Every Farmer Struggles
Self-Care & Wellness for Farmers
There are a lot of things in life that people should just know, right? For example, it blows my mind that some people think brown cows give chocolate milk. Also, how is it possible that anyone believes cows have more of an impact on the environment than the billions of cars, trains, trucks, and airplanes in the world. To me, those things feel like common sense. Just like it seems like common sense that you should know when you’re feeling depressed, right? Who would know better than you? From personal experience, I can tell you that it’s harder than you think. Everyone has bad days. Having a bad day does not mean you’re depressed but having a lot of bad days can lead to more than just feeling bad.
The agricultural community is living in unprecedented times. We can no longer afford to live in our own little bubble and not worry about the eyes of the world around us. We have to be environmentalists, marketers, and public relations specialists on top of the title farmer. We must be able to explain and defend what we do to consumers, organizations, and politicians in a way that they can understand and, hopefully, support. Tack all of that onto an already near impossible job and another topic comes to light: mental health. If you’re not sure what mental health is, basically, it’s how you feel. Unfortunately, the phrase mental health has become so stigmatized that most people refuse to talk about it. It’s time for that to end.
An important thing to remember is that mental health is not mental illness. We’re so afraid of others judging us or proclaiming us ‘crazy’ that we won’t even acknowledge when we’re struggling mentally. But guys, we all struggle mentally. Every single one of us. How we cope with those struggles is where we differ. Our mental health isn’t that different from our physical health. If you eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep, most people can keep their physical health in check and avoid getting sick. Well, apply the same idea to your mental health. Keeping your mental health in check could help you avoid becoming depressed, anxious, or even suicidal.
How you keep your mental health in check looks different for everyone. For example, I know that I need to do a major check in with myself when I don’t notice the silence. Music is a big part of my life; I listen to it constantly. When I go through an entire milking without connecting to my Bluetooth speaker, I’m not ok. Realizing and admitting that is a big step in working through it. Working through your struggles also looks different for everyone. The best advice I can give, as a non-professional who has and does struggle with her own mental health, is to get it out. Say it out loud. Find a friend, family member, notebook, or your empty car and just get it out. Even if you know the person listening can’t help you or that no one will ever read what you write, just get it out. I video journal. I find a quiet place and video myself talking about it. Somehow, seeing and hearing myself say what I’m feeling out loud can genuinely help me work through what’s bothering me.
Asking for help is hard. But not everyone can work through their feelings alone. Not everyone can make it through the darkness without medication. And, unfortunately, not everyone is strong enough to admit that. We tend to think that asking for help makes us weak. We think that admitting that we’re struggling with day-to-day life means we’re failing. We need to stop that. Life is hard. We’re all struggling in our own way with our own problems. Just because it looks like your neighbor is struggling with bigger issues, doesn’t mean your struggles aren’t valid. Knowing you have a problem and admitting that you can’t face it alone is one of the bravest things you can do. Make that phone call. Make that call for you. You are worth it. I was.
Written by: Jess Peters
Jessica Peters is a 5th generation dairy farmer from Pennsylvania where she owns and operates Spruce Row Farm with her parents and brother.
To help our customers cope, Farm Credit of the Virginias has sponsored a Member Assistance Program that offers the resources you and your family might need to address personal or work-related challenges. Resources made available through the member Assistance Program & Work-life Services include:
- Assessment and counseling
- Legal services
- Financial services
A Focus on Well-Being - PDF Resource Guide