Mindful Monday no. 53 – Self-Care Within A Busy Life: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)


For a brief overview of MBSR, please see one of our previous posts.

I have much respect for skills that are cultivated over time, such as metalwork, gardening, and pottery. There is something wholesome and nurturing about choosing to build practical knowledge and skill in an area that means something to you. MBSR is a skill that can be learned by most people, and is a way of being present that enhances quality of life. Read on to hear more 🙂

I had the pleasure of doing a phone interview with Dr. Kasim Al-Mashat to learn more about MBSR from a real-life perspective. During our conversation I appreciated Kasim’s warm demeanour and was struck by the authenticity with which he spoke about what MBSR has meant in his own life. Rather than being a “quick fix,” MBSR is a way of approaching life that gets us “Tapping into our deepest inner wisdom.”

What drew you to explore MBSR?

In the midst of a too-busy life, filled with studies and work in the field of psychology, Kasim found himself approaching burnout. He had grieved the loss of several loved ones, and developed a health condition that forced him to slow down; his usual activities coming to a complete stop. “This was my first experience at looking into life.” After Kasim recovered he went back to his overly busy, often stressful life with a newly discovered curiosity about what sorts of coping strategies could be complimentary to medical care and psychology. Related to care of the self, Kasim began questioning “What else is there?” besides common notions such as eating healthy, exercise, and getting enough sleep etc. In his curiosity, Kasim recognized there was a gap in his own practice of self-care.

“How we navigate the tragedies affects the quality of our lives.” Kasim states that while it’s simple, MBSR isn’t easy. “It takes practice to train the mind to be present.” Mindfulness based stress reduction helps one recognize their normal patterns in daily life (that have been developed over time), and to meet challenges in a new way. This kind of mindfulness is experiential in that you will be exploring your life and investigating what patterns and tendencies are there.

What if I feel uncertain about trying MBSR? Will I be any good at it?

While learning the ways of MBSR takes patience, it helps to remember that the nature of the human mind is to be distracted and busy with thoughts. You’re not alone! “You don’t need a calm mind in order to meditate.” That is a very helpful point to have clarity on- thank you Kasim!

Caregivers, as you continue to provide practical care, meals, care and comfort to your loved one(s), this is one way to strengthen your coping abilities, allowing you to deal more calmly with all that is required of you- or as some call it, “to keep your sanity.”

“This is an opportunity to nurture yourself.” Kasim points out that extensive research shows structural changes happen in the brain (over a period of time) when people meditate. We can see through scientific proof that mindfulness and meditation are beneficial for one’s mental, emotional and physical health.

Where you can learn MBSR:

Kasim also holds free MBSR info sessions (1.5 hours) to give people a chance to see if this is for them (dates and locations are on his site). He also holds meditation retreats for those interested. You don’t need to have any experience with mindfulness in order to join these sessions. For more information, click here. 

Finally, remember that it’s YOUR choice of whether a particular approach will work for you. After being open-minded and giving the practice a wee try, asking “Does this appeal to me?” is helpful in deciding which stress relief methods you prefer to focus on.
The main thing is that you have SOMETHING positive which helps you to cope, and maybe even to see the beauties of life within the many challenges.


Mindful Monday no. 52: A Nightly Review Meditation

A beautiful Mindful Monday post from the archives! Happy BC Day, everyone!


There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”

-Bernard Williams

A new day is a fresh start, a chance to wipe the slate clean and begin again. A nightly review meditation can be a helpful tool to regroup and let go of ruminating thoughts and negative self-talk, particularly after a challenging day. It is an opportunity to set an intention for the day, taking into account all the things that matter to you.

A nightly review meditation is not supposed to be about what was done wrong, focusing on missed opportunities or wasted energy, but about how trying to learn how to be more mindful and present in our lives.

At the end of the day, take some moments for this nightly review meditation. Get comfortable, dim the lights, and sit in quiet contemplation. You can do this in bed as part of a sleep ritual or you can sit upright.

As you see yourself ease into the meditation, call to mind the events of the day. Remember:

  • How were you feeling?
  • How present was I in the moments of the day?
  • What are you struggling with today?
  • What are you stuck on, repeating in your mind?
  • How could you have handled a situation better?
  • What made you feel content?
  • What did you do to practice self-care today?
  • What are you grateful for today?

Instead of ruminating on these answers, notice any negative thoughts, such as: why did I do that, say that, react in that way? Once the thoughts are noticed, let them go by recalling another situation-a more pleasant event-that can help to restore some balance.

The challenging emotions can be gently worked out by setting an intention for the following day. Even if these challenges are unavoidable, ask yourself: in what ways, can I show up for myself tomorrow? Make sure to set goals for your own well-being and not solely for your caregiving responsibilities.

Once you have completed your nightly review meditation, recite an affirmation to close. Personally, I like this one:

The day is over and I am letting go. I release the struggles and successes of the day to make room for tomorrow. I am grateful for the present moment, for my ability to rest and restore. 

Have a great rest tonight!





Mindful Monday no. 86 – How to Take a Social Media Holiday

social media holiday

Social media can be a wonderful tool for caregivers. It can connect you with other people caring for loved ones and provide you with support in your journey. It can introduce you to new research and teach you about local resources where you can meet in-person with experts and other caregivers. Social media can connect you with family and friends that you may not see often in your day-to-day life.

Use of social media can also cause stress and feelings of overwhelm. When you spend a lot of time reading and searching through different social media sites, you are bombarded with information. It can feel like you need to see and interact with everything that’s being posted. While it can be a wonderful tool for finding comradery, people tend to post their “highlight reels.” Comparing your life to another’s, especially when you’re struggling, can be detrimental. 

What practices can you put in place to ensure you are taking care of yourself first while using social media? How can you practice mindfulness while navigating such a stimulating medium?

Here are a few ideas:

Quit Social Media Every Other Day |The writers of this article advocate for intermittent social media fasting. At the end of the day, log out of every one of your social media accounts, and do not log back in for 24 hours. 

Track your time online | It can be easy to follow link after link for hours. To avoid falling in to a worm hole, set a timer for 10, 20, or 30 minutes before logging on. When the timer goes off, disengage! 

Set limits | When you subscribe to a site, you are agreeing to spend time using it. Make a list of the sites you use regularly and think about the value you get out of them. How does the information you receive or the conversations you have on those sites make you feel? If the answer is not so great, it may be worth it to unsubscribe.

How do you feel about social media? Do you have ways of limiting your use? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!


Cassandra Van Dyck

3 ways to get a peaceful sleep

Care manager. Wife extraordinaire. Cook. Social coordinator. Housecleaner. Warrior husband. Any of these might describe what your caring role looks and feels like.

When you’ve been running around for most of the day, managing appointments, mealtimes, and making sure things go smoothly- by the time it’s evening, you might be tempted to just crash …. falling into bed without any wind-down time. While this is alright to do on occasion, it’s really important to create a routine that allows you to relax before going to bed. A wind-down routine signals to your mind and body that it’s time to stop doing and going- and to simply rest. And now that summer is on full blast, it can be inspiring to stay up late and watch the stars, or to get one more thing done during the long evening.

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Nighttime routines help you:
Let go of the day, and release any physical tension caused by stressful events.

Acknowledge what was difficult today, and appreciate the small successes.

Prepare your nervous system for a restful sleep.

3 things to try:

Soak Soak your feet in warm water, and then use your favourite lotion to give yourself a foot massage. The warm water will ease tension and help your system unwind, while the fragrance will be soothing. I enjoy using pink Himalayan salt or Epsom salts in my foot soak.

Cozy up Make your bedroom cozy. Switch on your favourite lamp or light a candle on your bedside table.

Thankful time Spend 1 minute reflecting on what made you sad or mad today. After acknowledging how you felt, visualize those events floating away from your body- send the negative thoughts away! Then for 3 minutes, think about what made you smile or feel uplifted. Hold the feeling of joy and thankfulness with you as you close your eyes.


Wishing you the restful sleep you truly deserve!
Please go ahead and comment on what YOU do at nighttime for self-care.


Mindful Monday no. 85 – Focus: How to Avoid Spreading Yourself too Thin


Feeling overwhelmed is often the result of saying “yes” to too many things. It’s not hard for caregivers to end up with what feels like a never ending to-do list. There is always more that you could be doing, and of course you want to do all you can to support your loved one. Although it’s tempting to do more and more, having healthy boundaries and being mindful about what you agree to take on will help you to focus on what you’re doing and allow you the time to take care of yourself.

How do you avoid spreading yourself too thin? Get really comfortable saying “no.”

Saying no can be hard. You could feel scared about how someone will react if you decline an invitation or you might worry that your loved one won’t get what they need if you can’t do what they need done. Fear can be a huge reason for struggling with saying no, but excitement can be as well. Have you ever accepted invitations to a few too many holiday parties, and then felt burnt out when you realize how many events you’ll need to attend in a short span of time? The impulse to say yes can be driven by yearning, but this too can contribute to caregiver burnout.

Learn the 24 hour rule. 

A supervisor gifted me some sage advice a few years ago and it has helped me to avoid spreading myself too thin quite a few times. When someone asks you to do something, let them know that you’ll respond in 24 hours. Use those 24 hours to really think about the request and whether or not you would be able to commit. If you’re having trouble deciding, ask yourself the following questions:

How much time will the request take me? | You might find that what’s being asked of you will simply take too much time with what you have already committed to. If this is the case, be honest! Let the person know that you have too much else going on to commit.

Do I have the skills needed to do what’s being asked of me? | Sometimes we’re asked to do things that are beyond our skill sets. Though it is possible to expand our abilities, it might not be in another’s best interest, or might take too much time. Ask yourself if you’re comfortable doing what’s asked of you. If not, reach out to someone who is.

Is there someone else that can help? | Delegation is a wonderful thing! For example, if your loved one needs help with shopping, look in to grocery delivery. If there are things are the house that need doing, reach out to a Better at Home program.

Why am I saying yes? | If the answer is that it’s because you’re scared to say no, you will want to explore other options.

How am I doing? | Check in with yourself and see how you’re doing. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well? Are you finding time to exercise and people who make you smile? When was the last time you had a really good laugh? If you’re not happy with your answers, it could be better to decline a request and spend some time taking care of yourself.

What steps do you take to avoid spreading yourself too thin? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!

Cassandra Van Dyck

Mindful Monday no. 84 – Mindfulness Based Decision Making

mindfulness based decision making

“Doing what’s right isn’t hard. Knowing what’s right is.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

Have you ever needed to make a decision but felt that you couldn’t get your thoughts straight long enough to do so? Making decisions can be difficult at the best of times. When you are caring for a loved one and juggling other day-to-day responsibilities on top of managing emotional stress, decision making can become even harder. Caregivers have many decisions to make – some small, and some big.

Is it time for my loved one to move to a care home?

Should we get extra help around the house?

Can we afford a meal service?

Which medical options should we consider?

There is often a lot of fear involved with decision making. What if the decision is made and the results aren’t what you wanted? The fear can be paralysing.

Practicing mindfulness can provide the perspective and mental state needed not only to make decisions, but to appropriately respond to the outcomes. Read on for some mindfulness tips to help with decision making.

Get some rest. Try to avoid making decisions at night. It is much, much harder to think clearly when you’re exhausted. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, go through some self-care practices and tuck yourself in to bed. It will be easier to process your thoughts in the morning when you are rested.

Get some perspective. Look at the situation from all angles. Talk to someone you trust, go for a long walk or a drive, write in a journal. Examining the situation from a different perspective can provide clarity.

Use a timer. This suggestion comes from Harvard Business Review writer Peter Bregman, and may not sound very “mindful” at first read. But maybe it is? You can spend a lot of time mulling over the different outcomes of a decision and get no closer to an answer. What if you set a timer for 15 minutes and promised yourself you’d make a decision before the timer went off? If you’ve spent some time researching options and feel that you have some perspective, it might be the time crunch you need to choose a path.

Pretend that you’re helping a friend make a decision. “The reasoning here is really simple: your short-term emotions get in the way of decisions, and that clouds your judgment. It’s hard to break free of your emotions, but it helps to know they affect your choices,” says Thorin Klosowski. Think about the questions you would ask your friend when they say the things that you’re thinking. How would you respond to your friend?

Meditate on it. YouTube is filled with free guided meditations to help users make decisions.

Detach from the outcome. Though this may be the hardest part of making a decision, it might also be the most helpful in reducing stress. “Wanting things to turn out a certain way continues to confuse our view of reality. Make it a point to become less attached to the outcome of your decision once that decision is made. Let life unfold naturally,” says Dr. Marchand. 

How do you make tough decisions? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!


Cassandra Van Dyck


Mindful Monday no. 83 – Summer Solstice Reflection Questions

summer solstice

June 20th marked the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and welcomed in the new season. The solstice marks the half way point of 2017 and the longest day of the year. Although the day could simply be seen as a marker of time, it can hold deep meaning and significance for some people. The solstice is a wonderful time to reflect on how you’re doing and think about any changes you’d like to make. Maybe you’re noticing that your body is sore and you’d like to make time to exercise. You might reflect that you’ve been feeling down a lot lately and need to connect with a network group or a therapist. You could notice that things are going well and you’re adjusting changes in your caregiving role very well! Taking the time to sit down and think about the following questions can give us perspective and clarity, no matter how we’re doing. Remember to be gentle with yourself if what comes up is tough, and to reach out if you need to.

Solstice Reflection Questions

What is bringing me joy right now?

Where am I struggling?

What are my fears?

Who can I talk to about my joys, my struggles, and my fears?

What changes do I want to make over the next six months?


Do you do anything to mark the solstice? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!


Cassandra Van Dyck


Mindful Monday no. 82 – How to Tap In to Your Intuition


The definition of intuition is, “to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.”

How often do you pay attention to your intuition? Do you follow it?

Making decisions based on intuition can seem like a scary concept to those who are distanced from following their gut instincts. It’s possible that you’ve made decisions in the past based on your intuition and it has led you down a path you didn’t want. You might want to ignore your intuition because you want to protect yourself from getting hurt, or you’re nervous about what could change in your life. You may be imagining different situations when you’ve ignored your intuition because of the question that normally follows, which is, “What if…?” The “what if” questions we ask ourselves can prepare us for some things, but they can also prevent us from taking a chance on something new or cause us to stay in negative situations for too long.

Have you ever seen something happen or seen someone do something and thought, “I knew it.” That’s your intuition. Have you said no to an opportunity and then felt a physical pain in your stomach or chest when you’ve thought about what you missed out on? That’s also your intuition.

Why is intuition important for caregivers? Tapping in to your intuition can help you notice when something is amiss with your loved ones and trigger you to take action. It can let you know when it’s time to ask health care professionals questions that you might normally stay quiet about. Listening to your intuition can help you notice when you’re doing too much and might need to take a break or get some help.

As mentioned, tapping in to and following your intuition can be challenging when you’re not feeling confident that it will lead you in the right direction. If you’re ready to see what it can feel like to get in touch with your intuition, try the guided meditation below.

When was the last time you listened to and followed your intuition? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!


Cassandra Van Dyck

Mindful Monday no. 81 – 5 Mindfulness Apps


“You have only moments to live.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Sometimes you need to tune in to tune out, and a mindfulness app might be the tool you need to get you there. There seems to be an app for everything these days, and mindfulness is no exception! Our devices our a huge factor in our struggle with mindfulness, so it might seem counter intuitive to log on to an app to help you be present, but receiving a notification to remind you to put down your phone or having a voice on hand to guide you through a meditation at the click of a button can be incredibly useful.

Interested in trying one out? Read on for some mindfulness app suggestions!

Insight Timer | Over 2,000,000 guided meditations, offering everything from binaural beats, chanting and mantras, to mindfulness for releasing anxiety. Oh, and it’s free!

Headspace | This app is great for beginners or anyone who is struggling to fit meditation in to their day. It asks only 10 minutes a day from subscribers and checks in with you daily to make sure you’ve taken the time to listen to their guided meditation. Sign up is free, but there is a cost after the introduction period.

Smiling Mind | A not-for-profit organization that is trying to make mindfulness available to everyone, Smiling Mind provides mindfulness programs for people of all ages and needs.

Stop, Breathe & Think | This app is helpful for anytime you’re in the throws of an intense emotion and need to re-centre. The app lets you check in and then guides you through a short breathing exercise. You can try it for free!

Mindfulness Apps | An app with meditations by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, aka the meditation guru.

Have you tried any mindfulness apps? We’d love to hear what’s worked for you in our comments!

Did you like this post? Please share it with a friend!


Cassandra Van Dyck



5 Minutes to Relaxation: An Exercise by Jennifer Dibnah

17883525_1328058607276092_8780189336070434838_nYou might think of Yoga as a flowing, strengthening and stretching in a series of flowing movements that benefit overall health; and yes it can be!


But Yoga can also be used to reduce stress and help you relax. If you can breathe, you can do Yoga. The following are simple, yet effective ways that anyone can use to reduce stress and anxiety, relax and prepare for sleep, regardless of previous experience, age, or mobility. The following steps outline simple, yet effective technique using breathing to reduce stress and anxiety or to relax and prepare for sleep-regardless of age, experience or ability.


Get Started


Sit or lie down on a comfortable surface. Feel your body completely supported by the surface you have chosen. Make sure you are a comfortable temperature and will not be distracted by phone calls, animals or people.


1.) Place your left hand over the top of your chest (breast bone) and your right hand over your belly. (Try changing your hands around to see what works best for YOU).

2.) Relax your eyes by closing them or softening your gaze. Place your tongue in your lower palette and focus on feeling your breath at the tip of your nose. (If your nose is plugged breathe through your mouth, preferably pursed lips to slow the breath). 

3.) Draw the breath into your belly; feel your belly expand into your hand and then into your chest, pushing your belly and chest out on your inhale. Then exhale focusing on your breath moving out of your body as your hands soften towards your spine. Breathe in and out slowly counting in for four, out for four (In your mind’s eye, say to yourself “IN, 2, 3, 4…OUT 2, 3, 4… IN 2, 3, 4…OUT 2, 3, 4…”. 

Notice the pause between the inhale and exhale. Count for ten breaths (in and out equals one round) and then return to your natural breath. Notice how you feel. 

Slowly bring movement back into your body by wiggling your toes and fingers, making small movements. Flutter your eyes open and carefully ease your body into a more active position. 


Return to the practice whenever you need.


Tip: Try to relax just 5% more with each out-breath, imagining a layer of yourself dissolving each time. 


Do not hold your breath. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, open your eyes and return to your natural breath.



Jennifer Dibnah is a certified Yoga and Meditation teacher with a degree in Psychology. She teaches people how to find balance, compassion and appreciate their bodies using Yoga, Meditation, Psychology and many other techniques. Her passion is teaching people how to breathe, de-stress, manage anxiety and ultimately live their best life. 


Want Jennifer’s FREE 15-minute guided meditation MP3? Get it here!