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Victory Gardens as Therapy during Shelter-in-Home

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Posted on April 29th, 2020 by Bettina Carlson, under Alternative Therapies, Inspiring Stories, Social Distancing, Take Charge

Stay-at-Home shelter has been expanded to May 30th in Illinois, other states have expanded their orders, too. While we all understand the importance of this measure for our protection, every person experiences this situation differently, depending on their needs. It’s pretty safe to say, that common to many of us are the experiences that we have gotten restless, and our mental and emotional health is pushed out of their safe zones; and we all need to eat nutritionally balanced foods to keep our immune system strong.

Victory Gardens

In this context of restlessness, I started to hear about Victory Gardens! These appear to make a return amid our current unique situation. If you don’t know what Victory Gardens are, I’ll explain briefly:

Victory Gardens also called “War Gardens” or “Food Gardens for defense” were gardens planted by ordinary citizens during World War I and World War II to provide fruits and vegetables to sustain themselves and neighbors, as a response to public food shortages. It even provided food for our soldiers overseas.

And it did something else, it gave Americans at home a sense of purpose and contributions to the war effort by supporting our troops. It also boosted the peoples’ morale and mood at a time when a lot of negative news were making the headlines and inflicted suffering on many families. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_garden).

Coronavirus Victory Gardens

Mental Health

Our current situation has some similarities in how we experience this unique situation. While we are not at war per se, our leaders in the different arenas dealing with this situation, our media, our health care providers, all can be heard using the war metaphor to describe the situation: Covid19 is our enemy; in our fight against the virus; the battle against the virus; the war against an unknown enemy; and soon. This language invokes the perception of a state of war and triggers sentiments of war responses in our psyche. Fear, anxiety, and restlessness are such automatic responses. (And yes, hoarding supplies is another one.) How many of your family members, friends, or community members do you know that experience these feelings? 

We certainly hear about this often. Social Media is filled with messages of distress, mental health professionals are busier than ever, and support hotlines are ringing hot. The adverse impact of this unique situation on our mental health is visibly real.  (https://www.kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/).

While we all share the same experience of the uncertainty of this novel virus as it relates to our health, there are many other experiences that are specific to our situations. Too many to list here.

While some people are still working, others are finding themselves stranded in their homes with more time than before. Some of those are struggling with financial insecurity. Some have found emotionally and mentally supportive ways to use their time purposefully and satisfactorily. Some haven’t. 

Some are worried about leaving the house, even to go to the grocery store, for fear of exposure. 

Some are worried that food supply will dwindle, as more and more food manufacturing plants report about employees being on sick leave due to being infected with COVID19.

All this creates and “reinfects” the existing fear, anxiety, and restlessness.  

Therapeutic and Nutritional Value of Gardening

Here the Victory Gardens can come to the rescue: 

Planting a garden is an excellent project to fill the hours of restless inactivity some of us are experiencing now — and, in times of national crisis like this, growing food can be a personal morale booster, as it was the case during WWII. 

We don’t need a big garden. Even just a container garden on our patio, balcony, or even rooftop works. Primarily, the gardening is to serve us as a constructive and rewarding way to pursue a physical activity that takes our mind off the pandemic news; at least temporarily. 

It’s a known fact, that being in a natural environment is good for us – it provides fresh air, calms us down, reduces stress, lowers our blood pressure, and slows down our heart rate.  

Putting our hands in the soil and being exposed to germs helps build our immune system.

Depending on what and how much we grow, we can provide ourselves with various amounts of self-sustainable food supply. 

Added bonus – homegrown is chockfull of readily available high nutrition! Even if you just grow herbs, those are so nutrient-dense, that a little goes a long way in terms of benefit. Sprinkle them into your foods and “let food be thy medicine” (Hippocrates). 

Growing our own food helps to save money in the grocery store!  

Here is the very basic How-to guideline. It can be done!

• Locate your space to grow

• Research on plants and planting

• Acquire the resources

• Prepare the soil

• Plant

Harvest

I’m not really a gardener yet. But thankfully there is plenty of information online about starting gardening or potted gardens. In the weeks, and months, to come I will acquire more knowledge and look forward to enjoying the benefits of my own harvest – nurturing my body and nurturing my mind. Even if only with herbs! That is a win! That is a victory! A Victory Garden indeed!

Stay well, be blessed, and plant for your victory!

Sources & Resources

Victory Garden. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_garden

The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use. Kaiser Health. https://www.kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/

The Old Farmers Almanac. https://www.almanac.com

Growing Your Corona Victory Garden. By Marty Nemko Ph.D. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-do-life/202004/growing-your-corona-victory-garden

America’s Patriotic Victory Gardens. By Laura Schumm. History.com. https://www.history.com/news/americas-patriotic-victory-gardens

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