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

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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

Foodie Friday – 2 Seasonal Salads

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The summer season is well under way, which means fresh, local fruits and vegetables will be stocked in grocery stores and farmer’s markets! Why not turn all the fresh produce in to delicious salads?

Eating salad is a great way to nutrients to give you the energy you need to manage your caregiving duties and any other tasks you have to complete. Spend 1-2 hours per week chopping vegetables and preparing dressings and you’ll have lunches ready every morning!

Here are two seasonal west coast salad recipes:

Diane’s Westcoaster Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

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Serves 6

This Westcoaster Salad is totally a winner. When my daughter Jennifer and partners opened the Tomato Fresh Food Café in 1991, this was our “Number One” salad. Now, new owners Christian Gaudreault and his wife Starllie still feature it on their menu, and it’s as popular as ever.

Ingredients

1/2 lb (250 g) peppered and candied smoked salmon strips or regular sliced smoked salmon

6 cups (1.5 L) mixed greens

1/2 red pepper, seeded and cut into thin julienne strips

1/2 yellow pepper, seeded and cut into thin julienne strips

1 cup (250 mL) crumbled chèvre (goat) cheese

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 cup (250 mL) olive oil

1/4 to 1/3 cup (60 to 75 mL) balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup (60 mL) pure maple syrup

1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard

freshly ground pepper to taste

2 or 3 days before

Prepare the Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette. Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, mustard and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

Just before serving

Peel the skin off the salmon, slice diagonally into 1/4-in (6-mL) thick slices. Set aside.

Divide the greens evenly among 6 salad plates, mounding them high.

Warm the vinaigrette in a frying pan over low heat. Add the slices of salmon and the peppers. Heat briefly a few minutes to warm.

To serve

On each salad plate, divide the salmon mixture equally over the greens, then drizzle over the warm dressing. Top with a good sprinkling of chèvre (goat) cheese. Serve immediately.

Chef’s Secret

Look for this peppered candied smoked salmon in the seafood section of your local food and seafood markets. Candied smoked salmon is usually marinated with a little honey, maple syrup or dark brown sugar and a little salt. Coarsely ground pepper is sometimes added as well. It’s smoked from 8 to 24 hours to give the salmon a sweet, subtle smoky flavor. It’s crusty on the outside, but moist and soft on the inside. Choose nice thick strips. I always keep some on hand in the freezer, take out in the morning and thaw it in the refrigerator.

Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Island Salad

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 This salad is composed of ingredients that are cultivated on Vancouver Island and grown or produced within 100 km of your home, so get familiar with this product and all of the rest of the V.I. abundance and make an effort to buy them often.

Ingredients

Spinach

Red pepper (thin sliced)

Onion (thin sliced)

Tomato (sliced)

Hazelnuts (crushed)

Natural Pastures Brie (sliced)

1/4 cup raspberries (fresh or defrosted)

1/2 cup yogurt

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons honey

Kosher salt/black pepper to taste

Directions

  1.  Combine raspberries, yogurt, buttermilk, honey, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl. Stir well to combine and mash the raspberries until incorporated.
  2.  Combine desired amount of spinach, peppers, onion and tomato in a mixing bowl and toss to combine. Plate and then top salad with desired amount of dressing, hazelnuts and brie cheese. Now eat!
 Variations
Strawberries, blackberries and blueberries are all grown on Vancouver Island and all make a great substitute for the raspberries if so desired.
Do you have any salad recipes you love to make? Please share them in our comment section!
Cassandra Van Dyck

 

 

Everybody needs somebody

For anyone, including older adults, that sense of connection is crucial. According to the magazine ‘Mind over Matter’ (put out by the Women’s Brain Health Initiative) “loneliness increases the risk of dementia in older adults by as much as 64%”

That said, human beings also require solitude or what is often called: ‘me time’ or ‘alone time’.  The point is to have a balance : some ‘in’ time, some ‘out’ time–and not all one or the other.

You will find that as a caregiver (see ‘Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians’ by Rick Lauber, published by Self-Counsel Press) you must forego some of your social obligations, in favor of precious time alone. Obviously though, not to the point of isolating yourself.

Here are two quotes I’ve gleaned on the subject of loneliness and that need for connection:

“We need other human beings in order to be human” Desmond Tutu

“Oak trees just grow stronger, Rivers grow wilder every day, Old people just grow lonesome, Waiting for someone to say: ‘Hello in there, hello.'”

John Prine in : ‘Lessons from a Caregiver’ by Laurel A. Wicks (book review forthcoming).

Who was it that said: ‘Only connect.’? The name escapes me, if you know it, post a comment.

Here’s a toast to your health and well-being!

Calm Pond

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

3 More Tips for A Good Night’s Sleep

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We’ve written about sleep a few times before on the blog – and for good reason! So many people struggle to get a good night’s sleep and the lack of rest can wreak havoc on our ability to thrive. We’ve done some searching and have found more tips to help you get the zzz’s you need. Read our past posts here, here and here.

Eat a banana. “sometimes—especially mid-sleep wakeups—the simplicity of eating half of a banana will fill my belly and relax me right back into a peaceful and calm sleep due to their generous amounts of magnesium, potassium, and tryptophan content.  This is a relaxing blend with tryptophan converting into serotonin and melatonin (the brain’s key calming hormones).” – Free & Native

Legs Up The Wall. “This is an excellent pose for grounding at the end of a long summer day. It is a simple yet deeply restorative posture. Often times, if we’re not getting adequate sleep going to bed can increase anxiety because we’re so worried about not sleeping. Taking five or ten minutes to put your legs up the wall can make a huge difference. Learn more about this healing pose and all of its incredible benefits (from promoting sleep to increasing beauty).” – Ashley Neese

Worry intentionally during a specific “anxious hour. “Many caregivers have difficulty falling or staying asleep because they have a head full of worries about their loved one’s care. Rather than worrying at night when it’s time for sleep, you can purposely worry at more convenient times during the day. Set an hour during the early evening to write down a to-do list as well as all the concerns that are troubling you. Then put the writing away in a drawer until the next morning. This simple action may have the effect of depositing your anxieties for the night, helping you relax and fall asleep.” – Barry J. Jacobs

Review of Mindfulness Magazines

Here are some magazines on mindfulness available by subscription or on newsstands:

‘Mindful’ magazine:

-this is a U.S. magazine, good for resources such as books, websites, meditation retreats or information about  certification programs

-great articles on psychological issues such as: stress, anxiety, loneliness or grief

-regular tips on how to meditate

-but–is U.S.-focused magazine, meditation retreats and mindfulness events are all located in U.S.

‘Mindfulness : The New Science of Health and Happiness’:

This magazine is put out by Time, it came out this year, is available until August at newsstands, others may follow

-great informative articles on basic mindfulness skills such as meditation, mindful  eating, yoga, and how to set an intention

-great mindfulness digital resources such as a review of meditation apps you can download to your smartphone for a small fee

-overall, great mindfulness resource for those who are just starting out on their journey to mindfulness

These magazines, besides their obvious benefit in providing useful information, can also have a calming effect as the information and topics covered are mostly positive and soothing, so in a sense, just reading about mindfulness can be relaxing in itself, I used this on my last plane trip.

Happy reading!

Calm Pond

Smoothie pick-me ups

Caretaking can be a 24/7 role. Whether your loved one lives in the same house as you, or you provide support from across town or even a different province, caring TAKES ENERGY. After a night of interrupted sleep, or fatigue from all you’re doing to make sure the other person is alright; you might really appreciate having some accessible ways to boost your energy.
My nutrition savvy friend introduced me to the Oh She Glows cookbook, which contains a whole range of healthy, energizing vegan recipes. These two smoothies sound super refreshing, and though the ingredients aren’t terribly exotic, having all of them in your kitchen does take a little pre-thought.
These flavour combinations will give you an infusion of vitamins and minerals, and hopefully make you feel able to tackle whatever the day has in store.

All Day Glow Green Smoothie

From http://ohsheglows.com/2016/05/18/all-day-glow-green-smoothie/   -Recipe by Angela Liddon

Keep in mind this is a large batch that just fits in a 64-ounce high-speed blender, so if your blender is smaller you might want to make a half batch. I love to have a glass first thing in the morning, and another in the afternoon. Since there’s no banana in it, it also keeps well until the next day when stored in an airtight container. Be prepared to feel that “all-day” glow!!

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Yield
5 cups
Prep Time
10 Minutes

Total Time
10 Minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) coconut water
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) mango juice (I love Happy Planet Organic Mango juice)
  • 2 large (400 g total) Granny Smith apples, cored and roughly chopped
  • 2 cups (70 g) packed red leaf lettuce or romaine
  • 2/3 cup (18 g) loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup (15 g) packed fresh cilantro leaves*
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) frozen mango chunks
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed avocado
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 small, pinky-sized pieces (12 g total) peeled fresh turmeric**
  • 5 to 6 large ice cubes, or as needed

Directions:

  1. Add the coconut water and mango juice into a (64-ounce) high-speed blender. (If your blender is on the small side, you may want to make a half-batch.)
  2. Now add the rest of the ingredients. Blend on high until super smooth. If you have a Vitamix, use the tamper stick to get things moving. Taste and adjust sweetness if desired. If it’s too tart, feel free to add a bit of liquid sweetener.
  3. Serve and enjoy! Place any leftovers into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 24 hours. I love to enjoy half in the morning, and the other half in the afternoon.

Tips:

  • * The cilantro flavour in this smoothie is quite pronounced. If you aren’t a cilantro fan, feel free to swap it with more romaine or fresh mint (start with 1/4 cup of mint).
  • ** Fresh turmeric root is becoming more and more common in grocery stores these days; keep your eyes peeled for it in the produce section.

The Blender Girl’s Mystical Mango Smoothie 
From http://ohsheglows.com/2015/08/07/the-blender-girls-mystical-mango-smoothie/

mango smoothie
This recipe is lightly adapted from Tess Master’s The Blender Girl.
“With a creamy texture and exquisite flavor, this immunity blend is a fabulous for collagen formation and glowing skin, hair, and nails. Mango’s enzymes and vitamins A, C, and E cleanse the liver and aid digestion, and its potassium and fibre help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol. This one will make your heart happy.”   -Tess

Yield
4 cups (2 servings)
Prep Time
5 Minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water, or more if needed
  • 1/4 cup avocado
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 2 cups frozen mango (I used an entire 300g bag)
  • Pure maple syrup, to taste (optional – I added a teaspoon)

    Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients into a high speed blender and blend on high for 30-60 seconds, until smooth and creamy. If using the Vitamix, you can use the tamper stick to get things moving. If the mixture seems too thick you can thin it with a bit more water.

Tips:
Note: You can boost this smoothie with 1/2 teaspoon wheatgrass powder, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, and 1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil.

Let us know how you like these blends.  We’d also be glad to hear about any of your favourite smoothie combinations!
-Karyn