Marrying a farm kid has shown me the immense amount of pride in being part of the ag community. It is prevalent that the agricultural profession, while rewarding, is also challenging.
Running big dollar operations that are both physically and mentally demanding creates some serious strain on our mental health. Whether it’s a co-op employee spraying chemicals or spreading fertilizer for 70-plus hours a week or a farmer during planting or harvest, the demand never stops.
In my practice, I talk a lot about focusing on what is within our control. I can control the way I cope in a situation, but I cannot control how someone else chooses to cope. Likewise, I can control my choices on what products I use in my operation, but some things are simply out of my control, like grain and livestock prices or the unpredictable weather of the Midwest. The livelihood of ag operations and families balances on influences out of our control. We are forced to leave many factors up to chance, and that creates a lot of pressure.
When we focus on things out of our control, we can start to experience negative mental health effects. During times of stress, our body releases hormones to help regulate our stress responses. We experience toxic stress when our body is constantly releasing stress hormones into our body, which can create negative effects on our health. Starting in childhood, we learn mechanisms to help ourselves cope during stressful experiences.
In agriculture, there are many things outside of our control. So, what can we control? We can control how we choose to take care of ourselves and whether we use healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress.
Beneficial mechanisms might include exercise, healthy diets, spending time outside, mindfulness, relaxation, quality time with loved ones or taking time to do things we enjoy.
Likewise, when we are experiencing high stress moments, it is OK to step away from machinery, our phone or other people for short periods of time. This is an example of one healthy coping skill to take care of ourselves in those moments.
There is no shame in seeking support. If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out:
- Contact the Avera Farm and Rural Stress Hotline at 1-800-691-4336.
- Dial 211 to be connected to the Helpline Center for additional resources near your community.
- Call or text 988 anytime to be connected to a professional crisis counselor for free.
The old adage goes, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and deal with it.” Mental health stigma still exists, but how wonderful would life be if we learned to pair our Midwestern resilience with taking care of ourselves and showing others it’s OK to need and accept support? Don’t wait to take care of yourself. Your family, your legacy and you deserve a healthy you.
Curstie Konold, is a certified social worker and outpatient clinical mental health therapist Avera Medical Group Behavioral Health Brookings Clinic. Follow The Prairie Doc at prairiedoc.org.