We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children — Native American saying

As small business owners, we face a lot of challenges from complex problem solving to managing client relations. For hard goods small business owners, QA on your physical hard goods can be a stressor. If you're anything like me, I sometimes get bogged down by all the stress, competition, and chaos that can exist around my work. Then, I sit back, take a deep breath, and do what my fiancé calls, "garden touring." I go outside, and I walk around my garden, checking on the progress, new growth and ripeness of fruits; I also literally stop and smell the roses—and also the lavender because like I said, owning a small business can be stressful AF and lavender cures all.

In one of my favorite books, Choosing Civility, P.M. Forni outlines 25 rules for considerate conduct, and the 24th rule always stuck with me: Respect the Environment and Be Gentle to Animals. The main takeaway:


In the wake of the ecological revolution, it's impossible to be civil without an active concern for the health of our badly wounded planet. What this means varies from person to person.

There are a variety of ways to be ecologically minded from not littering to living a waste-free life. I try to live as waste-free as possible: I compost, eat sustainably, and recycle. But what I love the most: my garden. Selfishly because it helps alleviate stress.

Small Business Owner Tip to Reduce Stress: Start a Garden

On my small parcel of land, I have a vegetable and herb garden. I start my veggies from seed in April (usually the month that I'm traveling the least), and by May, I'm in full-blown garden fever. This year, I added 16" of garden space for a cut flower garden. I'm growing different bouquet fillers, but the main focus is on my dahlia varieties.

Stop & Smell the Roses.

A couple of years ago, I took a quick break from work to clear my mind. Naturally, I opted to prune my roses to clear out some writer's block. During that time, I missed a call from a client. I called back, and without thinking, said, "I missed your call. I was trimming my rose bushes." Apparently, this made my client crack up, and it's now a running joke. It's probably one of the few things that across the board most of my clients know about me: Gardening is my way of destressing and staying sane.

Getting in touch with nature = best way to destress.

When you're feeling cooped up in your office, gardening is the perfect excuse to get outside. So take a deep breathe of that fresh air and take in some Vitamin D while you're at it.

Prioritize "You" Time.

It's easy as a business owner to feel guilty that you're not working allll the time. But if you take time to destress, your dedicated work time ends up being more focused and productive.

Although I do run as another necessary way to alleviate stress, when I'm working in the garden, seeing my time turn into something beautiful removes me from so many stressors. It's a reminder that we are only a small piece in this chess game of life, and there's no way to put "you" time off when something like your plants count on you. If it's hot in the summer, my tomatoes will become droopy. I look at them in the morning and say, "Ok, I know. You need water," and just like that, my "you" time is born without a second thought.

Bonus: I sing to my plants. That's really the secret to my green thumb. It's true. In my best Cinderella impression, I sing to my garden and hang outside with the birds and my dogs. Anytime "You" time includes singing is an added bonus.

Didn't know I sing? Checkout my YouTube Channel for Ukulele Covers →

Fruit of Your Labor.

New Jersey is the garden state, and our tomatoes are the best. Ok, I'm a little biased. I grow three varieties. One is an heirloom tomato perfect for slicing and eating with a dash of salt.

Few things are as satisfying as cutting into a freshly picked, juicy tomato on a hot summer day during what I call a "brain break." My mouth is actually watering thinking about it. Obviously, food is the key to my happiness, and enjoying the fruits of my labor is a proud, fun-filled moment that reminds me life isn't always stress, stress, stress.

Bonus: If you have a cut garden, you'll have fresh flowers all spring/summer long. Making bouquets is another one of my favorite destressing pastimes. It's a two-in-one.

If you're looking for a way to destress and taking a deep breathe just isn't cutting it, think about the space you have to garden in, the amount of time and money you want to spend, and also your personal preference. There are TONS of different types of gardens from patio gardens to full on farms, and while it might seem intimidating, the second your hands hit the dirt, you'll know you're doing exactly what you should be doing.

Gardening is a good reminder of how beautiful this earth is and how insignificant small sh*t in your work world can be. But most importantly, it's a great step to putting forward more civility that we so badly need in this world. See you at the garden center!


Gabrielle Nickas