NOTE: Farm Bureau is in the fight against farm stress and the too-long-overlooked challenges to farmers’ mental health. We’re sharing resources with every available audience because you never know when you’ll have an opportunity to help someone through a tough spot.
By Becca Gulliver
These famous words from the Queen of Soul’s 1967 anthem — “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me” — it’s great advice from Aretha about respecting others and expecting respect in return, but it’s just as important to respect ourselves.
Think over the past few days. What thoughts filled your mind as you sprayed fields, fed livestock or baled hay? Were you listing what needs doing next? Telling yourself what you should’ve done differently? Maybe you worried about the markets or wondered if the rain would finally hit. How do you talk to yourself when no one else is listening?
The celebrated writer, professor and speaker Leo Buscaglia once said, “To love others you must first love yourself.” Key to stress management and a healthy mindset is ending negative thoughts and learning to love ourselves.
Ever spent a day with someone who complains non-stop? How did you feel when it was finally over? Drained? Negative? Did you even find yourself complaining? Negativity is contagious. If we flood our brain with negative self-talk we are inevitably bringing ourselves — and those around us — down.
Instead, try shifting that mindset and self-talk toward the positive.
When tough times hit, tell yourself you can adapt to the situation at hand and overcome the challenges ahead. Remember: you’ve gotten through tough times before and you can do it again. Sometimes repeating a simple mantra can help, like this one from MSU Extension: “Calm, capable and controlled.”
Mantras work because the body hears what the mind thinks.
There are times when it’s okay to put ourselves first. Farmers are caretakers, providing food, fuel and fiber for the entire world. If we don’t love and take care of ourselves first, we can’t well provide for others.
Putting ourselves first doesn’t come naturally. When a neighbor needs help our combines and semis line up to finish harvest, so why — when we’re struggling emotionally and our own mental health is shaky — why is it so hard to reach out and talk with someone?
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall encourages farmers to do just that: seek out someone to help carry the mental load.
“If you’re going through a difficult time, please: reach out to a friend, your pastor, or a family member you can trust,” he said. “Let someone help you carry your load. And if you’re that friend, pastor or family member who sees someone struggling or just not seeming like himself or herself, please offer to listen. Just listen and give that person that chance to unload some of the burden.”
Not sure who to go to? You can start with your own family doctor, who can connect you with qualified mental health care providers. Consider counseling or therapy. One silver lining of the COVID lockdown is increased opportunity for telehealth and virtual counseling, meaning you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home or tractor cab. Similiarly, BetterHelp and Talkspace are two online therapy platforms. Stick your toe in and find what works best for you.
Respect yourself like you respect your land. Care for yourself like you care for your equipment. (There’s only one of you!) And when the load gets heavy, proving your toughness only stands in the way of getting the help necessary to lighten your burden and keep farming for the world.