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Tree planting is physically challenging. Most people know that. People may not know how hard planting is on the mind and heart. During my first planting season, I did a lot of crying. And though it felt cathartic and like the kind of emotional pain that allowed me to develop intensely as a person, it was hard as hell.

Work With a Therapist

Supporting my mental health has been a journey. Finding the right mental health professional is challenging while navigating a culture that still stigmatizes needing and asking for help. If you break a bone, you go to the doctor; if you feel anxious or deeply sad, it isn’t always clear how to get help. One of the main things I always told myself was that support was out there; I just had to find it, and like dating, finding the right mental health professional took time. I kissed a lot of toads before landing on someone I felt comfortable with, someone who had a flexible schedule, and someone who understood the nature of tree planting.

Although it is hard, it is not impossible. My strategy was to work hard before the season started, researching different psychotherapy clinics and calling and emailing therapists to schedule a screening call to see if we would be a good fit. Check out another piece I wrote, Steps for Finding a Mental Health Professional, where I break this all down in more detail.


This one is classic, and maybe you’re tempted to skip this section but hear me out. You don’t have to do an hour-long yoga session to feel the benefits of stretching. I felt better every time I took a moment, just one moment, to stretch my body during the planting season. Not only did I feel better physically, but I felt like I was taking care of myself, which made me feel better emotionally. When stretching, I checked in with my body rather than ignoring the pain, the clicks, and the cracks, which feels all too easy to do after a long day on the block. Try setting a timer for five minutes and then take the time to focus on what feels good to stretch in your body.

Have a Creative Outlet

During the planting season, having a way to express yourself can help release pent-up emotions and allow you to decompress after a long day of physical work. For me, writing was a lifeline. It allowed me to process what I was experiencing and gave me a sense of purpose beyond just planting trees.

I want to tell you a quick story about creativity:

One time during my rookie season, there was a day we couldn’t work because the roads were washed out from all the rain. I had packed a colouring book but hadn’t had the time or energy to use it yet. I felt a bit awkward bringing it into the mess tent, but I wanted to do something mindless that would make me feel good, and I didn’t want to stay stuck in my tent all day. I set up my little creative nook in the mess tent, made some tea, put on some music and got to colouring. Someone asked to join me, and I said of course. More and more people started joining us until it felt like a quarter of the camp was in the mess tent colouring, doodling, chatting, and drinking tea. People were doing cool, creative things with their drawings and colouring. It was magical. I think back to that day fondly. Creativity healed souls that day and brought us together.

Talk About Things Other Than Planting

While it's incredible to have many people around who understand the challenges of planting and what you go through during the day, it's also important to talk about things other than work. Eventually, planting can feel all-consuming; many people have planting dreams, so they don’t even get a mental break from the repetition of their job when asleep. Conversations about current events, hobbies, or life outside of planting can create much-needed space between you and the cut block. These discussions can remind you there is a whole world outside of the camp you are working in.

Remember Your Why

It can be easy to forget why you are bending over every five seconds in the pouring rain, or hail, or a cloud of bugs. Taking time to reflect on your motivations for planting can help reground you in the present moment and stay motivated and resilient while navigating a rocky road (literally and figuratively).

Music / Podcasts / Audio Books

Listening to something while planting can be a great way to pass the time and keep your mind engaged. It can also be a welcome distraction from negative emotions or challenging work. Escaping into the world of storytelling can help lift you out of the fog that can descend during a tough day on the block. Go live in someone else's reality for a little while.

Talk About Your Emotions

Talking to friends or family about the emotional toll of planting can be cathartic and very healthy. Sharing your experiences and what you are going through helps you not to feel isolated.

Let Present You Support Future You

It can be tempting to push yourself to the limit to make as much money as possible, but it’s important to remember that your future self will appreciate you taking care of your body and mind. Taking care of yourself can include taking breaks when needed, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and just, in general, thinking about what might serve you best. Taking care of yourself in the present moment will help ensure the longevity of your physical and mental health.

Checking In

Checking in can encompass mindfulness or meditation, but I find a check-in easier to integrate into everyday life. It can take ten seconds. Ask yourself how you’re feeling emotionally and physically, and take action if you need to make changes to support yourself. By checking in with yourself, you can catch issues you're experiencing early and prevent them from snowballing into more significant problems. Checking in can look different for everyone. It means stopping and becoming aware of how you are feeling.


Tree planting can be a rewarding but challenging physical and emotional experience. Incorporating some of these tips into your season might help you navigate the rollercoaster that is the world of tree planting. Ideally, you come out the other side stronger and more resilient. Remember to take care of yourself and lean on your support network.


How I Support Myself Emotionally Throughout a Planting Season

Here are ten things that helped me emotionally navigate eight planting seasons; maybe they can help you too.

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