, worry, and depression.

Here are 5 ways you can express yourself through creativity:

  1. Draw or paint: Use colour, texture, line, and shape to express how you feel. Allow yourself to become fully immersed in the act of drawing or painting. Involve your body in the strokes of the brush, or in the scribble of the pencil.
  2. Dance, jump, move: Put on some music and move your body to express the many emotions you are experiencing. Dive deep into one emotion in your movement or show how scattered you feel in your steps.
  3. Free-write your feelings: Free-writing is exactly what it seems, writing with full freedom to explore. Take a piece of paper and a pen. Write at the top: “I am feeling” and write non-stop for 10 minutes. If you get stuck, simply re-write the sentence starter “I am feeling” and see what new thought pops into your mind.
  4. Create a sculpture or collage: Use found objects and assemble them together into a collage or a sculpture. Use disparate objects around the house to express the conflicted emotions that you feel inside.
  5. Make music: Belt out a tune, beat on a make-shift drum, tickle those piano keys. We can make music out of nearly anything. The many popular cup rhythms on YouTube demonstrate the human connection to music. Many tout the healing power of singing, so why not give it a try?

If you would like a starting point to incorporating more creativity into your life, please see these helpful books:

  • Natalie Goldberg`s Writing Down the Bones
  • Julia Cameron`s The Artist`s Way
  • Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic
  • Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit



Respecting Elders

Elderly seniors need more empathic attention and love when they:

– have a disability or poor health

– are living with mental health issues

– are dependent on caring relationships

– are isolated and/or without personal supports

– have a past history of violence or conflict within the family

-have confusion or memory loss/ symptoms of cognitive impairment.

– Persons from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds

Today our Elderly desire dignity and respect from family members, friends and the community. It is an important distinction that the design of housing, services and activities should truly be more client-centered.  This way, seniors would be able to socialize and associate with others more freely, and to support each other. Being socially connected would also help lessen the caregiver burden for family members.

persian senior woman

Personal experiences

Seniors feel respected only sometimes, and this is heartbreaking to see happening.
The community at large needs to be more educated about how to respect the elderly as a valuable source of living history.

My mother has the desire to travel, however her physical and mental abilities are not strong enough for her to make any trips by herself.  My big challenge is to tell her no. Two weeks ago we went to Cuba, where I was entirely at her service with no moments to myself. A minute to myself translated into an insecure and unhappy mother.
Traditional elderly care has been the responsibility of family members and extended family, though due to decreasing family sizes in North America, an alternative for elder care at home is residential care.

Most elders would prefer to continue to live in their home, and many elderly people gradually lose  functional ability and require either additional assistance in the home or a move to an eldercare facility.
Our conscious awareness of seniors in our neighborhoods and within organizations helps to respect their rights. It is meaningful to facilitate Community Participation Groups for older people across genders, socio-economic, religious and cultural boundaries.

-Katayoun Shirzad, Family Caregiver and Counsellor.

In Persian:

حرمت و احترام به عزت

توجه عاطفي به سالمندان به ويژه سالمنداني كه مشكلات روحي و ناتواني جسمي دارند از اهميت ويژه اي در جامعه برخوردار است. سالمنداني كه دچار فراموشي شده اند و مورد بد رفتاري ديگر اعضاي خانواده قرار گرفته اند بايد در الويت قرار گيرند . محدوديتها و نگرش متفاوت فرهنگي بر نحوه مراقبت از سالمندان بسيار اثر گذار خواهد بود.

براي مثال مادر من عاشق تنوع و مسافرت مي باشد . او را با خود به كوبا بردم و تمام توجه من براي دو هفته كاملا به او بود. لحظه كوتاهي مراقبت از خودم از او مادري عصباني و غمگين ساخت!

مسئوليت مراقبت از سالمندان به شكل سنتي به عهده اعضاي أوليه خانواده حتي اقوام دورتر مي باشد.براي رسيدگي بهتر از سالمندان در امريكاي شمالي بهتر است از انها در خانه هاي سالمنداني كه از إمكانات خوب پزشكي و مراقبتي دارند نگهداري شود در حالي كه انها تر جيح مي دهند در خانه هاي خود بمانند.توجه بالنده و پيشرو جامعه و أفراد ان باعث مي شود كه مراقبت اين عزيزان مطابق حقوق انساني و شان سالمندي انها به بهترين نحو ممكن آرائه بشود.