Thursday, June 13, 2024

Gardening with Chronic Illness: Tips for a Successful Season

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By Irene S. Roth
sunnyiroth@gmail.com

Gardening can be a great way to spend time outdoors and get some exercise. But for those with chronic illnesses, it’s important for you to take certain precautions and prepare properly so that you don’t struggle with more pain and fatigue.

I just love the warmer weather. My chives are poking up from the ground, as are my asparagus.  It’s such a hopeful and fun time of year. However, I know if I don’t take certain precautions, this season can be mired with pain, fatigue, and sleepless nights.

Here are some tricks to help you to consciously get ready for the gardening season. In this way, you will not only survive it, but enjoy it, and thrive:

Start slow

If you’re not used to physical activity, start slowly and gradually increase the amount of time you spend gardening.

Plan ahead

Decide what you want to plant, and where you want to plant it ahead of time. This can help you avoid unnecessary bending or lifting.

Choose the right tools

Use tools that are easy to grip and lightweight to avoid putting unnecessary strain on your joints and muscles.

Take frequent breaks

Take frequent breaks to rest and stretch your muscles. Avoid overexerting yourself because this results in more pain later.

Wear appropriate clothing

Wear comfortable, breathable clothing and sturdy, supportive shoes. This makes all the difference in your gardening experience. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated while gardening. Drinking plenty of water is essential for everyone, but especially for those with chronic illness who may be on medications that cause dehydration. Keep a water bottle nearby and take breaks to stay hydrated.

Consider using raised beds

Raised garden beds can be easier on your back and joints, making gardening more comfortable.

Ask for help

If you need help with heavy lifting or other tasks, ask a friend or family member for help. This can be hard to do at first. But it can help you feel better and not risk hurting yourself.

Pace yourself

It’s important to avoid overexertion when gardening with a chronic illness. Take frequent breaks and don’t push yourself beyond your limits. Sit down and enjoy the view or just take the load off your knees and ankles for a few minutes.

Choose ergonomic tools

Look for gardening tools that are designed with ergonomics in mind, such as those with soft grip handles and adjustable lengths. This will help take the load of your fingers, hands, wrists and even shoulders.

Use adaptive techniques

Many times, we want to garden like we used to when we were young. However, this can cause a lot of undue pain, fatigue, and stiffness. If bending or kneeling is painful, try using raised garden beds, containers or vertical gardens. Gardening stools and knee pads can also help alleviate discomfort.

Consider the weather

Extreme temperatures and high humidity can exacerbate symptoms of chronic illness. Try gardening during cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening, and wear loose, lightweight clothing to help stay cool.

Focus on low maintenance plants

Choose plants that don’t require a lot of upkeep. You may want to buy plants that are pre-grown for you instead of starting yourself from scratch. This can help reduce stress and make gardening more enjoyable.

Get creative

Many of us live in apartments or in townhouses where we don’t have a lot of space to grow. There are many ways to enjoy gardening, even if you have limited mobility or space. Consider planting herbs in pots or creating a windowsill garden. Choose to grow only veggies and herbs that you would love to eat.

Don’t forget to enjoy the process

Gardening can be a therapeutic activity that provides a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment. Take time to appreciate the beauty of your garden and the benefits it brings to your health and well-being.

By taking these steps, you can enjoy the gardening season and ensure that it won’t consume you.  You deserve to enjoy the season. Try some of the tips above to alleviate some of the pain, fatigue, injury, and stiffness that can result from gardening.

Enjoy the growing season. Everyone one of them is different. With our sudden warm spell, we should be able to get a bit of a head start to the growing season.

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