By Lesley Kelly, Farmer and Co-Founder of the Do More Agriculture Foundation
As farmers, we know that this profession brings many things that are uncertain and outside our control, like weather, markets, trade and more. But we never knew that a pandemic would cause world-wide disruption in everything we do. Farmers across Saskatchewan and Canada were already facing hard times with a depressed economy, trade disputes, market access issues, and coming through a ‘harvest from hell.’ With the arrival of a global pandemic adds another layer of adversity and uncertainty.
Farmers are known for being resilient but the extra weight of a pandemic and its impacts can take a toll physically and mentally for farmers, their employees and families and lead to increased levels of stress, mental health challenges and burnout.
Here are some tips on how to manage farm stress through uncertain times:
- Stay Focused on What You Can Control: When it seems as though things are outside of our control, we can focus on what we can control and that can help us feel empowered. For instance, you may not be able to control how much rain we get this summer or who contracts COVID-19, but you can control things like handwashing and disinfecting machinery and shop areas where people come into contact with. From a business perspective, you can control keeping up to date with record keeping, communicating with your team and family, and self-care activities.
- Prioritize and Adapt Your Self-Care Routines: Self-care looks and feels different for everyone and changes with the seasons. Simply put, self-care are activities that help your physical, mental and emotional health and help you take care of yourself, which will then help you take care of others around you. Some of your self-care routines may be disrupted right now like going to the gym or hanging out at your favourite restaurant with your friends. Consider what you can do differently and take this chance as an opportunity to try something new.
- Stay Connected: Check in with your family and friends and plan on how you can stay connected through this time, whether that’s through digital options, phone calls, or social distancing. Have people, whether it is your spouse, a family member or a friend, you can talk and express your feelings to.
- Tune Out: 24-hour news available at our fingertips can be too much at times. It’s important to stay informed but feel free to take a media break from updates if they start to negatively impact your mental health.
- Maintain Your Health: Eating right, staying active, getting fresh air and keeping hydrated are a few ways to help maintain your physical health, which will also have positive impacts on your overall mental health.
- Do Some Good: Helping others like volunteering your time and energy can help you feel good as well. Plus, it helps us weather the storm and get through hard times as a community and help others and yourself not feel alone.
- Embrace the Good – We learn resiliency by going through adversity. In hard times, there are always positive things that shine through about ourselves, our neighbours and community. These things may be hard to see but they are there. When you find them, embrace these opportunities to see, grow and learn from.
- Don’t Forget to Play: Take this time to do something that makes you feel good, like trying a new recipe, listening to music, or getting outside and playing a sport with your family.
- Know it is Okay to Feel Many Different Things: There is no ‘right’ way to handle unprecedent times like we are in. Anxiety, fear, worry, uncertainty, and grief are all normal feelings to have. It’s important to be kind to yourself and seek help if these feelings start to take a toll and cause disruptions to your daily life.
If stress begins to it impact your mental health and your ability to carry out day to day activities and tasks, it may be time to seek professional help. Visiting your family doctor is a great place to start or calling Saskatchewan Farm Stress Line at 1-800-667-4442.