If you are caring for a family member, it is important to get relief from your daily responsibilities. Whether you set aside time to read, exercise or even just take a well-deserved nap, make time to do the activities you love to prevent feelings of frustration and anxiety. One way to break from your routine during the spring time is gardening.
Gardening is not only a way to grow fresh vegetables, herbs, fruit or flowers; it can also ease stress, improve your mood and even help increase flexibility and physical activity.
As a caregiver, it can be difficult to see the fruits of your labor, which can leave you feeling frustrated, stressed or negative about your situation. By channeling that energy into repetitive tasks like digging holes, planting seeds or pruning bushes, you give your mind a break from the fatigue you may feel from balancing your household or that of your loved one. Studies have shown that people who garden have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisone than people who spend their free time indoors reading.
In addition to lowered stress, your mood also improves when you garden. You don't need to be a medical expert to know the calming effects from the beauty of nature. The vivid colors of flowers and leaves, the smell of the earth and plants, or the birds and butterflies that are drawn to the garden are all relaxing to your senses.
The natural sunlight you take in while outdoors provides your body with valuable vitamin D, which lowers your risk of depression, weight gain, heart disease and even cancer. Not to mention, vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium to promote bone growth, which is important for all aging adults.
If the person you are providing care for is capable of going outdoors, it can be a good idea to include them. A US National Library of Medicine article discusses the benefits of gardening in reducing pain, improving attention and decreasing agitated behaviors in the aging population.
The study found that even with indoor planting and growing, 9 out of 10 patients indicated significant improvement in self-esteem with gardening therapy. Just make sure to take precautions to protect you and your loved one from the sun’s rays with sunscreen, hats and other protective clothing.
In addition to mental benefits, gardening can improve endurance, flexibility and strength, according to a WebMD article. Gardening can burn 100 to 200 calories per hour, and involves using the muscles in your whole body.
Like any activity, you should stretch beforehand and be careful not to overdo it. The article recommends a regular schedule for your gardening and alternating between strenuous tasks such as digging and easier tasks like pruning.
As spring approaches, take a look at The Farmer’s Almanac and find a corner of your yard to start a small garden. Breathe in the fresh air, get your hands a little dirty and enjoy eating the fresh foods you have grown with your own hands and loving care.
If you have questions about being a family caregiver, call 1.866.KINDRED to speak with a Registered Nurse Advocate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our nurses are here to listen to your unique situation and help you make the best decision for you and your loved ones.