Don’t look now, but harvest is creeping up around the corner. It’s almost here.
All agriculturalists and rural residents know the routine, but not all know the stress and struggle behind it.
Many of those who live off the land have not had an encouraging year. The flooding, tariffs, and farm closures over the past year have been brutal. It has destroyed fields and livelihoods alike. Corn and soybean prices are down, and there are fears of a corn yield that will outweigh demand. For a while, it seemed like the misfortune would only continue.
However, any farmer will tell you the same thing Connor Frame of Lore City, Ohio, said, “We are at the mercy of global and economic factors.”
When it comes down to it, as much as we, as farmers and humans, can control, there is twice as much we can’t.
With commodity prices being as they are, the long days and nights, production impacts due to flooding in much of the Midwest, and uncertainty, the toll that harvest can take on a person’s mental health is immense. Not to forget the pressure that comes when you see your neighbors begin to cut soybeans.
The stress involved with this time of year is not something to be played down. That is not the message here. Please, do not take this as condescending or tone-deaf, but as it is intended: A hard truth that is meant to be helpful and reasonable.
To be upfront, there is little honor and responsibility in preventing yourself from being a productive, healthy person by not getting help when it is needed. A strong person who values themselves, their family, and their friends admits to needing a hand, and gets it.
Don’t feel guilty for doing what’s best for you.
Not all mental health problems require professional intervention. It may be easier to try adopting some at-home techniques for handling stressful days and nights. Here are a few popular options to deal with stress in a healthy way:
1. Use some honey (about 2 tablespoons) and an egg-white mixed together to make a face mask. Apply the mixture to your face with your fingers, or a brush if you feel fancy. Leave it on for 15 minutes, but stay still. The mixture is no fun to get out of clothes. After 15 minutes, gently wash it off with warm water. The honey will open up and clean your pores, while the egg whites firm up your skin.
2. If you are a religious person, pray to the deity of your choice. Religion offers a comfortable space and allows us to release worries to a higher power. There are some things we just can’t have control over, number one being the weather. The good news is, there is no wrong way to pray. You can pray in a tractor cab, parking lot, or barn, at the dinner table, or in line at the grain elevator. You can pray for five seconds or five hours. It is whatever you need it to be.
3. If you are not religious, or don’t feel like praying, try meditation. Sit down somewhere quiet, focus on one thing that makes you happy, like the sound of a creek, close your eyes, and let your mind stop spinning. In stressful situations, it can be difficult to take a step back, but that is exactly what you need to do. By moving away for a few moments, you can gain a new perspective and come to a new conclusion.
4. Do something that you enjoy every day. No exceptions or excuses. If that means you watch a movie or play a game on your phone, do it. If that means singing along with the radio obnoxiously in the tractor cab, then do it. Don’t stop doing things you enjoy; make them a priority.
5. Assuming that you enjoy kids, spend some time playing with them. Ask about their days and learn about their interests. It might be a look inside your memories from childhood, when your biggest issue was different toys not getting along with each other. If you don’t have kids or know anyone with kids, volunteer at the local library or your church. Libraries typically have reading times and churches have Bible schools.
6. Eat some chocolate. Like you need a reason?
7. Once you’re done with the chocolate, eat healthy snacks. Chocolate is a great start, but it can’t be the only thing you eat. As great as Little Debbie snacks and Coca-Colas are, they will only help your mood for a short while. The sugar rush is not a long-term solution. High-protein foods such as jerky and nuts give elongated energy, while fruits can give you a quick burst. When your body feels good, your mind feels good.
8. Engage with animals. Seriously. Find a friendly barn cat and pet it. Run with the herding dog. Let the cows give you a sniff. Humans and animals have lived together for centuries for a good reason: We benefit each other. Farms are unique workplaces in the fact that animals are typically abundant, unlike most working conditions.
9. Phone a friend. Call someone who you know and trust. If the conversation drifts to issues you are experiencing, that’s fine. If it stays on sports or town news, that’s fine too. Just by talking with another person who can feel your pain, you are releasing some of that energy.
10. Find your mantra and repeat it 10 times. It can be anything you want, the only rule is that it has to end positively, or make you laugh. Examples include: This too shall pass; Let that sh*t go; Jesus take the wheel.
Jessy Woodworth is a graduate of The Ohio State University, where she studied agricultural communication and animal sciences.