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Coming out of lockdown and what I have learnt

At the beginning of lockdown, it was a time of fear and uncertainty for me.  What if I get it?  How long with this go on?  What about my shielding parents?  Will working from home be ok?  I was consumed with the news and the devastation around the world – and my world got even smaller.   

I decided to make a mental wellbeing survival plan. 

I wanted to do something new, and something I used to really enjoy.  So I decided to start gardening properly and pick up some cross-stitch, which I haven’t done in decades.  I’ve always been a half-hearted gardener, but know it’s supposed to be good for mental health.   

How very true it is, I have now discovered.  My bedding plants are now in full bloom and my garden is full of bright and happy colour.  I have nurtured the pre-existing plants and shrubs in my garden and I can see they have appreciated the attention.  Also, I am growing fruit and veg for the first time.  I love it!  The strawberries so far have been sweet and I’m delighted watching the courgettes and tomatoes grow.  I’m still waiting for the blackberries and Okra…   

As for the cross-stitch it’s coming along.  I procrastinated about starting it for a while, but now I’m doing it every day and the piece I am currently working on is taking shape.  I have another one already lined up, so I think this is going to be a pastime that stays.  I have many future cross stitch projects saved in my online ‘Wish List.’ 

So what have I learnt? Well, that gardening really is good for the mind.  Although digging and planting can be hard physical work, the exercise makes me feel good.  When I watch a flower grow each day and then bloom, it gives me a sense of achievement.  As I tend to my fruit and veg, watching online “how to grow your own” videos, I am learning new skills.  As each day comes to an end and I water my garden, I can see the fruit (literally) of my labour!  When I am gardening I am present in the moment, not worrying about the pandemic, but enjoying myself, and feel patient anticipation as things grow.  I tend and nurture and enjoy the process. 

As for the cross-stitch, it really has helped my mental wellbeing.  I have had a recent mental wobble and what did I do to come out the other side? Stitch; stitch; and more stitching.  Again, it keeps me present and in the moment.  The repetitive movement is calming and brings me to a feeling of contentment.  Instead of being busy it makes me stop and focus on something I enjoy.  I am making time for myself just to sit, be calm and create something, not for any purpose other than for pleasure.  

Usually, I’m not very good at doing things just for me, but lockdown has taught me that it’s a valuable investment in my mental wellbeing.  I will keep doing the gardening and cross-stitch just for me. 

Big thanks to Vanessa for writing this blog.

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