The Power Of Music

Some thoughts on the power of music from the archives.

North Van Caregivers

Whether or not we actively search for and listen to songs, sing, or play an instrument, music plays a big role in our lives. It’s played at graduations, birthday parties, weddings and anniversaries. It’s in our cars, in busy downtown streets and can even be heard through other people’s headsets or through open car windows. It could be argued that it is almost impossible to live life without having music associated with memories. Some of those memories might be happy – the song that was playing when you were first kissed or the lullaby that was sang to put you to sleep when you were little. Others might be sad. A man once shared with me that he is unable to listen to Amazing Grace without crying because he had heard it at so many people’s funerals.

For those living with dementia, listening to and participating in musical activities can…

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3 Ways to Get a Peaceful Sleep In the Heat

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Summer has come a little earlier than expected on the west coast this year. While it makes the days beautiful (especially if you’re near the water), the heat can make getting a restful sleep more challenging – both for yourself and for your loved one. Unlike houses and apartments further east, most homes in Vancouver do not come equipped with air conditioning. North-facing homes may be especially effected by hot weather. We all know that we need a good night’s rest to be at our best, so what do we do when the weather makes it hard to wake up feeling ready to take on the day? Read on for a 3 tips to beat the heat and get some sleep that you may not have thought of before.

CREATE A CROSS BREEZE | The Greatist recommends working with the windows in your room and a fan to create a cross breeze. “Position a fan across from a window, so the wind from outside and the fan combine in a cooling cross breeze. Feeling fancy? Go buck-wild and set up multiple fans throughout the room to make the airflow even more boisterous.”

USE A HOT WATER BOTTLE…| …with cold water. This ensures use year-round, making this inexpensive product a worthwhile purchase.

BE MINDFUL OF YOUR SHEETS | Cotton is best. Linen sheets can be especially cooling. If you’re using any other material such as silk or polyester, it may be a good time to pack them up until the fall.

What do you do to stay cool in the heat? We’d love to hear from you!

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

Tips on Managing Worry Without Medication

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The following tips come from the book “Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition” by Edward Hallowell (2002)

  1. Get the facts-base worry on reality.
  2. Exercise at least every other day.
  3. Analyze the problem and take corrective action.
  4. Ask for advice.
  5. Pray or meditate.
  6. Add structure to your life when you need it! (A basket for your house keys.)
  7. Turn off your doom and gloom generator.
  8. Don’t watch too much TV or read too many newspapers or magazines.
  9. Maintain a reserve cash fund.
  10. Make a will.
  11. Learn how to give up a worry (appeal to your higher power).
  12. Take a holiday or mini-break.
  13. Sing, recite a nursery rhyme, or the alphabet
  14. Read.
  15. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  16. Remember that nothing lasts forever, even worry.

Hope this helps!

Calm Pond

When You Resent Your Loved One

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It’s something that’s hard to talk about because it’s upsetting to even think about. You love your spouse, your mother and father, your sibling. You care about them deeply and want to do everything you can to support them. You feel a sense of responsibility, or duty, to take care of them.  So, why are you now feeling resentful of them?

Maybe you were once happy to take on the extra chores and errands, but something has changed in your life that is making it hard for you to meet their needs. Perhaps due to advancing dementia, or pain, or mental illness, they don’t say or do the nicest things to you, and it’s taking a toll. It could be that your relationship with your family member was never a good one, and now you feel that you have no choice but to take care of them. Maybe you feel that you are taking most of the load – that your family members or health care professionals are not doing all they could, and your frustration is escalating.

Resentment is a tough feeling to handle. If it’s not addressed, it can build and begin to interfere with your ability to care for your loved one, and for yourself.

You might be feeling ashamed of your feelings and beating yourself up for how you’re reacting to requests for help or to their tough emotions. Shame can prevent you from doing the one thing that could really help you to work through your feelings – talking to someone about your situation and getting support.

It is common for unpaid family caregivers to feel resentful of their loved ones. The pressure is great when you are caring for someone close to you who needs your attention. Although it might seem like some people handle all the stresses and responsibilities in their lives with the utmost grace and confidence – no one is perfect. If you’re reading this and you’ve been feeling ashamed or guilty for feeling resentful towards your care partner, take a deep breath, and forgive yourself. It’s okay to feel unpleasant emotions. The important thing is that once you recognise your feelings of resentment, you get help and support so it doesn’t linger too long, or get worse.

Spend some time reflecting on why you feel the way that you do. When you feel resentful of a person or a of a situation, you might think that all of the unpleasant emotions you’re experiencing are a direct result of that person and their actions. In other words, you blame them for your uncomfortable feelings. This way of thinking can be an emotional trap because it makes you feel like there is nothing you can do to change things. Resentment can be overwhelming, so try to break things in to smaller chunks. Take a good look at why you’re feeling the way you are.

Is it a specific behaviour that’s upsetting you? Is your loved one’s actions or words triggering a painful memory? What needs of yours are not being met? What could you do, or who could you ask for help, to make sure your needs are being met? 

Some people have developed the skills needed for self-reflection, and others might need some support. Consider connecting with a counsellor or therapist to work through your emotions and identify what’s causing the resentment.

Everyone needs to feel supported and heard. Make time in your week, or month, to connect with a caregiver support group, or another gathering of people that make you feel heard. You might find that those uncomfortable feelings you’re experiencing are not so uncommon, and better yet, you could find new ways to work through them.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

Mindful Monday no. 67 – Generosity

Today we’re featuring a post from last February by Linsday Kwan. What better day to be reminded of how practising generousity can impact our lives in such wonderful ways?

North Van Caregivers

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“Generosity is another quality which, like patience, letting go, non-judging, and trust, provides a solid foundation for mindfulness practice.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go There You Are

Caregiving is a generous act in itself. Invite generosity into your mindfulness practice this week to notice how it makes you feel.

When we are generous, we offer freely and without expectations of a return:

We may offer a compliment to help elevate someone`s sense of worth.

We may offer time to connect to someone who is lonely.

We may offer to take someone out to lunch in order to show our love for them.

We may offer understanding when someone is in need of support.

We may offer support by donating or volunteering our favourite causes or organizations.

We may offer our time as caregivers to our loved ones so that their well-being is improved.

What I have found in my…

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Pain, inevitable; Suffering, optional

The other day I was reading Anais Nin’s diaries and came across this quote:

” The secret of joy lies in the mastery of pain.”

Of course, as the saying goes: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

It is not the pain, but the aversion to pain, that causes suffering.

It works out too this simple equation: Pain + aversion=suffering.

In the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truths, individuals are prompted to acknowledge the simple inevitability of suffering.  That said, in the Western world, we have access to treatments for both physical and emotional pain, and we have every right to seek them.  For me, I take an over-the-counter medication called ‘Antistax’ for achy legs.

And oddly, in my experience at least, it is not my own pain and suffering that is so unbearable, but the pain and suffering of the loved ones in my life.  Is this true for you also?

Wishing you well,

Calm Pond

 

 

Things I do to decompress

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Whenever I get home from work or volunteering I take the time to change into comfortable clothing.  In the process, I shed my work/volunteer self and re-enter my home/family self.

Also, sometimes cooking a dish from scratch can help create a pause between the workday and the evening family time.  Why not try the following recipe for Carrot and Garlic Soup (copied from ‘Good Times’ magazine)?  If you feel like it, add a teaspoon of curry powder for Curried Carrot and Garlic Soup, which tastes delicious!

You’ll need:

2 heads garlic, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 chopped onion, salt and pepper, 5 cups vegetable stock (but you can use cubes), 3 cups chopped carrots (I used a bag of baby carrots), 1 potato peeled and chopped, 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt, minced chives if you have them.

Fry onion, garlic, salt and pepper, stirring until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add stock, carrots, potato and one cup water, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.  Using immersion blender or batches in blender, blend until smooth (I like to leave some chunky bits for that rustic feel.)  Serve, top with chopped chives, and sour cream or yogurt dollop.

(Makes 6 servings)

Bon Appetit!

Calm Pond

Seniors and driving issues

Recently I’ve had to think about my Dad’s driving.  It is a very delicate issue, as you can imagine, because in North America we value mobility and independence.  Also, in North America (unlike Europe) the distances are longer so accessing convenient transportation is more of a challenge.

If you are also facing this issue, I highly recommend one website, which I will provide below.  Basically, you have to watch for warning signs, such as : close calls, or getting lost on familiar routes.  One thing I’ve implemented with my parents is to suggest not driving on the freeway and avoiding driving late at night or in very bad weather.  I have had some success in this regard.

But undoubtedly, the time will come when my Dad will have to give up driving altogether.  So alternate forms of transportation, such as the HandiDart, taxis, and the Senior’s Hub (more on those in future posts) will have to be explored.

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/aging-well/age-and-driving-safety-tips.htm

Stay safe!

Calm Pond

 

Introduction to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Last June I attended an information session for an 8-week course called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).  Briefly, MBSR is a course in self-healing and self-care for individuals who experience chronic stress or physical ailments.

MBSR began in 1979 with Jon Kabat-Zinn, a world-renowned mindfulness expert ( and also a molecular biologist.)  According to the research on mindfulness, the brain’s inherent neuroplasticity means that when you sit down to meditate, you actually change your brain, particularly the areas called the limbic system (the seat of emotions) and the pre-frontal cortex.  When you strengthen the connection to the PFC, you will end up much less reactive and much less stressed.

Mindfulness meditation in based on thousands of years of wisdom traditions, though the MBSR program does not require any religious affiliation.

I  highly recommend this program for those individuals who are searching for healthy ways to manage stress.

Namaste,

Calm Pond

Hawthorn for the Heart

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As care givers, we rely on our hearts. Not just as an emotional source of love but also physiologically to endure long hours, carry stress, worry and self sacrifice for those we love and those who need us. Our hearts and cardiovascular systems take on the weight. When self sacrifice means cutting time for our own health and things like diet and exercise fall to the wayside, it’s again the cardiovascular system that is one of the first body systems effected. Also, the natural changes that come about with aging are also straining on the heart organ and vasculature throughout the body, so there is good reason to take special care of this crucial body system!

Hawthorn is a shrub or tree that has a long history of use and for good reason. This plant in the rose family produces an abundance of “haws” at the end of the summer that contain multiple herbal constituents (particularly flavonoids) that are beneficial to blood vessels and the heart muscle. Some of the indications that this herb helps with are: as a tonic for cardiovascular disease, to improve coronary circulation by dilating coronary arteries, to increase contractility of heart muscle, reduce atherosclerosis by influencing LDL fats and supporting the health and function of the blood vessel walls by stabilizing collagen. Hawthorn also decreases BP, increases blood supply to the heart and offers further benefit not discussed here. *Reminder: with herbal medicine, as with conventional medicine, it is important to speak first with the appropriate health care provider before implementing new routine, as it pertains to herbal medicine, go speak with your Naturopathic Doctor.

Hawthorn can be taken as a tea, tincture or in capsules of dried herb. The tincture offers the most potent form of absorbing the medicinal value from the plant, but tea made from dried haws is valuable although a bit gentler. You can make a tea yourself by picking the haws at the end of the summer, cutting them in half and drying them in a food dehydrator until they are fully dry. Or you can go to any health food or natural supplement store and ask them if they carry Hawthorn tea. Make sure if you are purchasing Hawthorn tea that the tea is indeed the dried haws and not leaves or flowers. Tinctured form of herbal medicine is made by an alcohol extraction that was done on the plant material. It allows some of the constituents that are not water soluble to also come out of the plant into the alcohol so that the end product has a larger array of medicinal components. Tinctures are also available at health food stores and natural supplement stores. Visit a Naturopathic Doctor and they can go through this with you and most NDs will have Hawthorn products available in office. If you would like to learn more about hawthorn herbal uses click here.

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Hawthorn packs a hefty herbal punch to support our bodies, but the medicine this plant offers isn’t only available by taking herbal extracts or tinctures. The very presence of hawthorn has healing effect on our bodies. Being in nature has scientifically measurable health benefit, if you research the term Shinrin Yoku and you will find a plethora of research on the subject.

Shinrin Yoku is a Japanese term that means “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest” and was designed to encourage the public to go seek out time spent in natural surroundings. Since the 1980s researchers in Japan and Korea have observed subjects after having spent time in natural settings and compared stress hormone levels, heart rate, blood pressure and other health markers to people who have not recently been in nature. They have repeatedly found that being in nature has measureable beneficial health outcomes. Although this might appear obvious to many of us, this has great use to convince everyone that when it comes to our health, our time with nature is indeed doing us good. In the countries where Shinrin Yoku is studied, medical doctors also prescribe certain patients to spend specific amounts of time in nature each week as preventative health care. If you would like to read more of the subject click here.

Spending time with hawthorn is of no exception. In Folklore the hawthorn is one of the most revered plants and has a strong history in England and religious history. The Glastonbury Thorn is a hawthorn tree that is associated with legends of the arrival of Christianity in Britain. Many churches throughout the lower mainland have hundred-year-old hawthorns in their properties and are beautiful and powerful to be around.

Energetically the hawthorn is a very grounding tree, it promotes cleansing, fulfillment, guardianship and fertility. The flower blossoms in May are connected to folklore for fertility and abundance. The heart shaped leaves resonate with what is called a “doctrine of signatures” and give hint to the helpful heart medicine of hawthorn. The plant is not all flowers and dance however. Hawthorn has strong thorns that are demanding of respect, they are there to protect the hawthorn and offer guarding for the plant and those around it. To go and sit with a hawthorn, meditate, say some prayers and ask for healing is a great way to gain some of the subtle healing that this plant offers. If you are familiar with this plant already then offer to gather some of the haws in end of summer and play with making some of your own teas for your health.

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Connecting to nature in this way is like an easy meditation without the rigors of committing to daily practice. It helps put things in perspective when stress is running on our minds and allows ourselves to let go and permit healing for our hearts to unfold. Being with plants and allowing their healing is obvious to gardeners and is a big part of why they love getting their hands dirty. If you don’t have a garden of your own, then I encourage you to look and observe the plants around you and start noticing which ones you would like to spend time with. As it pertains to matters of the heart, the hawthorn rules, and going to seek out time with one will do you a world of good.

 

Christina Weir

Third year Naturopathic Medical Student

 

Visit her website  www.wildhealthlife.com for more local herbal info and DIY herbal projects