A person is smiling after caring for their ponytail palm plant.

Green Lessons on Staying Well and Recovering From Stress

How Plants Teach Us Self-Care and Tips for Recovery


Like plant care, self-care works best when it’s proactive rather than reactive. Keeping up with life can be difficult enough; maintaining our well-being adds another layer to the mix. When we are overworked, stressed, burnt out, and unwell, it takes a toll on our physical, mental, and emotional health. Similar to checking in on our plants, we can identify signs of distress early if we dedicate regular time and attention before the issue gets out of hand.

Meeting Basic Needs

All living beings have basic needs at the foundation of wellness. Without them, other attempts at fulfillment are insufficient. Shared basic needs are water, food, rest, and shelter. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there are other vital necessities for living a full life, such as meaningful relationships and a feeling of safety. During life's tough moments, each of these add up to keep us grounded and above water.  

It’s easy to go through the day without pausing to eat, taking a breather, or any personal moment at all. Consequently, we look up and realize we feel faint, irritable, or fog-brained. When we override the needs and warning signs, we risk neglecting ourselves and disconnecting from the communicative relationship with our bodies. Out of kindness for our lived experiences, we must approach our needs with honesty. 

Proactive Care is Self-Care

Identifying shifts and warning signs is difficult if you haven’t surveyed how you feel when you’re stable and healthy. Just like your green collection - you don't see the signs unless you know otherwise. Consequently, you may be forced to take extra measures to reprioritize your well-being to create sustainable balance.

Plants go through two key seasons each year: growing season and rest season. Proper rest during the latter is crucial to their success, health, and bounty come growing season. Humans, of course, need adequate restoration to function in good health, too. This should feel authentic and meaningful, though if you need some inspiration, you might try some of the following:

  • Quiet or meditation time on your yoga mat, bed, or outdoor space
  • Treating yourself to therapeutic activities and hobbies
  • Journaling your thoughts, feelings, and sensations
  • Body scans to locate points of tension, discomfort, feelings of anxiety, etc.
  • Working through thoughts and sensations on a run, walk, or other forms of movement
  • Small breaks throughout the day that allow you to pause and exhale

Calls to Slow Down

Warning signs that your resources are running low can look different for everybody. They may creep up slowly, shout at you loudly, or barely show up at all. When it comes to the point that you can’t put off self-care and recovery, you may experience any of these messages from your body:

  • Fight, Flight, or Freeze Activation
Our body's stress response mainly defaults to survival modes of fight, flight, or freeze. Someone experiencing burnout may argue, retreat to a (mental or physical) safe space, or shut themselves down completely to find restoration.
    • Overwhelm 
    Signs that you’ve taken on too much may include anxiety, low mood, and trouble focusing. Some days may feel like you’re losing control. It’s important to identify when you feel overwhelmed to understand your limits.
      • Exhaustion and Lethargy
      Energy loss and feeling drained are huge signs that you need a break or, at the least, a good night’s rest. 
        • Irritability
        When juggling a lot, it’s easy to feel unseen, overwhelmed, and unappreciated. In response, reactions escalate and frustration may come off as unfiltered. 
          • Significant Change in Behavior or Interests
          Bodies do their best to manage perceived threats, whether that be through action or inaction. Coupled with drained energy and low mood, interests can dull.  
            • Aches, Pains, and Illness
            Many of us carry stress and trauma in our bodies. When living in this state goes unchecked, the body is at risk for aches, inflammation, and weakened immune systems. 


              Living with and ignoring stress produces alarms that create a cycle. High cortisol, blood pressure, and heart rate levels are all measures of stress manufactured by the body to get us to safety. Yes, your jam-packed calendar, financial insecurity, and long to-do list can even feel like a threat to your body and overall health. Please, remind yourself to breathe and take a break. 

              5 Ways to Recover from Burnout and Stress

              Thankfully, we can recover from states of distress. Because life rarely slows down for us, we must seek + create time for rest, joy, movement, and pleasure. This brings balance and satisfaction into a world that often feels out of control and equilibrium. Here are our favorite ways to get grounded after a period of stress or burnout:

              1. Nature Refresh - Spend some time in your favorite natural space - proven to restore cognitive functions, relieve anxiety, and lower physiological signs of stress! 
              2. Nervous System Resets - Breathing techniques, releasing energy through movement, and a warm cuddle all help to reset an overactive nervous system, letting the brain know it’s okay to turn the alarms off.
              3. Set New Boundaries - Find sustainable limits on your time, labor, and capacity to show up. Violating your boundaries is often a violation of your needs as well.
              4. Create Routine - Give yourself permission to prioritize joy, pleasure, and leisure. A morning walk or bedtime book may be small slivers of your day, yet they go a long way in maintaining balance with your other obligations.  
              5. Treat Yourself - Sometimes, it pays to indulge in a small reward. A concert, massage, or taking up a new hobby can feel bring relief when you’ve felt under the water. Come up for some well-deserved air. 

              Take note of your plants next time you tend to them. They communicate when they’ve gone without care or encountered a stressful change. The longer plants go without resolve, the harder it is for them to recover. With some attention, though, resilience allows them to bounce back. Your beloved greenery perfectly demonstrates how to show up for yourself before and after the storm. 


              Share your green lessons with us at @groun.ded.