2 minutes to calm

Feelings of anxiety can become part of everyday life when you have a big responsibility in tending to another person’s well-being. When your spouse is ill or your parents are declining in their ability to manage their home life, you might feel worried about their safety for most of your waking hours.

When your nerves are frazzled and you can’t imagine feeling relaxed ever again, it helps to have a few calming tools in your back pocket. I suggest picking one or two ideas and trying them to see what fits with your personality and daily routines.


Your invitations
Stay open. Try an idea from the list several times before deciding if it’s helpful. New habits take practice!
Be patient with your progress. It may take a few times to start feeling more calm, or even a tiny bit less tense.
Mark your successes. Notice and be proud of the small moments of peacefulness you experience in your mind and body.

Calming exercises

Heart breathing
Sit upright in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes.  Make note of your feet being secure on the ground.
Put one hand gently on your heart, and the other hand on your tummy. Sit and breathe easily, breathing in for 3 seconds, and out for 5. Keep your hands in place.

Calm ocean
Lay down on the couch and set your timer for 2 minutes. Breathe without much concentration.  Picture yourself on a boat in calm waters, being gently rocked by the soothing waves. You are safe in the boat. Send your anxiety far out to sea, the strained thoughts getting further away with each breath.

Worry box
Create a worry box. It can be a shoe box or something simple. You might want to decorate it with your own style.  Take small pieces of blank paper and have them nearby.
For 2 minutes a day, write down what is worrying you. Write without stopping.
Put those worries in the box and close the lid.  Don’t open the worry box until tomorrow, when it’s your planned “worry time”. Notice how you feel after doing the writing- is there a difference in your body? Your mind?

I hope some of these exercises will help you to regain a sense of inner balance and strength when life feels especially trying. Here is an excellent source for 1-minute meditations by Robin Rice- www.robinrice.com . You may also have a cell phone relaxation app that you like to use.

Be well today.


How to Diffuse Frustration


Frustration is a frustrating emotion.

When you get caught in a wave of it, it can feel hard to break free. You might feel stuck, and that feeling could cause more frustration. If left unchecked, you might lose sight of why you felt frustrated in the first place, which makes it very hard to work through your emotions.

Frustration is a primary emotion, which means that it is an emotion often expressed as other emotions, such as anger. If you can take some time to diffuse frustration before it’s expressed as anger, you have a better chance of communicating more effectively with your family, co-workers, friends, or loved one.

The next time you’re feeling frustrated, try following the steps below to diffuse and work through the challenging emotion.

BREATHE | Acknowledge that you’re feeling frustrated and pause, wherever you are. Even if you’re in the middle of a conversation or sitting in traffic. Name the emotion, and take a deep breath in, and out. Breathe all your air to expand your belly as big as it will stretch, then blow the air out forcefully through your lips. If you’re able to, let out a loud sigh. Do what grounds you. For some it is deep breathing, for others it is a walk in the forest, playing music, or exerting some energy exercising.

REFLECT | Now it’s time to figure out why you’re feeling frustrated. There might be several reasons, and that’s okay. Talk yourself through the layers that have built up to make you feel this way. Chances are, you have a lot on your plate. Did you say yes to something you didn’t want to? Are you feeling unsupported? Are you waiting for answers about your loved one’s condition? You can’t solve it all at once, but identifying the source of frustration can help you to come up with a plan to address it.

REACH OUT | Now that you’ve identified where your frustration is coming from, it’s time to get support. What kind of support you will need depends on your unique situation. Maybe you need so carve out some time for self-care, or perhaps you have not been getting enough sleep and need to take some steps to ensure you get a good night’s rest. If you’re feeling that you need some help caring for your loved one, you might need to talk to their support team and ask them to help out. Sometimes what you need might just be to connect with other caregivers who are experiencing similar situations. Talking, sharing, and connecting can do wonders to help manage frustration.

What steps do you take to diffuse frustration? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!


Cassandra Van Dyck

A Simple Meditation for A Good Night’s Rest


We’ve talked a lot on the blog about the importance of a good night’s rest. Sleeping well can help give you resilience and energy for your caregiving journey. Getting a good night’s rest does not always come easily, so it’s helpful to have some tricks in your toolbox if you’re struggling.

Practicing meditation can help relax your body and mind so you can drift off in to dreamland with ease. After you’re comfortable in bed, put on some headphones and try this guided meditation.

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 Ways to Gain Perspective

there are no facts

Have you ever felt like you’ve thought or talked yourself in to a corner you can’t get out of? When you’re caring for a loved one and you’re struggling, it can be hard to gain perspective.

Part of what makes it hard to gain perspective and think yourself out of your corner is your important role in your loved one’s life. If you are the shoulder your loved one cries on, or the person who helps them out of bed, or the one who drives them to appointments, cooks their meals, and tidies their home, your place in their life may seem irreplaceable. If your loved one is suffering, the emotions you’re experiencing can mound and you might not think that you could feel any other way but sad, angry, or frustrated. When you do not have perspective, you might feel a lack of control over your life or your feelings.

Perspective is important for caregivers. It helps you to take a step back from your caregiving journey and see where you’re thriving, and where you could use some help. Being able to take inventory and make adjustments where necessary is crucial for preventing burnout. It will not only help you, but it will help your loved one.

Whenever I think of the quintessential way to gain perspective, I envision Julia Roberts praying in India in Eat, Pray, Love or Reese Witherspoon’s inadequately prepared hiking journey in Wild. If you’re a caregiver, travelling for months or embarking on a back country hiking trip is not likely not in the cards. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of ways to gain perspective in a short period of time without spending money or sacrificing your feet to blisters.

GET SOME SLEEP | The first and possibly the most important tip for anyone who needs or wants to get perspective is to get some rest. Fatigue clouds our judgement and intensifies emotions. There is a reason that you likely feel the most overwhelmed in the evening – your body is sending you signals to lie down and sleep! If you are overwhelmed, ask yourself how you’ve been sleeping lately. Take steps to assure you’re getting the rest you need, and leave any big decisions for after you wake up. If you’re having trouble sleeping, read our tips for practising sleep hygiene. 

TAKE A MINI VACATION | No need to book a plane ticket or hop on a train! Just set aside a few hours to do something that makes you feel relaxed. Look in to short-term respite for your loved one if having care for them is an issue.

TAKE INVENTORY | There are many ways to do this. You might feel comfortable debriefing with a friend or professional, thinking while you’re on a walk, or writing it down in a journal. Whatever way works best for you, make sure to ask yourself the following questions:

What is going well? What is not going well? How is my health – both physical and mental? What am I scared of? Who are my supports? Am I getting the support that I need?

Asking yourself these questions can help you to get perspective on your situation. When you become aware of where you need support, it’s time to take action. This could mean connecting with a local network group to meet with other caregivers so you have some more support, or meeting with a counselor or therapist. It could mean scheduling time to exercise or cook healthy meals. Maybe you’re noticing that you can’t do it all and that it’s time to look to other services to help with driving your loved one to appointments or to assist with personal care.

If you are struggling to gain perspective, remember to reach out for support. Your caregiving journey may take many twists and turns and can feel overwhelming at times. Getting support can help give you the support you need to care for your loved one and for yourself as well.

How do you gain perspective? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!


Cassandra Van Dyck





‘Lessons from a Caregiver’ Book Review

Every time I read a caregiving or self-care related book I learn something new to add to my caregiver’s toolbox.  It’s a real education,  self-education, self-paced.  ‘Lessons from a Caregiver’ by Laurel A. Wicks (2009), was such a book.

She begins by quoting from Harper Lee’s book ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’:

‘…you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.. until you climb into his skin and walk around in it..’

I’m happy to share with you what I’ve learned, just as I have these past few years since I started contributing to the blog.  I hope it has been helpful for you, as helpful as it has been for me.

Wicks teaches me how to recognize the signs of a stroke:

First, ask the person to smile.

Ask the person to talk.

Give a simple sentence and ask the person to repeat it.

Ask the person to raise both arms.  If they have any trouble doing these things, call 911.

Still another test is to ask him to stick out his tongue.  If the tongue goes to one side and then the other but not straight out, it is another sign of a stroke.

I also learned about two tests for diagnosing Alzheimer’s.  One is the MMSE (Mini Mental State Exam)  or the more comprehensive MoCA test: (Montreal Cognitive Assessment).  When  I tried to download these tests I found I couldn’t but I did find one short 5-minute assessment test for the non-health professional.  If you’re interested I’ll give you the URL, just leave a comment.

Finally, Wicks recommends two books  by Buddhist author Pema Chodron (excuse me for not putting the dots over the ‘o’s’, I don’t know how to do that.)

These books are:

‘Awakening Love and Kindness (Boston: Shambala Press, 1996)

“Comfortable with Uncertainty : 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion’ (Boston: Shambala Press, 2003)

I hope my brief review has proved helpful. I plan to do more reviews in the next while. Just to give you a heads up, one of my reviews is about the timely topic of resilience, and the other is on loneliness.  If you have any books you’d like to suggest I read and review, just leave a comment. They have to be available at the library, however.

From, blogger and bookworm

Calm Pond

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

PMR blog graphic

You may have tried Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) in a yoga or meditation class without even realizing you were trying it. PMR is an anxiety-relief exercise that repeats two steps over and over:

tense your muscles

 release your muscles

When you are experiencing chronic stress and anxiety, you might forget what it feels like to be relaxed. By tensing your muscles and releasing them, you are reminding your body and mind that it’s possible to release tension in your body – both physical and mental. “This exercise will help you to lower your overall tension and
stress levels, and help you relax when you are feeling anxious. It can also help reduce
physical problems such as stomachaches and headaches, as well as improve your
sleep,” says Anxiety BC. 

Are you ready to give it a try?

WHAT YOU NEED | 15 minutes, a comfortable chair, loose clothing and bare feet. Avoid lying down if you don’t want to fall asleep!

STEP ONE: TENSION | Take a few deep breaths and settle in to your seat. Choose a muscle group or a part of your body to focus on first, such as your left foot or your right thigh. Take a deep and slow breath and tense the body part as hard as you can for five seconds.

STEP TWO: RELEASE | With a swift exhale, release the muscles you were tensing. You should notice a drastic difference in how that muscle group or body part is feeling.

Take a few breaths, in and out, and luxuriate in the relaxed feeling for ten seconds or so. Repeat steps one and two with different parts of your body for as long as you wish. 


*Anxiety BC has a wonderful, thorough handout if you wish to further explore PMR


Cassandra Van Dyck







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

Recommended Article: When MS Means Mighty Stubborn by Cheryl Ellis, Caregiver.com


Karyn recommends the article, “When MS Means Mighty Stubborn” by Cheryl Ellis on Caregiver.com. If you have struggled with your loved-one’s desire to remain independent and your desire to maintain their health through preventive measures, this article will be of interest.

“Both caregiver and patient have heard the phrase ‘you are not MS’ repeatedly. An unfortunate truth is that while the individual is not the disease, the disease affects their body and often rights of choice,” writes Cheryl Ellis. “Caregivers have been given custody of their loved one’s trust in addition to handling various affairs, but the original relationship between the MS patient and the caregiver remains. Remembering that relationship and putting it first, both verbally and by action, can offer an independence for caregiver and loved one.”

While the article specifically addresses the relationship between someone who has MS and their caregiving loved-one, the article offers communication tips to negotiate the tasks that a carepartner and caregiver does.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section.


How pets prevent heart attacks

photo-1415369629372-26f2fe60c467There are many advantages to seniors owning pets.  One of these is the way it has been proven in formal studies that pets prevent heart attacks.  One study by Friedmann (1995) analyzed people who had suffered heart attacks, and who owned a dog versus those who didn’t.  The study also analyzed those who had human social supports versus those who didn’t. In both cases of dogs and humans, the social support was important and helped increase rates of survival.

Another benefit to seniors owning pets is touch.  Just petting or stroking an animal’s warm fur in stressful times can be soothing. I can vouch for this myself, and I’ve observed it in my Dad also with our Labrador.

Celebrating our furry friends,

Calm Pond