1 July/August 2015 A bimonthly newsletter published by the Caregiver Support Program Finding Relief from Loneliness By Cassandra Van Dyck In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. - Albert Einstein Many of us are familiar with the risk factors that may impact our quality and length of life. We know that smoking is harmful and that we ll feel better and be less at risk for disease if we eat healthy foods and exercise. However, we may not think as often as we could about our emotional well-being and how it impacts our physical health. Recent studies have shown that loneliness and social isolation are as just as threatening to longevity as cigarette smoking and obesity. Loneliness has been shown to upset the regulation of cellular process in a way that can predispose you to premature aging. It has been linked with cardiovascular disease and suppresses the functioning of our immune systems. Statistics show that up to 40% of adults over the age of 65 will experience loneliness. Perhaps when you think of loneliness, you imagine a person in an empty house in the middle of an open field. The reality is that not all those who live alone are lonely and not all people who are lonely live alone. Lots of people who experience chronic loneliness are surrounded by people at work, at home and in public. It is not the quantity of interactions that a person may have that determines their loneliness, but the quality. A person can interact with people all day long, but if they do not feel connected and heard, they may still experience feelings of seclusion. There are many reasons for prevailing loneliness. Helping other people has numerous benefits, but those benefits are compromised if we are not caring for ourselves as well. We can care for ourselves by reaching out to our communities to make sure we are having positive, quality interactions that combat loneliness and provide feelings of acceptance and joy. When we feel lonely, it can be hard to imagine feeling differently especially when we are serving other people and not nurturing ourselves. Sometimes we get used to feeling lonely, unaware
2 July/August 2015 of the stress it is causing our bodies and minds. If you or someone you know is struggling with loneliness, here are a few steps you can take to start feeling more connected. Find the root of your loneliness. When we are feeling lonely, it can be hard to figure out why or how we ended up in such a state. Take some deep breaths and think or write about what is happening in your life. Are you making time to connect with the people in your life that you spending time with? Have you recently lost someone in your life? Could you use some more support with everything you have going on? Taking the time to think about why you re feeling the way you are can provide the self-awareness needed to start reaching out so you can receive the kind of support you need. Remember that you are not alone. Loneliness can lead to strong feelings of isolation, leading one to believe that they are alone and there is no one they could possibly reach out to for help. Believing that people really are there for you is an important first step. Sometimes just telling a supportive person that you are feeling lonely can take a weight off your shoulders. Try talking to a friend, family member or a professional. Be social. This might feel like the hardest thing to do when you are experiencing long periods of loneliness, but it can also be the most beneficial. Try coming to one of our Network Groups or Walk and Talks. Attend a fitness class or accept an invitation to a summer activity. Try something that you ve done in the past that has made you feel nourished and rejuvenated. door for you, a cashier made eye contact and smiled when you were leaving with your bags, or a co-worker took the time to ask how you were doing? These small connections can be enough to shift our mindsets away from negative thought patterns. Try positive affirmations. Loneliness is an emotion. Although it may not always feel so, it can be substituted for another. Try taking some time each morning and evening to set some positive affirmations. These can be spoken silently to yourself, written, or said out loud. Some find it helpful to speak it to themselves in a mirror. If you re stuck for words, try speaking these affirmations from Louise Hay: Life supports me in every possible way. I experience love wherever I go. Loving people fill my life, and I find myself easily expressing love to others. Today I listen to my feelings, and I am gentle with myself. I know that all of my feelings are my friends. My day begins and ends with gratitude and joy. Make small connections. Have you ever been having a bad day and then had that mood instantly turned around after a stranger held a References:
3 The Family Caregivers Grapevine Page 3 July 2015 Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat 1 2 Network Group 7PM- 9PM Walk and Talk 1:30PM- 3PM 8 Network Group 10:30AM- 12:30PM 9 Meditation 10AM-12PM Walk and Talk 1:30PM- 3PM Meditation 10AM-12PM Walk and Talk Tuesday, July 7th, July 21st, August 11th, August 25th Rejuvenate with a stroll on the Ambleside seawall, get to know other caregivers and enjoy the fresh air. The walks take place rain or shine. Meet us by the public washrooms at John Lawson Park in West Vancouver. Network Group Thursday, July 2nd, 7PM-9PM, Wednesday, July 8th, 10:30AM-12:30PM, Thursday, August 6th, 7PM-9PM and Wednesday, August 12th 10:30AM- 12:30PM A sneak peek at upcoming Network Groups: July 8th: Share your creativity. You re invited to bring something you ve made, such as artwork, baking, a piece of writing, or photos. We ll have fun appreciating how expressing ourselves creatively can do wonders in lifting the spirits and dealing with stress. August 12th: Live music with Cassandra Van Dyck, our gifted newsletter writer. Join us for some uplifting music!
4 July/August 2015 For registration and information on all sessions, contact Karyn by at or by phone at Summer Picnic Monday, August 17th from 12-2PM. John Lawson Park in West Vancouver. Meet us at the grassy picnic area, and please bring a dish to share! Live music by Rio Samaya, an energizing Latin and world rhythm band. They will get us dancing! Meditation Thursday, July 9th and 23rd, 2015 from 10AM- 12PM. North Shore Community Resources, in Capilano Mall Room 203, 935 Marine Drive, North Vancouver. Become mindful of your response to stress, explore strategies for cultivating inner balance and serenity and learn a series of gentle meditation practices. When possible, we suggest attending both sessions. Presented by Kim Hansen, whose meditation practice over the years has made him a much happier person than he was. Kim is a caregiver for his elderly mother, and also delights in being a father and husband. Free registration for caregivers of an adult friend or family member. We grow, we evolve, we expand, but we are who we are. And it is so much more than enough. - Danielle Bernstein Wellness Corner Your body is giving you clues and signals all day long. It s your job to slow down long enough to tune in to them and follow through. - Ashley Neese When the Body Says No, by Dr. Gabor Mate, draws on scientific research and the author s decades of experience as a practicing physician to provide answers to important questions about the effect of the mind -body link on illness and health and the role that stress and one s individual emotional makeup play in an array of common diseases. Most of the book discusses the connection between physical un-wellness and emotional distress, telling stories of people who experienced emotional struggles before being diagnosed with a disease. These chapters are interesting, but perhaps the most useful part of the book is Chapter 19, The Seven A s of Healing. Mate believes that these seven As acceptance, awareness, anger, autonomy, attachment, assertiveness, and affirmation when adopted in to one s life and worked on can aid readers in working through and preventing illness. It s food for thought!
5 The Family Caregivers Grapevine Page 5 Interview with a Naturopath: Dr. Julie Durnan Dr. Julie Durnan is a licensed naturopathic doctor based out of North Vancouver. She has been practicing for over ten years and specializes in women s health, fertility, obstetrics, and pediatrics. Dr. Durnan is passionate about guiding people to live their best possible lives. In this interview, she shares tips for stress management and good health, and talks about some self-care practices in her own life. Can you tell us about your journey in to naturopathic medicine? After university graduation, I worked as an environmental consultant and worked with very ill people who were living in toxic homes. We tested the air quality in their homes and discovered that they were living amongst mould, lead paint, asbestos, formaldehyde (from new furniture), and more. These people were so sick and although we were able to clean up the air in their homes, many of their symptoms didn t resolve. This is when I learned about naturopathic medicine. This system of health care addressed toxicity and looked deeper into detox, mineral balance, chronic infections, and was able to clear these issues, boost people s immune systems, and resolve symptoms. I knew that I needed to help people on this deeper level. I had found my passion! Family caregivers spend a lot of time and energy physically and emotionally caring for loved ones, often at the expense of their own well-being. Do you have any advice for how caregivers can take care of themselves while taking care of others? When you expend your energy caring for loved ones over an extended period of time, your body can perceive this as a stress. When under stress, your body releases cortisol and adrenaline to manage emotions, stay on top of tasks, and to generally keep going. This can become exhausting to your adrenal glands (the glands that release stress hormones) and your body can become depleted in many vitamins and minerals in the process. Taking time for rest, meditation, and also exercise, is important to keep stress hormones balanced. I recommend trying to do something every day for yourself - whether it's something that fills your tank like a walk in nature or spending 30 minutes on a hobby daily. Further supplementation can do wonders for energy levels, to help with insomnia, and to lift mood. Vitamin C, magnesium, and B vitamins, specifically B5 and B12 are especially important for caregivers to manage stress levels.
6 July/August 2015 Page 6 If someone is concerned about their general health, what are some small lifestyle changes they can make to improve their well-being? To improve general health and wellbeing starts with taking care of your mental and emotional health and eating a healthy diet. Stress levels run high when people eat processed foods and sugar. To stay optimally healthy, avoid sugar and stimulants like caffeine. I recommend aiming for 5 cups of brightly coloured veggies daily, eating plenty of nuts, whole grains, and protein like legumes, lean meats, and fish. Is there anything you ve learned that stands out as making a drastic difference to one s health? Meditation and yoga can have dramatic effects on health. Plenty of research has been done on meditation and it has been shown to improve levels of healthy endorphins, lower stress hormones, and encourage blood flow to the brain and other tissues. Although I believe that diet and natural medicines work wonders, they only work when other measures are being taking to reduce stress. Meditation and yoga are the foundation for great health. Do you have a morning or evening ritual? If so, will you share it with us? Yes! I practice yoga every day. I have two small children and a busy practice so life is full, but I always make time for at least 30 minutes of yoga. It allows me to start my day feeling grounded, positive, and strong. What are you most grateful for? I am incredibly grateful for my family and for my health. What is the best advice you ve ever been given? Slow down. Take the time to be present in everything you do and make sure to spend some time doing what brings you joy. What is the best advice you could give someone else? Rest, eat well, show yourself some love, and repeat. Thank you, Julie, for your thoughtful answers! For more information on Dr. Durnan or to book an appointment, visit:
7 The Family Caregivers Grapevine Page 7 August 2015 Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Network Group 7PM- 9PM Walk and Talk 1:30PM- 3PM 12 Network Group 10:30AM- 12:30PM Summer Picnic 12PM- 2PM Walk and Talk 1:30PM- 3PM Gratitude and Coffee One of the most effective ways to start your day off well is to spend a few minutes thinking of everything you are grateful for. Sometimes finding the time to do this can be challenging. If you re struggling to make time, try tying your morning gratitude session to your morning cup of coffee (or tea). While you re taking your first few sips, relax in to your chair and think of or write down three things you re thankful for. Here are some ideas for things to think about: the warmth of the mug in your hands the aroma of the coffee or tea the beautiful morning the beginning of a new day full of promise - Inspired by
8 July/August 2015 Page 8 The first of many anniversaries. North Shore Community Resources Caregiver Support Program Marine Drive North Vancouver, BC V7P 1S3 The Family Caregivers Grapevine is a bi-monthly publication that promotes the importance of self-care and provides practical information to help with the caregiving role. Do you have any questions or feedback about the newsletter? Please contact Cassandra at Coming up to another year Since almost losing you. Almost a year since dialing 911 While standing over you. A stroke of luck You re still alive A stroke of luck You have survived A stroke of luck You re in my life A stroke of luck You re now my wife. I share each moment, everyday That your recovery to my dismay Brings my heart closer to my true love And thanks to powers up above For answering my prayers that night A stroke of luck things turned out right. - Barry Jakel, Birth, Death, and as the crow flies. or