How Gardening Became My Migraine Distraction?
Last weekend, I used gardening as a migraine distraction. I woke up with a migraine attack from the weather and a stressful week. When I saw the rain falling outside, I felt a blanket of pain, pressure, and fatigue all over my body. I thought my whole day would be a waste when I remembered I signed up for the Miles for Migraine Gardening Social Series. I registered for the event, and my daughter and I had planned a girls’ day of gardening. It turned into an excellent migraine distraction. As the zoom time approached, I pulled out our herb garden kit. Then, signed on to learn a bit about herbs and distract me from the migraine pain.
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We planted: parsley, thyme, cilantro, sage, and basil. I bought an indoor herb garden starter kit on Amazon* before the event. Our guide talked us through soaking our seeds while he gave tips about the herbs; others shared recipes on how to use them. It’s always lovely to hear new recipes and ways to use fresh herbs. Someone recommended the Dizzy Cook for a good recipe with thyme.
Basil was our favorite herb of the bunch. Our guide gave us a tip on pruning a basil plant as we planted. Luckily, I had a basil plant already, and we could apply his tip while planting new seeds.
Gardening for Mental Health
I sat and watched my daughter plant our herb garden and watched the zoom call. At that point, I was happy to be off the couch, virtually social, and in-person supportive of my daughter. I felt the damp soil and a sense of grounding at one point. Like when I put my feet in the sand or hike in the woods, nature calms me.
Mental Benefits of Gardening
- Improves mood- Again, something about nature is humbling and healing. Just putting my hands in the dirt, soaking up some sun and vitamin D, and taking time to nourish something living makes me feel better.
- Boosts self-confidence- Now that my daughter has started to help with my gardening efforts, she has grown confidence by turning seeds into plants that eventually feed our family.
- Mistakes happen- With that said, I am not known for my gardening abilities and care. I’ve stopped trying to keep plants indoors because we don’t have enough direct sunlight, and I forget to water. Outdoors, I forget to water (but mother nature helps me). I never know when it’s time to harvest. I wait too long, it gets eaten by bugs or bunnies, and I make many mistakes. The good thing is that I now have a sidekick that can help me learn from my mistakes.
- Improves attention span- I live with incredible mental fog and forgetfulness with migraines. Gardening gives me a small job that I focus on for a short time without being overwhelmed. My garden is as big or little as I want it, and focusing on watering or pruning gives me a short migraine distraction. This year, all of my plants are in containers.
- Provides movement- Although movement can be a migraine trigger for me, having a reason to get up and move my body is beneficial. Just going from my couch to my planting area allows me a small amount of movement. I may not always be able to go out and walk, but a few steps to my garden can get my blood flowing.
Gardening Social Benefits
The Miles for Migraine Gardening event gave me socialization from my own home. Some people were on video, some were not, some talked, and some didn’t. Just listening and being a part of the day made me feel included without the pressure of putting on a brave face. The social events allow as much or as little participation for each participant. If you don’t have a space for gardening, try a community garden. A community garden can help give you socialization, motivation, and community. This year, I’m doing most of my plants in pots.
Migraine attacks are often described on a pain scale of 0-10. I live with chronic migraine and am never under a 3/4. I have spikes of 9/10 that are frightening and debilitating, and I can’t do anything but live in excruciating pain. At a level of 4-6, I can do tasks at a modified level that make my migraine attack worse or better. Migraine distractions help me “forget” about my migraine pain for a bit. (As much as you can forget the pain.) It doesn’t always work but is worth a try. Many activities like music and gardening can help if I try to apply them.
Tips on Migraine Distraction Techniques
- Make time- If I hadn’t already signed up for the Gardening Event and told my daughter we’d plant the seed, I wouldn’t have gotten off my couch that day. I felt miserable, anxious, and depressed and didn’t want to do anything. But, taking the time to do something allowed me to find relief, socialize to the best ability, and distract myself from migraine pain.
- Be Mindful- Doing an activity and being genuinely mindful are different. I could have sat there in my migraine haze and gotten through the zoom call, but instead, I focused on the small things I was grateful for. By using my senses and being mindful of the small things around me, I experienced relief (if only for a short time).
- I watched my beautiful daughter and was so grateful to call her mine.
- Then, I felt the soil that grounded me
- By listening to the voices of my Miles for Migraine friends, I felt less alone and surrounded by people who understand
- In the end, I smelled the basil plant and tasted the Caprese salad we made from it.
- Avoid Triggers- This is a tricky one. While exercise can be good therapy, it can also trigger. I find that the same is for straining when I’m gardening along with the weather. Bending, stooping, straining, and lifting tend to cause a rise in pressure in my head, so I need to be careful. Although sunshine provides vitamin D, I wear a hat and sunglasses and avoid overheating or overexerting myself for too long.
Overall, I am so happy I signed up for the event and enjoyed my day with my daughter and virtual friends. I was able to escape my migraine symptoms for a short time. I like using an integrative approach to migraine treatment and care.
Do you garden?
What is your best migraine distraction?
If you are interested in joining the social series provided by Miles for Migraine, check out their website for details on all the programs they offer.
They also provide a mindfulness series you may enjoy. Check it out!
Interested in increasing your migraine advocacy? The ACT Now fellows and advocacy training program may be for you!