By Amber Kong

***Please note, the coping methods and plant benefits mentioned in this blog DOES NOT substitute for a doctor or a therapist, if you feel you’re in distress, please seek professional help.

With days getting shorter, temperature lower, the seasonal blues start to creep in. Seasonal blues is a real thing – Seasonal Depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I highly doubt it’s a coincident the apt acronym of the seasonal blue is “SAD” – it’s a perfectly suitable name for this seasonal depression, at least the winter months tend to get me feel sad more often. Here’re some symptoms to watch for, according to WebMD website:

  • Lower energy level
  • Having problem focusing
  • Tiredness, fatigue
  • Greater appetite
  • Wanting to be left alone all the time
  • Longer sleep
  • Weight gain

If you find yourself experiencing the symptoms, it’s crucial to know that there’s help available. If you feel the need, talk to your doctor and work out a treatment plan that’s best for you.

With COVID-19 situation, SAD, or just general mental health problems, could hit particularly hard this year, especially after months of social distancing and limited interaction/contact with family and friends. Most of us have been working from home (if we’re lucky to still have a job), or studying from home; the feeling of anxious and the disconnection with outside world is slowly getting out of hand. Myself as an example, sometimes I get so restless I can’t concentrate; I get overwhelmed by all the negative news and have been drinking more coffee to help me get through the day, then I can’t sleep well at night. Coming to an understanding that this way of life will not abruptly end, I’m realizing how important it is to have a mindset in a way of how to approach the daily rhythm.

Keeping houseplants and indoor gardening have helped me greatly.

Plant Life reduces stress, and increases mood, productivity, intellect and creativity. Plants also improve memory retention. Scientists have shown in countless research that plants help improve air quality by boosting oxygen levels and remove pollutants and toxins from the air. But it’s not just biology, it’s psychology, too – cultivating the growth of another living thing is a reminder to allow growth, from within. By caring for plants, we are also practicing being patient – there’s no quick fix, but spending time to care, to learn, to love.

So here is my daily morning routine – I get up early, make coffee, and I check on each one of my plants. Do they need water? Should I give the foliage a wipe-down? Any sign of pests? And after I finished all that’s needed to be done, I sit with my plants with my coffee, for at least 10 minutes. Sometimes I pick one plant baby and get up close and personal, I’d count all the leaves and try to locate all the new growth. It has been great: my mood is more regulated and my anxiety level has been much lower. It’s not until recently I found that all of this is backed by science – eyeballing green plants helps regulates mood swings and flowers with bright colors are mood boosters.

We are human beings on the Planet Earth, we are part of the nature. But at the same time, we are missing so much because we’ve got floors in our apartments, we need to wear shoes, and we have a roof on top of our heads, all of those things that detach us from nature. Keeping houseplants in our space is one way to reconnect with Mother Earth. Another way to reconnect with nature in the midst of winter, is to visit a plant nursery. Just imagine, on a Saturday morning, emerge ourselves in a greenhouse, surrounded by all the plants, that’s when we can slow down, clear the mind, centring ourselves and connecting with intuition. I went on a couple of nursery trips with Andrew on Saturday mornings, and those were some of the best time I’ve had this year.

The plants also remind us that we need care as well.  We often get lost in busy taking care of our family and our jobs, that we forget to take some time to care for ourselves. If you really think about it, humans are just like plants, we need almost the same conditions to survive and thrive:

  • Drink lots of water and stay hydrated is the basic need
  • Sunlight, and fresh air
  • Fertilize to have proper nutrients
  • When something isn’t going well, it’s alright to “wilt” and rest, you don’t need to be perfect all the time. But also keep hope to perk up once things get better.
  • Don’t be too harsh on yourself, it is perfectly fine to have “seasons”, and it’s ok to slow down sometimes.

2020 has been a strange year, and it has been difficult for everyone – the pandemic is taking a toll on lives, the economy, our social lives and also on our mental health. And just last Friday, parts of Ontario were rolled back to “modified” Stage 2, for at least 28 days. The stress and the uncertainty that come with it are unimaginable. This past Saturday, October 10, is World Mental Health Day, and it seems more fitting than ever that we talk about our mental health.

As somebody who’s been battling depression since as early as one could remember, I know it could be difficult to keep going sometimes, not to mention when we are thrown into a pool of unknowns and negative news. But hey, remember that ZZ plant we have? She is in the midst of uncertainties – bad lighting and ever-changing humidity level; she might have to take some negative news here and there also – the watering schedule is all over the place! But what she does? She keeps thriving and pushing out new shoots. And that Golden Pothos? With all the neglect, she keeps producing new leaves and just keeps growing longer and bushier. I see resistance when the plants decide to combat not-so-ideal environment and push out new growth; I learn how to be strong when my plants wilts and perks back up; I practice patience when I care for plants… and finally, I figured it out, the key is to have hope, I know sometime hope is hard to be seen, but trust me, HOPE is there somewhere, for both me and you. So let’s do it together, before the winter months officially come, let’s have hope <3