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

Aromatherapy helps when you’re tired and blue

I discovered aromatherapy several years ago, when I decided to do away with the use of harsh chemicals in my household products. I switched to natural laundry detergent, shampoo, and deodorant; and I was excited to make herbal remedies to help with sore throats, cuts, and low energy.
I have found essential oils to be amazing companions for whatever is happening in life- whether that involves adjusting to unexpected changes, or embarking on exciting new projects that take a lot of energy.

Using essential oils can be a truly joyful experience, as scent is a powerful connector  to good memories. A particular smell can remind you of the lake where you spent summers as a child; or bring you a sense of comfort as you breathe in the familiar scent of your Grandad’s soap.
While it is so lovely to enjoy the smell of particular essential oils you’re drawn to, it’s also wise to choose your oil blends based on what systems of the body they actively provide support to. The following article suggests 4 essential oils that are beneficial for relieving symptoms of depression: https://draxe.com/essential-oils-for-depression/ .  Caregivers, please be aware that as you go through the hardships and the losses of your journey with a loved one, your feelings of grief can bring about symptoms that look very similar to the signs of depression. For example, when feeling very sad about your loved one’s declining health, you may feel fatigued and lacking motivation, and find it hard to concentrate on simple tasks. This can be your grief process, and I encourage you to treat yourself with lots of gentleness.

Here are a few De-stressing blends from http://helloglow.co/essential-oils-for-stress/ that you can make at home. Try using 3 drops of each oil in the blend you’ve chosen, and put them in your diffuser. There are 2 main types of diffusers: A ceramic one, with water on top and a candle underneath; and a water-filled machine that plugs in and releases a mist into the air. You can also buy a plug-in for your car, which holds the oils on a little cotton pad and plugs into your dashboard. Isn’t that marvelous?!


Ease tension
Bergamot, Geranium, Lavender. Together the three may help ease nervous tension, lift spirits and bring an overall sense of balance an calm emotionally.

Calm anxiety
Lavender, Roman Chamomile, & Ylang Ylang. Roman Chamomile has a calming scent that may help ease anxiety and restlessness.

Find Balance
Lavender, Frankincense, & Orange. Lavender has a very calming & relaxing scent which may be helpful in both physical and emotional balancing.  Studies have shown that smelling lavender increases beta waves in the brain which suggests greater relaxation & less mental stress.

Here’s a writing activity to try: Think of 1 smell that you really enjoy, and write about it for 3 minutes without editing your work. What memories did it evoke for you?

Aromatherapy is a terrific way of caring for yourself. Maybe at nighttime to help you unwind before bed; or in the morning to energize your system for the day. I invite you to give it a try!



Online Caregiver Support Groups & Forums


Time, location, and overwhelming responsibility can all be cause for missing out on caregiver supports. If you struggle to make our regular Network Meetings or Walk & Talk sessions, you may be feeling the need for support but unsure of how to access it.

Here is a list of 7 online support groups and forums for caregivers: 

  1. I Care for Someone: CanadianVirtualHospice.ca offers several discussion forums, including one for caregivers and one on grief. Each forum is easily accessible and recent comments show a response time of several days and more.
  2. Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories: This online gathering place offers a place for caregivers of people with Alzheimer`s Disease to connect.
  3. COPD International: If you are caring for someone with COPD, the online community includes a chat room and a message board to share your experiences of caregiving.
  4. Cancer Chat: The De Souza Institute offers online support groups for caregivers of people with any cancer diagnosis or prognosis at set times and dates for those who can schedule the time but have trouble getting away. (The next session begins on October 6th, 2016.)
  5. Caregiver Support Group: This online forum for support groups has an extensive member list and a response time of a few days.
  6. Caregiver-Online Support Group: An unmoderated email group for caregivers from the Family Caregiver Alliance (US). Share your stresses, concerns, and feelings about caregiving with others by sending and receiving email.
  7. LGBTQ Community Support Group: Also hosted by the Family Caregiver Alliance, this unmoderated support group offers a place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender caregivers of adults with chronic health problems to discuss the unique issues of caring for their loved ones over email.

Did I miss any that you use? Please share it with us in a comment.


An Awesome Article on Medical Alert Devices

photo-1455758190477-ac7265bc8139If your loved one is requiring a medical alert devices, this awesome article will be of use, particularly if they are resisting the process. Susie Slack of Today’s Caregiver provides some helpful advice on the topic of discussing medical alert devices with your parent, though the information can apply to anyone you are caring for. As Susie describes, “Falls are the leading cause of injuries, including fatal ones, for people in the 65-and-above age group.”

She also points out how medical alert devices have been around for 30 years. Nowadays, technology has evolved when it comes to medical alert devices. You can now get devices that look like jewellery or pedometers!

Did this article help you? We’d love to hear about it in the comment section.