Water Your Plants, Water Yourself: Self-Care Lessons from a Plant Parent
Growing pains are natural. They don't symbolize a lack, they signify a process.
As a First Gen Latina, therapy is a resource I cannot afford. For many of us, this holds true, but mental care moves beyond a plush couch in a fancy office.
Therapy is community care. Therapy is active solitude. Therapy is nature.
To fight my seasonal depression and excessive self-criticism, turning to my community is essential. I repeat the affirmations I hear from people that care for me to myself and my plantitas. Spending time to be present with myself and my plants shows me how to look inside myself without fear of what I might find.
My snake plant has a new seedling every couple of months. It is fascinating to see the tiny green leaf peek through the moist soil. The tiny green nub stays like that for weeks before exhibiting any noticeable growth, as if saying, "All I have to do to exist is nourish myself." Suddenly, before you know it, the nub shoots up to become as tall as it's adult siblings.
I’ve never noticed how much growth lies in stillness. My snake plants have shown me that the journey to self-improvement is more than reaching your goal–it is also the days that mirrored last week’s progress. So much of my plant's growth happens without my noticing, but each centimeter it gains towards the sky is as monumental as its final peak height.
When I feel stuck in lockdown, my journey, my life, my plants continue to grow. Like our green friends, we rarely give ourselves enough credit for how far we have come. What might seem like the same stage in the process towards our dream career or the same test grade as the last is actually progress. I see my little snake plant, and I trust it to grow into its full potential. I trust the process.
And so much of the process is silent. In a culture running for running’s sake, plants remind us that we have moved far past the finish line. It’s easy to rest but harder to rest actively. We don’t devote much time to being present with ourselves and surroundings. Nature therapy has given me a way into this grounding.
I envision myself as another seedling peeking with its first vibrant green leaf. I would never tell my plants they couldn’t grow, so why should I hold thoughts like that to myself? Holding myself as a plant and my plants as me, I look to my greenery to assign them the qualities I want to develop. The growth of my most recent snake plant is a visual representation of my journey towards higher education.
To enjoy our solitude, appreciate our stillness and care for our souls, I’ve developed three ways to parent our plants and thus, ourselves.
Three to thrive
All plants have a similar function, but they require different conditions to maintain them. What resources do you have available to you right now? Do you have the capacity to water a plant that requires moist soil? A sunny spot in the house for plants that run on light? What are the ideal growing conditions, and how can they be acquired? Now, think of your growing conditions. Ask yourself the same questions as you do for your plants. What is needed for you to thrive? How can you achieve them?
We are all energetic beings: our plants, our minds, our bodies. There is a reason you feel depleted or at ease after interacting with someone. Plants can similarly detect energy; they notice neglect, and they reflect love. Here are some affirmations you can repeat to foster abundance for our collective energies:
Tip: if it is hard to believe them because you don't think this is true in your life (yet), affirm it with a conviction for your plantitas. (They all apply to them as well.)
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, pruning is “to cut off or cut back parts of for better shape or more fruitful growth.”
It can seem painful to let go of something in your life, but by doing so, you focus your resources on growing something specific. What is depleting your energy? What no longer serves you?
Think about it propagating. Not all plants have to be grown from a seed. If you have an existing plant that you like, you can produce a new plant from its branches. What are the activities you engage in, can you approach them in a different manner to bring you more energy or satisfaction?
You have everything you need within you, and it is possible to grow even in tumultuous conditions. It is possible to create new beginnings from what already exists–we just need to be intentional.
Meet the Family
Greisy Hernandez (she/hers) is a first-generation student, founder of Las Chicas Chulas, and advocate for wellness, particularly in the Latinx community. She implements her love for strategic organizing by serving as the chief operations officer for Gen Z Girl Gang. Her passion for immigrant rights and mental health has led to her involvement with the Immigrant Youth Coalition, Women’s Voices Now, and Las Fotos Project. You can usually find her struggling to maintain a yoga pose or listening to podcasts about psychology. She has been a leader for Yara Shahidi's EighteenX18, and various other campaigns, including VICE’S “Road to 2020” that focuses on igniting young people to get more civically engaged.