By Toni L. Eaton, RN, BSN, MS, President & CEO of Old Colony Hospice & Palliative Care

The holiday season brings with it the bustle of gatherings, gift-giving, and to-do lists, not to mention New Year’s wishes and resolutions.

As much as it can be joyful and exciting, this time of year can also be overwhelming. I know it can be for me anyway. I have to stop and remind myself to take a breath and take a walk. Breathe. One step in front of the other. Then another.

It might be a short walk or a longer one, down the hall or down a pathway, but I always feel better for it. It gives me a moment to quiet my thoughts and center my emotions. Research has shown that taking a break and walking can relieve stress.

We’re lucky to live in an area with some wonderful walks, among them World’s End in Hingham, North River Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield or the Cape Cod Canal. Personally, I am more of a stroller than a hiker, though. One of my favorite spots to walk is in my neighborhood. Another is the newly created Peace Garden at our Dr. Ruth McLain Hospice Home in Braintree.

The hospice home is celebrating its two-year anniversary in the upcoming year, and the garden is a way to celebrate and mark that milestone. The final touches will be added in the spring, but the garden already is bringing a sense of peace to the staff, residents, and families of patients.

The garden has a few different pathways with memorial planters and bricks. There are benches so visitors can stop, sit, and contemplate along the way. The half-acre behind the hospice home is filled with trees, holly bushes, rhododendrons and lily of the valley and other plants that attract birds and butterflies.

During the end-of-life journey, nature can be healing. Dealing with death can leave people with uncomfortable emotions and even physical sensations that leave you feeling disconnected. Moments of mindfulness and meditation in the outdoors can help ground you, chase away negative thoughts, and allow you to focus.

Walking and being in nature can remind us of the continuum of life and the beauty of creation. We were reminded of that during the height of the pandemic, when so many other places were off-limits. Sometimes, it is the solitude of a walk or time with nature that gives us peace. Sometimes, having company along can be what we need.

So, as you move through the holidays and life changes, don’t forget to find your restorative environment. Talk a walk. Reconnect with nature.

As we enter the New Year, we at Old Colony Hospice wish you peace.

Toni L. Eaton, RN, BSN, MS, is the President & CEO of Old Colony Hospice & Palliative Care of West Bridgewater, a dynamic non-profit hospice serving more than 55 communities south of Boston. OCH also runs the Dr. Ruth McLain Hospice Home in Braintree. A native and resident of the South Shore, Toni brings her compassion and experience as a nurse, veteran, and community leader to her insightful columns for South Shore Senior News. She is also the founder of Sunny Paws Dog Rescue. Her leadership has been honored by several groups, including the South Shore Women’s Business Network. She currently sits on the boards of the Hospice & Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Regulatory Committee. For more information, call (781) 341-4145 or visit Old Colony Hospice & Palliative Care at