• A Mental Health Focus in Trying Times

May 29, 2020

Guest Post by Linda Emanuel of AgriSafe

“Welcome Back”…familiar words we are longing to hear during these historical times. Our agricultural ancestors faced uncertainty in lands that were not certain to produce. Yet, hardy, and full of grit, they prevailed through natural disasters, the Spanish flu, the depression, and civil unrest. 

Your personal Total Farmer Health© requires attention to the health of both your mind and body.  AgriSafe and partners throughout the country are working hard to reduce the stress that farmers, ranchers and farmworkers experience.  However, in times like today, in the midst of a pandemic, it is impossible to remove all stress.  The focus must be on coping with stress and recognizing in yourself or others, when it is time to ask for help.

LISTEN IN to a FarmHer episode focusing on Mental Health

Be kind to yourself and gracious of others

We are not our best selves during uncertain and stressful times.   Anxiety and depression rates rise when normal patterns of living abruptly change.  Recognize that individuals previously suffering from anxiety and depression may experience an exacerbation of mental illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1, fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Keep an eye out for the functioning of others

Be mindful that excessive amounts of stress and depression can lead to hopelessness, despair and suicidal thoughts- perhaps even a suicide attempt.  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or local authorities for assistance

Brain health influences our physical health

Prolonged stress and/or chronic stress may present in the following symptoms: frequent headaches, high blood pressure, nausea, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain, and exhaustion.  Diabetes and heart disease are linked to chronic stress.  Be aware of these signals and consult your physician or local health care provider.

We know that rural communities face unique challenges to access mental health care.  Now, add in the expectation of social distancing.  Tele-mental health is a suitable solution and many states have adjusted regulations for practice and reimbursement of mental health services.   Check with your health care provider if tele-mental health options exist.

Yoga instructor Adrienne Mishler2 reminds us how physical exercise-moving our bodies routinely to increase heart rate has repeatedly shown to boost our brain health.  Even better is to exercise outside in nature. Full belly breath inhales and elongated exhales along with the sun on our faces can provide a natural high.  Yoga is a remarkable exercise suited for all levels and body types.  A variety of free online classes are offered via the AgriSafe YouTube channel.

Trailblazing pioneers used letter writing to connect.  You can stay connected to your loved ones who may be elderly with a handwritten letter.  Some rural communities have brought back cruise night and the drive-in movie theaters, albeit on a barn or screen, all the while social distancing.

Personally, I have learned tips for managing stress from professionals such as Heidi Liss Radunovich, PhD. Licensed Psychologist 3.  Dr. Radunvoich believes that during this pause we can seek what is positive, and let go of that which we can’t control.

True, we have been asked to step away from the “herd” to protect it.   Seize this time to explore and look for the everyday miracles.  Your healthy resilient zone will provide the courage needed to face the unknown, the uncertainty. We will gather once again savoring the warmth and companionship of our people, our communities.

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