Nurturing Others Can Remind You to Take Care of Yourself
In a short space of time, Alexis got divorced, lost her beloved grandmother, and faced the struggle of raising her daughter by herself amidst the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was drowning,” she said, “I hurt so bad.”
At her lowest point, Alexis’s mother gave her some houseplants to take care of, and it unexpectedly transformed her life by showing her that nurturing the plants helped nurture herself.
Alexis’s uplifting story is told in the short film, “Planting Well-Being” as part of TakeCare, a national initiative rooted in science that provides the reflection, motivation, and implementation to inspire people to create health and well-being in their lives.
I was honored to serve as a Health Advisor on the film, and I found it remarkable how Alexis was able to draw analogies between her life and that of her plants to energize her healing journey.
“The plants were in the same pot together when my mom gave them to me,” said Alexis. “Eventually, they outgrew the pot, sort of like me and my ex-husband. We just outgrew our circumstances, and eventually I had to leave one of the plants in the pot it was already in and take the other one out. That separation caused the plant some stress, but when I realized it was just adjusting, I looked at it and I realized that if the plant can go through all of those changes, I know I can.”
Alexis drew such confidence that she ended up creating a class to teach other women the link between plant care and self-care.
You Can Make a Change
Acknowledging your need to make a change is essential to starting any self-care journey. Warning signs to watch for include trouble sleeping, feeling detached, a sense of isolation from loved ones, and a lack of motivation to take care of yourself.
If you are struggling with where to start or how to get motivated, try seeking guidance by talking to a family member, friend, support group, or professional. For Alexis, it was her mother who made all the difference by telling her, “The best way to get over this hurdle is to find something that brings you joy.”
Nurturing is a Path to Healing
Practicing nurturing is a well-known and effective method for internal healing. Caring for other living things causes our brains to release positive hormones such as endorphins and dopamine, which reduce stress responses, as Alexis learned. Taking care of her plants proved to her that she could take back control over her own life, and it gave her the strength to keep pushing forward.
Some plants have a natural healing power, such as lavender, which helps you sleep. Being amongst plants or in nature can help heal in other ways. Green light filtered through forest leaves can help reduce pain. Slow nature walks and deep breathing have meditative properties. A range of other integrative health activities can help us heal ourselves, including yoga, tai chi, and even walking a labyrinth, or simple pleasures such as cooking or knitting.
“When you lose so much so fast, you have to just rebirth yourself,” said Alexis. “Sometimes it’s heavy stuff that we need to work through, and plants can be helpful, no matter the depth of the situation.”
You can read this blog on TakeCare.
Dr. Esther Sternberg is the Health Advisor for TakeCare’s film, “Planting Well-Being.” Internationally recognized as a design and health pioneer, Dr. Sternberg’s research takes mind-body science from molecules to built and natural environments. She has received the Federal Government’s highest awards and authored numerous scholarly articles and books including The Balance Within: The science connecting health and emotions (Holt), which tells the story of mind body science, Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-being (HUP), which helped re-ignite the design and health movement 21st century style, and her new book WELL at WORK: Creating wellbeing in any workspace (Little, Brown Spark) which brings that science into the post-COVID-19 era.