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Planting Wellness

I’ll easily admit, I’m a nature nerd. I will always endorse the benefits of a soothing home tailored to your needs, and that represents safety for you, but I also find time spent outside of great value, another way to restore ourselves and gain clarity. I love walking on wooded trails with lush overhanging branches that inspire home decor elements and bringing the outdoors in. On my visits to nurseries and gardens I’m always excited to bring my experiences back home by way of an armful of goodies that prompts one of my daughters to ask each time, “Do we have room for MORE plants?” The answer is always yes, it allows me to breathe better, it fills my soul.

Plants literally breathe life into us. For me, they’ve always created a sense of natural beauty and peace. Whether inside or out, they’ve also provided me an opportunity to mark significant events in the life of my family. At the birth of each of my children I’ve planted trees in their honor. One of my daughters gained a white fringe tree, the other a crepe myrtle. When my son passed away we also planted a Kwanzaa cherry tree that was a gift from family members and allowed us to preserve a special place, also highlight a continued relationship even as we grieved. Over the years, it was especially meaningful to watch each tree grow and bloom. We’ve since moved from that home and I can honestly say what I’ve missed most are the trees.

After transitioning to our new home, I held onto a desire for a vegetable garden, and the pandemic propelled me into action. With limited access to selecting grocery store produce, I was motivated to start one last year. For the first time around, it went fairly well. Though my blueberry bush only gave us a few berries, my youngest daughter claimed her mini watermelon, and until fall we also had tomatoes, parsley, rosemary, sweet peppers, jalapeños, and zucchini. It was rewarding to watch the earth produce, and encouraged the reality that even in trying times some things can be better. As we move through another year of Covid I continue to think about change and importantly, the value of living better.

I‘ve planted another vegetable garden- this time brussel sprouts, romaine and red lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, kale, and broccoli. As I tend to the garden I think of the tremendous loss and sacrifice this past year, the considerable adversity for caregivers, but also the opportunity for us to use these changes for good, to build healthier lives- better quality based relationships, improved awareness, wellness and self care. A garden inspired by necessity for produce has become a physical and mental reminder to look at what we produce in our lives. We’ve had an enormous grouping of stressors that we can use to be mindful of the need for building self care, especially when we’re stretched to max capacity.

There have been points of life where it feels we’re caught in a spin cycle. Always going at a hectic pace, with little time to reflect, allow and find balance. Sometimes we may feel propelled by others. At other times we have pushed ourselves to the point of exhaustion setting unrealistic expectations for what we do and the way we live. Often these ideals haven’t focused on our feelings, our true functioning, or even physical and mental health. Consider yourself now. What do you view as an opportunity for your life? What needs to change? Has this forced slowing of our daily pace caused you to observe any gains about the way you spend your time, with your children, your family, your clients, your coworkers, yourself? Have you experienced a greater desire for connection, for reflection, for quiet, for balance, a desire for more than you had? What are you breathing into your own life? What are you planting with your mindset? Are you sowing seeds that create emotional peace, promote healthy boundaries, and allow you to heal, or do you find yourself constantly sapped of energy and drained of motivation?

I want to encourage you to make the commitment of planting emotional seeds that produce growth for you. As an example, take some time to attend to your body and your mind. Before getting out of bed each morning, give yourself a few minutes to adjust to the pace of your day. Before even opening your eyes, notice how you start the day feeling physically and emotionally. Are you observing tension or aches in certain areas of your body? Allow quiet in order to pay attention to your thoughts and emotions. Use this as a guide to start your day and attend to your needs for stress relief and even professional care. This can also be an important way to take ownership. Checking in with yourself at occasional points each day can help you prioritize taking a 5 minute break when you recognize exhaustion, use deep breathing to re-center when you feel overwhelmed, speak words of affirmation that remind yourself “it’s going to be ok” during a long shift, even make a phone call to talk when you need someone to listen and provide support.

It’s necessary to be aware of and provide yourself what you need. Using tools can help us to interrupt negative patterns that result from ignoring our needs. Learning to provide self care more responsively gives us the room to do the rewarding and challenging work of also caring for others. Be encouraged by what you have the opportunity to do now, despite the ways you’ve functioned in the past. As a renewing gift to yourself and a commitment towards your wellness bring a plant (or two) into your space. Many are low maintenance options that will add energy into your home, reduce stress, purify the air, and help beautify your space. Some of my favorites for indoors are aloe, the peace lily, snake plants, ivy, pothos, and fiddle leaf fig. Continue to invest in yourself, plant wellness.

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