Home My garden Gardening for recovery, mental and physical health – my experience

Gardening for recovery, mental and physical health – my experience

Carrot Blanche a Collet Vert and courgette Verde di Milano
Carrot Blanche a Collet Vert and courgette Verde di Milano, Oct 25

Blog: Another personal one… taking the literal first step to a better future!

What a foul month October has been! I have had either food poisoning, a gastro bug, or a bout of IBS related to my hEDS (more on that here) after going out for lunch and haven’t been so ill for a long time.

Nine days later, I’m still recovering (I’ll spare the details) but do feel I have my own mini Mike Tyson punching me in the guts. On a special bland diet to help my innards recover, life’s a bit bland too.

All thoughts of doing any gardening went out of the window, along with everything else. It’s at times like these that you become aware of the constant interplay between mental and physical health.

I’d been doing really well working on my anxiety and depression – my mood had really lifted, I’m doing Headspace Mindfulness sessions daily and last week I was discharged from Talking Therapies (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from the NHS).

Doesn’t take much to unravel

For the first time in years, I felt some balance returning to my life – yet all it takes is one little event to unravel the lot.

Even as I’ve felt a bit better, I haven’t stepped outside. I’ve said this before, but it’s the hardest thing to do when you’re feeling below par, mentally or physically.

Today, I made myself take some rubbish out (still in my slippers, not clever) and did my first gardening job for weeks – the weather’s been terrible – picked up some dumped windowsill trays and put them in the greenhouse.

Then a quite spontaneous thing happened. I discovered there were still tomatoes, so picked them and cut down the stems.

Final greenhouse tomatoes and the odd raspberry
Final greenhouse tomatoes and the odd raspberry

Bonus fruit and veg

The battered courgettes, which have been brilliant, still had three fruit on them – I harvested them and pulled up the plants.

This revealed ripening lanterns of tomatillo Purpleino, which I was convinced would never come to anything and some ruby chard Volcano, which I forgot I’d planted.

I glanced to the left and saw carrots poking out of the soil, so picked them too.

It was only after I had a pile next to me that Gary and Vanessa found me said in unison: “Don’t you think you’ve done enough?” (I did manage to harvest the chillies and cut them back in the conservatory before they dragged me back in.)

Last chillies of the season: Palivec, Razzamatazz, Biquino Red
Last chillies of the season: Palivec, Razzamatazz, Biquino Red

Best foot forward

Now I’m back inside, listening to Brian Eno (try Music for Airports if you’re stressed out, it helps me) on Radio 6 Music and this post has written itself, where there would not have been one this week, as I didn’t feel up to it.

Once over that threshold, there wasn’t a conscious thought process – it wasn’t a case of ‘I have to do this, I have to do that’ – it was a focused yet effortless thing.

It’s very hard to describe and I hate to use the term ‘Zen-like’ but my particular troublesome thoughts didn’t enter my head for the time I was out there.

Giving your mind and body a rest

Neither did any bad physical sensations – I didn’t think about my aches and pains, as I was doing gentle work.

Now I’ve had fresh air, the sun on my face, gentle exercise, my mind’s had a mini-break and I’ve done something constructive workwise and outdoors.

If you’re feeling mentally or physically under par, don’t think about the enormity of ‘going outside to do gardening’. Take that one step over the threshold and do the first thing you see – even in your slippers.

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