We are living through unprecedented times and such times call for an honest evaluation of our mental health. How are we doing? I am sure I am not alone in experiencing a rollercoaster of ups-and-downs right now. Learning to work remotely with clients has been a steep learning curve for me and I am sure that many of us will be concerned about finances right now. This all leads to anxiety.
Whilst everyone is different, there are some tips which I have found to be invaluable for keeping my mental health in check.
- Stay connected. Stay in regular contact with friends and family, whether by social media, email or good old-fashioned telephone. You could be helping someone else too. My SGD group is doing virtual meet ups and this is a good way to be reminded that we are all in the same boat. If you are not already a member of an SGD cluster group you can still join one now by contacting a cluster group leader - see https://www.sgd.org.uk/members/ cluster_group_leaders.aspx or you can email the office - firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Talk. Speak to someone you trust about any concerns you have. If you cannot speak to friends about your worries the NHS has some recommended helplines - see this link https:// www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/ .
- Get an app. You can get online help too. Apps like Talkspace allow you to connect with a licensed mental health professional from your smartphone or computer. Headspace is good for meditation.
- Get fit. Get out as often as is allowed and exercise as this will improve your mood generally. Everyone knows that gardening feeds the soul as well as providing a good low intensity cardio vascular work out. Eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
- Look on the bright side. Challenge negative feelings by focussing on the positive. You could keep a ‘gratitude diary’ in which you write 3 things you are grateful for each day.
- Reframe the negatives - write all your problems down and then tackle them individually according to priority in a problem-solving workbook. Take a look here for more information. https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every- mind-matters/anxiety/
- Care for others - helping others makes us feel needed. This might simply be having a pet to look after.
- Be distracted - find something you enjoy doing like playing music, reading or drawing and focus on that for a while. The idea is that you will have to concentrate on your hobby and be distracted from your demons.
- Get advice. Find out about your employment rights if you are employed or know what help is available from the Government if you are self-employed (see www.gov.uk). You can speak to Perennial (https://perennial.org.uk/) the UK’s only charity dedicated to helping everyone who works in horticulture, and their families, when times get tough. Their help and support is free and confidential to anyone who is working in, or has worked in, the horticulture industry in the UK. Knowing where you stand can help reduce stress and help you to plan your way out of financial issues.
- Get into a new routine. Having a routine makes life seem less uncertain and provides a sense of normality and a distraction from the news and anxiety. Schedule in some down time as well as time for work-related tasks.
If you cannot find ways to make you feel better, you can always speak to your GP. They can suggest solutions like CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which will help you to rationalise your feelings. Or they can signpost further options to help you. You can also refer yourself for psychological therapy through the NHS IAPT service without seeing your GP.
Whilst Covid-19 has brought mental health to the fore, the reality is that life as a garden designer can, even in normal times, be very stressful. Taking some time now to understand our triggers, and finding ways to manage them, will prove invaluable in the new post-pandemic world. This time may prove to be our most important eureka moment - as Martin Luther King, Jr put it “ Only in the darkness can you see the stars”.
About Jo Manfredi-Hamer
Jo Manfredi-Hamer is an award-winning garden designer and a Pre-Registered Member of the Society of Garden Designers. She designed the Mental Health Garden which took gold at the Harrogate Flower Show in 2019 (pictured above) and was proud to support Leeds Mind in that venture. Jo is passionate about how we can use gardening and horticulture generally to alleviate mental health issues in society.
Article written on 30 April 2020
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