Life is full of ups and downs, as so is farming. It’s one of the only certainties that we have in life. We won’t feel great all the time and things won’t go smoothly or as anticipated during the farming season, but there are real, simple and effective things we can do to improve the state of our mental health.
Taking care of ourselves and our mental health can be challenging during the busy seasons, but that doesn’t mean our self care practices need to come to an end. Just like how the seasons of farming change, so can our self care practices and rituals. For example, what we do in the winter may look different than what we do for ourselves in the summer. Sometimes, what worked during one period of time may not apply now, or we may need a multitude of different practices to help get through a hard time.
Taking time to appreciate the pleasures life brings, however small, can promote satisfaction during the busy and long seasons and even when things don’t turn out how you hoped.
Here are 7 little things that you can do in the busy seasons that can make a big difference to your mental health:
Take a walk – Walking is a low-key way to help relieve stress and promote positive emotions through sunlight and fresh air. You can take a walk around the tractor if you are in the field, or down the lane way if you only have a few minutes.
Splurge on yourself – The busy seasons can be long so small splurges on yourself can make a world of difference. Farmer Kim Keller (@kimkkeller) shares she enjoys a fancy coffee and bubbly water in the tractor. For Merle Massie (@merlemassie) it’s work gloves and listening to a good audio book.
Reconnect with nature: It’s no surprise that farmers enjoy working outdoors, but that connection goes far deeper. For many farmers, nature and the outdoors their mental health. Kara Oosterhuis (@KaraOosterhuis) enjoys listening to birds chirp as the sun comes up in the morning. She adds, “It’s a good reminder that no matter what, the world keeps turning.” Brayden Lewis (@BraydenJLewis), Beef Technician at Lakeland College agrees. “When things get extremely busy, I have to remind myself to stop and enjoy the little things like the sun going down over a pasture full of mamma cows!”
Call someone you care about – In this age of digital connection, text messages often beat out old-fashioned telephone calls as the preferred method of communication. Text messages certainly are quicker and more convenient. Hearing the voice of a loved one or friend is a small pleasure many people tend to overlook. Setting aside 10 or 15 minutes in your day to call someone you care about, whether in the tractor, barn or office can bring a lot of joy. It’ll probably brighten their day, too.
Problems feel smaller when you share them – A problem shared is a problem halved, so the old saying goes. And it’s true. Talking to someone when you’ve got something on your mind can make a big difference to how you feel. You can also write down how you feel, as this may help make the words clearer in your mind. The act of writing itself can be a therapeutic release and allows you to find ways to deal with them, and you can do this in a notebook or on your phone. Karla Fehr (@kj_fehr) agrees and journaling is beneficial to her: “Taking a minute to list/journal something that I’m thankful for.”
Do things with others as there’s strength in numbers – Whatever you do, you don’t have to do it alone. Whether you’re going for a walk, riding in the cab of a tractor, fixing equipment, in the garden or a bit of DIY, everything is better if you share it with someone else. We are social animals and we thrive when we’re in company with others, even the smallest problem can seem magnified if we feel on our own. People love to help, and you’ll find that surrounding yourself with other people will help you be more confident and better able to cope with life’s challenges.
Take a break – In the busy season, it may be hard to take an extended break or feel you can. Although taking short breaks throughout the working day may not have as obvious an impact as taking a holiday, research has found significant benefits. Studies have found that breaks can reduce or prevent stress, help to maintain performance throughout the day and reduce the need for a long recovery at the end of the day. “I like to stop and take just five minutes with everything shut off and enjoy the sunset,” says Quick Dick McDick, farmer and social media personality (@QuickDickMcDick)
Ultimately, whatever little things in everyday life you can find to help soothe your mind, will work wonders for your mental health. Sometimes, the little things can make a big difference to how we feel and how we cope through life and farming’s ups and downs.
If you are looking for more information on resources and support, visit our list of resources.
The Do More Agriculture Foundation is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are in crisis, please visit your local emergency department or call 911 immediately.