A new column that uses accessible, natural methods and plant-parenthood to help students sow the seeds of stability in stressful times.
Quarantine has turned plant ownership into a trend, but it’s always been a tried-and-true hobby for those seeking a meditative pursuit. The act of caring for something can be a massively rewarding addition to your self-care routine, which is why I’ll be suggesting a new plant each article along with wellness tips to support you in whatever challenges you’re facing.
Concerns: Assessment season is upon us, and with it the end of daylights savings time and darkness descending by 16:30. As if that weren’t enough, the pandemic protocols have gotten stricter and there’s been a rather... dramatic election that has gone on across the pond. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I can promise you you’re in good company.
“It’s made all of the other workload more stressful...(And) it feels like you have less hours in the day cause it gets darker earlier, so it makes you more panicked and stressed.” - International relations student Katarina.
Care: A lot of the same advice is being doled out at the moment, so I’d like to tell you to take a slightly different approach to these stressful times. I want you, yes you, to take a minute to do mental check-in. If you’re being totally honest with yourself - are you doing what you need to do to care for your health? If the answer is no, what should you change?
This might go against what you’re hearing a lot of right now, but I think it’s worth saying that sometimes it’s okay to have unhealthy habits if it means getting through to easier times when you won’t need to rely on them. Obviously I’m not encouraging you to resort to detrimental coping mechanisms, but be gentler on yourselves for the little things! You do not have to do rigorous workouts everyday and go on a social media cleanse in order to start feeling better. If scrolling through social media is how you distract yourself from whatever else is going on, that’s okay. Just try to do so in moderation. Instead of a four hour Tik-Tok binge that leaves you a mind-numbed blob, set an alarm. When you feel overwhelmed, take a break from your work for just 30 minutes instead. If suddenly picking up calming yoga feels too big of a step, while you’re stuck on your couch or in a mental fog, how about just taking a walk out of your flat? Step outside, maybe even stroll to the end of your street. Doing something halfway is infinitely better than doing nothing.
I’m not going to prescribe you a one-size-fits-all solution to your stress and anxiety. You know what helps you best, you know as a gut-reaction what is probably harmful to you about your daily routine. And if you’re overwhelmed to the point that you can’t tune into that gut-feeling, please reach out to someone who can help you untangle that web! Be it a professional service, a family member or a friend, talk through what you’re feeling. (You can even write me back here and I’ll happily lend an ear!) Even if an immediate solution isn’t accessible, sometimes just getting your thoughts out of your own head can make a world of difference.
Another proven remedy for the winter blues is bringing more life into your space with a plant (or two.) The benefits of procuring a bit of greenery for your flat are too long to list here, but most notably among them is the mood boost they can grant you. Don’t rely on your plants alone to do the self-care for you, though.
One final reminder, this year’s online learning routine may be the best chance that university students have at getting a good amount of sleep. Dr. Carolina Kuepper-Tetzel, psychologist and course lead for second year psychology, reminds students to space out their learning and avoid cramming in order to reduce stress and get the required amount of sleep. “Research shows that students benefit more from distributing study sessions over a longer period of time, instead of cramming all studying into a few - very long - study sessions... Plus, you are less likely to pull an all-nighter the day before the exam.” Kuepper-Tetzel said, “Sleep is very important for learning and the sleep you get after having studied helps to consolidate the knowledge you have acquired.”
Natural Remedy: As the looming Scottish winter ushers in longer, colder nights, it’s more important than ever to get outside. You don’t have to go hike whatever Ben-hill is all over your feed this month (though, good for you if you manage that.) How about just sitting around on your front steps for a while, or reading just a chapter of a book in one of your nearby parks. Just the other day, I dragged my flatmates out for a study session in our back garden area. You know what’s really motivating for your essay word counts? Shivering and typing in gloves until you reach your goal for the day. Plus, you’ll get at least a little of the prohormone Vitamin D, which both you and your plants need to stay happy.
Additionally, if you’re dealing with more anxiety than usually, give lemon-balm a go. Available in teas and tinctures, this herb can help you relax before bedtime as well as even help with panic attacks, according to several studies. I’ve found it to be a nice addition to my nighttime routine, and teas containing it are pretty common and affordable.
If these aren’t quite enough to brighten your mood, it might be time to consider my original suggestion and go get yourself a plant. I know, some of you may not have the green-est of thumbs, but even you can’t kill this one.
Plant Suggestion: Golden Pothos. This is a delightfully easy to care for trailing plant, which will reward you with loads of statement-making vines with minimal maintenance. Looks fantastic hanging, or sat on a shelf, and can tolerate most light conditions.
Remember that your plants need different care going into the winter months as well. Plants go dormant during this time, and because their growth is slowed you won’t need to water them as often. Keep them away from drafty windows and radiators too, drastic temperature changes are no more pleasant for them than for you. Oh, and hold the fertilizer until spring, your little green pals are not hungry now.