Pergola with plants inside garden center with text overlay: Garden or Self-Care Plan: Principles for Both

Garden or Self-Care Plan: Principles for Both

Today we took our first trip of the season to our local garden center (my home away from home). It’s still a little chilly for me to spend a lot of time outside, but it’s time to start getting the garden beds ready for the growing season. Planting and watching things grow is exciting, but the growing only happens if we prepare ahead of time.

Have you ever noticed that the same thing sometimes applies to making progress when we live with fibromyalgia or another chronic illness? If we don’t have some sort of plan, we may find ourselves just getting through our days rather than having a clear way forward.

Our days can be so unpredictable when we live with chronic illness that it can be hard to make a plan and stick to it. That doesn’t mean that we always need to just ‘wing it’ though.

For me, making my self-care plan is a lot like making my garden plan. What seems perfect on paper doesn’t always work out perfectly once I start planting. If that’s the case, I just make adjustments as needed.

Our life with chronic illness is the same way. We can make all the plans we want, but sometimes our bodies have other ideas. BUT it still helps to have a plan. As we talked about in Self-Care Plans, Our Roadmap, having an overarching plan in place can help us be aware of what we need to do to feel the best we can. We may not always be able to stick to our plan, but having one gives us direction.

When we’re making our self-care plans, it can be helpful to apply a couple of the same principles that I use when planning my garden.

Crop Rotation

When I’m planning the garden, one of the first considerations is what I planted in each box last year. Crop rotation is vitally important, because it keeps you from depleting the soil of all the same nutrients year after year. It also prevents pests from populating areas of your garden because they know they can expect to find their food source there.

If we apply the rotation principle to our self-care plan, we think of things like adding variety to our diets. This can keep our bodies nourished, and a well-nourished body will always serve us better than a poorly nourished one.

It also means switching up our exercise routines from time to time. This can be difficult if we’re very limited in what our bodies allow us to do, but changing things up can help us train more systems in our bodies and better prepare us for the demands of daily life.

It may also involve trying new things. Sometimes what worked for us last year just isn’t working anymore. We may need to try something we haven’t tried before in order to find something that helps us continue to make progress.

Companion Planting

Another consideration is a principle called companion planting. There are certain plants that seem to do better together than they do separately. Planting these together will help your garden to thrive.

For our self-care plans, the companion principle might look something like complementary treatment options. For instance, in addition to any medications we may be taking, we may also try things such as massage, Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment, acupuncture, or other treatments. Used together, these things can give us a better chance of reducing the symptoms associated with our chronic illness and help us make progress.

Of course, there’s also the most obvious benefit of the companion principle – surrounding ourselves with people who can understand and support us. It’s important that we choose our companions carefully — you know that old saying about becoming like the five people we spend the most time with. Having people who have a more positive outlook in our lives can pick us up when we’re down, and give us the opportunity to do the same for them on their bad days.

The key, whether we’re planning a garden or constructing our self-care plan, is flexibility. Sometimes our best-thought-out plans just don’t work for us. Rather than becoming discouraged and giving up, we need to be willing to adjust. Being flexible and making adjustments as needed can help us move forward in our quest to thrive.

What are some of the principles you use when constructing your self-care plan? Please share!




  1. I always love when you do this, Terri. Taking the principles of something like gardening and reflecting it onto life and chronic illness. Such a creative way to look at things and it makes so much sense. I love the idea of ‘crop rotation’ and that’s all part of ‘going with the flow’ with chronic illness, in needing to have a back-up plan and other options at hand, keeping a little variety when it comes to management, distraction, self-care and so on. Another fantastic post.
    I’ve seen the budding of some colourful flowers over the past two weeks and I can sometimes hear the birdies at times when I haven’t heard them for months… spring is around the corner!
    Caz xx

    1. Thanks so much Caz! You make an excellent point about ‘going with the flow’ of chronic illness and keeping your options open when it comes to taking care of ourselves. I’m glad you’re seeing those buds around you – I always love when we first start seeing them. We have daffodils all over the place, and a lot of the fruit trees are blooming. Spring has sprung! Sending hugs your way!

  2. I love this comparison. Another two principles I’d add are patience and perseverance. Nothing grows overnight and sometimes we need to persevere until with get the garden we really want. I guess we need that in our self-care routines too.

    1. Thanks so much Liz! I agree – patience and perseverance are definitely needed with both our gardens and our care plans…. I don’t know about you, but for me, it takes a lot of trial and error to find out what works and what doesn’t. Everything we try isn’t going to work, or might not work right away, so those two are critical. Sending hugs your way sweet friend!

  3. Wow Terri, this is such a powerful and thought provoking post. Your analogy is beautiful and really helps put everything into perspective. You’re a very gifted writer and storyteller.

    I agree wholeheartedly with everything you’ve shared here. Most of all, I love the heart and comfort you are bringing to everyone who reads this. Your words feel like a warm, cozy blanket on a chilly day. Thank you for this!

    We are gardeners here as well. Doesn’t it provide such peace and wonder? As you say, watching something grow out of nothing is exciting.

    Companion planting – having friends who love and support you; I adore this section. Amen and amen. You are fulfilling that purpose here on Reclaiming Hope, Terri. God bless you for being such a light! 🙏🏼

    1. Oh Holly, thank you so much for your kind words! You are such an encouragement to me sweet friend! I love my little garden; it just brings so much joy (and good food). May we always have those friends who walk beside and support us. Many blessings to you!

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