Tips in Overcoming Depression, Grief, and Anxiety as a Floral Designer
Working with flowers is a wonderful career and a great privilege - we live surrounded by beauty, and we get the honor of accompanying our customers as they celebrate many happy occasions. But what happens when the florist herself is going through difficult times? How do we find joy, beauty, and creativity to spread around when we are in pain?
At the end of last year, I found myself in a terrible place: family issues, health issues, tight finances, and on top of everything my partner had to go abroad for months to support his mother who had been diagnosed with cancer. I felt lonely and depressed and lost my creativity completely.
Six months later, I am happy to say I’m in a much better place - excited about floral design, breaking into new markets, selling more than before, and designing with passion again. I wanted to share some of the strategies I tried to get through the slump, hoping they may help you if you ever need them.
Change the Scale
The time of year when I was at my lowest coincided with a lull in the floral business and my workbench sat unused for weeks. I’d go there, take a look at all my tools, buckets, wire and ribbons, panic, and run away. I felt unworthy of working with beautiful cut flowers - can you imagine?
The idea of something as substantial as a bouquet made me anxious, so I started putting together tiny arrangements with greenery and berries I gathered during walks or in my garden. I spent a long time on each one, letting myself trust my hands and enjoy the process little by little. It may have taken me half an hour to make each of them - that’s how insecure I felt at the time. But I made them and photographed them, and they made me believe I could still create something beautiful.
Around that time, I wrote a piece for Team Flower about designing with foraged materials, and writing got me back into the foraging life. It felt more comfortable to create larger things if I wasn’t investing money in materials - I felt I had less to lose, and therefore, I gained more and more confidence. I arranged bouquets as I walked in the neighborhood, or I stuck branches on a kenzan and fiddled with them for hours.
I also did a lot of experiments with dried leaves, twigs, and seed pods. While nothing I made at the time looks good enough to share, that’s OK - the point was that using cheap (and free) materials let me get creative, which in turn rekindled my confidence and passion.
Since I wasn’t spending that much time selling, designing, and packing, I turned towards my micro-farm and gave it some serious love. Gardening is therapeutic, and I recommend it to everyone. You put in the hours, water your seedlings, weed your beds, mulch and feed and compost, and day after day your plants grow. Imperceptibly at first, in leaps and bounds later. When they started putting out their first true leaves, I felt a weight lifting off me, and weeks later, when the first flower buds appeared, I could almost sing. Gardening heals and soothes your soul in a very special way.
Also, there is a proven benefit in focusing your efforts on something or someone else when you’re depressed. At my worst, when I didn’t even want to get out of bed, I made myself get up because my garden needed watering and looking after. Little by little, I started looking forward to it, and tending the garden morning and evening became the best part of my days.
It’s easy to fall into “comfort food” when you’re feeling down, but comfort food tends to be quite unhealthy, and it’s proven that too much starch and sugar can actually affect your mood for the worse. I gained a lot of weight in just a few months, and it didn’t make me feel any better.
One thing that really made a difference for me was growing vegetables alongside my flowers. Eating some fresh greens from the garden every day made a gradual difference in my health and mood. Growing a few veggies doesn’t require a lot of space! In one large pot, you can grow some rocket, nasturtiums, parsley, and coriander, and just like that, you can have freshly picked salad daily. Try it - it’s satisfying in so many ways!
Learn Something New
Depression feeds on habit, memory, history - a change of environment and routine can help set your wheels in motion again. Traveling to Morocco would have been fantastic, I’m sure, but it was entirely outside my possibilities. Instead, I watched foreign films and series on Netflix (I’m addicted to K-drama now!), and I started watching tutorials for new techniques I had never tried before. I seized a promo code to invest in a course on floral tattoos by Sue McLeary, and it gave me the final push I needed to start running again. With the confidence and energy I had been slowly regaining through practice, gardening and experimenting, I found myself looking forward to creating again, pushing the limits of technique, and dreaming up crazy new applications for it.
Everyone’s journey is different, and we all heal in our own ways. If you are going through a hard time, remember that things will get better, and feel free to reach out to me if you want someone to talk to!