Why an environmental educator is turning to gardening during the pandemic

Sundays are a day to recharge and reset by hanging with friends, turning off your phone, bathing for hours on end, or doing whatever else works for you. In this column (in conjunction with our Instagram Self-Care Sunday series), we ask editors, experts, influencers, writers, and more what a perfect self-care Sunday means to them, from tending to their mental and physical health to connecting with their community to indulging in personal joys. We want to know why Sundays are important and how people enjoy them, from morning to night.

Before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began, many New Yorkers utilized their Sundays to find tranquility, whether that meant going to the park or having brunch with friends. But with self-isolation in full force, it can be difficult to find a space of your own that doesn’t involve a couch, TV, and a tub of cheesy puffs (no judgment here). However, environmental educator Dominique Drakeford, who helps companies to incorporate sustainable practices, has turned her NYC backyard into a DIY self-care spot. And while she knows how rare it is to have a space like that in the Big Apple, she doesn’t take it for granted for one minute.

“The outdoor space has been extremely helpful during this isolation period, especially since I’m growing so much food,” she tells HelloGiggles. “My fiancé and I constantly work on projects together; we’re going to be building a greenhouse soon from scratch. I also have a beautiful bench area that we handmade to watch movies on our huge cement wall [with our projector] when it gets a bit warmer.”

For the 31-year-old, tending to her veggie and herb garden is just one of the things she does as part of her self-care routine. “I try to weave in a bit of normalcy from my life before the pandemic. Sundays are usually really restorative for me. They involve straightening up my apartment and preparing my schedule for the week ahead,” she says.

For this week’s Self-Care Sunday, we spoke to Drakeford to learn more about her weekend routine these days. Here, in her own words, are her go-to health practices, plus advice for other people who may be having issues staying present during this difficult time.


Mental Health

It fluctuates, but overall I’m in good mental health and don’t have much room to complain. I think the most challenging part for me is processing, since shifts are happening so rapidly. [I’ve been] incubating; letting spirit catch up to reality. All of my senses are in overload during this time. Plus, feeling the pain of impacted communities has been challenging alongside dealing with my own personal family challenges. But overall, pretty strong mental health practices thus far.

Go-to mental health practices

Karaoke, singing and dancing to my favorite songs, and journaling and writing. Of course, [I’m] loving these opportunities to read a lot more. I’ve also enjoyed trying new recipes. It’s forcing me to be a lot more creative in the kitchen. Meditating; face masking; making a nice, hardy meal; and writing my weekly to-do list are all therapeutic ways I reset. And yes, I still write my to-do lists, as they are healing for me, and I thoroughly enjoy physically writing down entrepreneurial and creative tasks that I want to try and/or finish—while, of course, being flexible doing whatever my spirit calls me to do.

Wind-down practices to combat Sunday scaries 

Stretching, gardening, and a good movie.

Physical Practices

Sunday activities

Cleaning, working out (even if I can only muster a 10-minute stretching session), and organizing. Plus, diffusing essential oils, smudging, and playing jazz and soulful jams.

Physical health tips

Every morning, I drink a warm herbal tonic (turmeric and ginger, elderberries, or Morgina and nettles—it varies every day), and a glass of lime water. I’ve also minimized inflammatory foods. Cooking from home has helped that a lot. I’m also trying to work out maybe two to three times a week, increasing that as time goes on. I have to ease my body into the home workout routines, so I can be consistent.

Community Care

Staying connected

Honestly—I’m still working on finding the right flow for connecting and boundaries.

Quarantine life lessons

I will say that there’s not much of a paradigm shift regarding relationships and connectivity, with me being so deeply woven into the sustainability space and having understood a while ago that our climate crisis is more of a crisis about connection. Plus, having African ancestry and truly understanding the importance of community, tribal identity, and connecting with people and the planet confirms those thoughts. I deeply miss social gatherings and just being present with friends and family. But I’m also learning to take advantage of the solitude.

Personal Joys

Self-care routine

I’m not a woman of repetitive routine. Most days I get up around 7 a.m. but if I get up at 6:15 or 9:45 a.m., that’s fine, too. I try to do something that makes me [feel] grounded to start my day, but that regime changes based on the energy that morning.

I try to not live the same day twice. I just try to be fluid in my body and spirit, as long as it’s intentional. I don’t want any situation to ever turn me into a robot of routine, but rather, a freedom-focused discipline of intuitive expression, healing, and self-love.

However, I am loving my PUR Home laundry detergent and excited to start hanging my clothes on a clothesline outside once it gets warm enough! [I also do] deep breathing—something a lot of people take for granted and don’t truly understand the benefits of oxygen intake and release.

pur laundry detergent, self-care sunday

Shop it PUR Home

Advice for people struggling to stay present

Many people are in survival, panic, and boredom mode—it depends on how the pandemic has specifically affected [their] lives. So when people are giving advice, they need to be mindful of that.

But I will say that so many people don’t realize that they’re an entire ecosystem filled with willpower, the subconscious, and ego, who have been programmed to not tap into communicating with all of the layers of [themselves.] Now is a time to learn about yourself: What life adjustments can you make to be a better version of yourself? What do you truly love? What are your skills and how can you contribute to your community? Re-evaluate your values in terms of consumption. There are benefits to isolation, but sometimes, they’re going to be uncomfortable before they become magical.

In terms of more direct advice, I minimize my news intake. I indulge maybe once or twice a week just so I can be kept abreast of things that are happening. I also have intermittent social media detoxes when I feel like my body/spirit needs it. Also, it’s okay to cry, scream, dance, sing, or cartwheel—but [do it] for yourself and focus on developing a healthy relationship with yourself. And always infuse gratitude even when shit gets rough.

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