Are you stressed?

Does that seem like a stupid question, in this new post-covid world? Isn’t everyone, all around the world stressed as we sit apparently helplessly, being hammered by constant media reports of wars, climate change, and natural disasters?

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It’s like the bushfire crisis on steroids, and the whole world is on fire at the same time.

But it isn’t.

Things are serious, without a doubt. Millions of people around the world died in the pandemic, including thousands in Australia. Thousands are losing their lives in current wars.

Without downplaying the seriousness of what’s happening, it’s vital to manage our stress levels.

In times of crisis talking about gardening can seem trivial. But could it be possible that fruit trees can really reduce your stress levels?

Staying grounded … the opposite of being stressed

On social media at the height of the pandemic, it was hard to avoid conspiracy theories and strongly opinionated sentiments. Emotions were heightened and judgments quick and fierce.

Without being naive, we don’t feel that weighing into outrage adds to people’s sense of well-being.

As conflict erupts around us, it’s more important than ever to find ways to manage stress levels and be able to keep enjoying life. It probably won’t surprise you to find out that we think fruit trees are a key stress-reducing tool!

How fruit trees reduce stress: Katie and a group of community gardeners inspecting an apricot tree. Photo credit: Nicole Porter
Katie and a group of community gardeners calmly appreciating a fruit tree. Photo credit: Nicole Porter

Finding positive solutions to stress

Many support groups, online classes, and social media activities sprang up during the pandemic to help keep everyone socially connected as we became isolated. Now that being locked down is a distant memory they’re still a great way to stay connected to other people.

Our personal strategy for helping to reduce stress has been working with gardeners to help them become self-sufficient in fruit growing.

Because we run an online business and have members all over Australia connecting online is pretty familiar territory for us.

In fact, we use Zoom meetings with the lovely gardeners inside our Grow Great Fruit community for monthly Q&A sessions. We love that technology can let us go face-to-face with our members no matter where they’re gardening.

And we’re not alone. In many ways, the pandemic helped people to get more connected, more often. Here are some examples just from our family:

  • The family elders learned how to use Zoom, and we still have regular face-to-face family catch-ups;
  • What used to be an irregular dinner engagement with a group of friends has become a regular weekly online card game;
  • Siblings and cousins scattered across three continents have weekly Zoom catch-ups.

These ongoing connections are gifts, but online connection definitely has its limitations.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s to value the importance of connecting in real life.

Yet another zoom meeting…

Staying connected in real life

Health workers, teachers, emergency workers, farmers market organisers, and everyone else on the frontline emerged as heroes of the pandemic. They kept us supplied with basic needs, often to the detriment of their own stress levels.

Small-scale farmers and their produce were also in hot demand. The value of local, small-scale, food systems became starkly obvious when supermarket shelves were laid bare.

Small-scale farmers and farmers’ markets found clever ways to stay in business, keep staff employed, and keep feeding people every single week.

But one of the key (and maybe a bit surprising) services that farmers markets provide is a source of human contact. While it’s always great to have face-to-face contact with the person who grows your food, if you haven’t spoken to anyone else for a while, it can be a lifeline.

Castlemaine Farmers Market Weekly operating safely during the COVID-19 pandemic (photo credit: Linnet Good)
Castlemaine Farmers Market Weekly operating safely during the COVID-19 pandemic (photo credit: Linnet Good)

Nature connection as a stress reliever

Another gift from the pandemic was that people flocked to ‘homesteading’ skills and activities.

Gardening, growing your own food, preserving, cooking at home, and enjoying simple pleasures have all trended. It was already happening, but it’s as if everyone has suddenly started to take seriously the very real benefits of having control over at least part of your own food supply!

Quite apart from the practicalities of growing your own food, spending time in the garden makes a lot of sense in stressful times.

How spending time with your fruit trees can reduce stress

A lot of people are drawn to gardening intuitively. You just know that hanging out in your garden with your fruit trees makes you feel less stressed, even if you’re not sure exactly why. But there’s also good science to back this feeling up.

Studies have shown that spending even two hours a week in nature substantially increases health and psychological well-being. This can be as simple as walking in the park or being in the bush.

And the benefits for gardeners (and farmers) are even greater. Working with the soil is known to have an even stronger positive effect on health.

Gardeners and farmers alike have a feeling for the soil and know firsthand the restorative experience of working with it.

Joseph R. Heckman, Soils and Human Health

The world is a stressful place, and because we spend so much time on screens it’s in our faces most of the time.

So put down your phone, switch off the TV, and head into the garden. Use those crucial two hours a week of stress-relieving nature-time in caring for your fruit trees and getting your hands dirty.

Your stress levels will thank you.

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