Not long ago, I did something I never thought I would do: I publicly admitted I needed to step back from The Farmer’s Daughter USA to focus on my mental health and wellbeing. It took me weeks of agonizing over whether I should do it before I finally felt comfortable (er, comfortable-ish) hitting publish. It was all a bit surreal because I saw all the things falling apart around me — not answering emails, ignoring comments, a loss of interest and passion — yet I couldn’t admit to myself that I was burnt out.
As so many of my readers know, I underwent surgery and chemotherapy in 2020. By the time I finished my last chemo cycle in November, I was physically run down. My body needed time to heal, and everyone told me to give it that time. Of course, I didn’t. I cringe about it now, but I wasn’t so kind to myself.
The entire next year felt like a series of failures; I wasn’t doing enough, being enough, creating enough, working enough, or living enough. Only now that I finally feel like me do I realize just how sick I was.
Knowing a lot of farmers like I do, I know I’m not the only one in this community who needs a reminder to be kind to yourself. I once heard someone call it “capitalism internalized.” It’s a mindset where you feel guilty for resting. You place productivity before health. You believe that hard work equals happiness. You feel lazy for reacting to trauma, pain, or adversity. And, ultimately, your self worth is valued by your success, hard work, and productivity.
I distinctly remember rolling my eyes the first time I heard it. It felt like another opportunity to complain about an economic system that’s resulted in unparalleled prosperity. But the idea has some merit. We aren’t required to work nonstop. We need to take time to relax and enjoy our lives. And sometimes we need a break. Most importantly, our self worth isn’t determined solely by how long and hard we work, what we accomplish, or what we achieve.
Agriculture is the perfect breeding ground for this way of thinking. When your lifestyle, family, and career are all rolled into a neat package, it can be hard to slow down and separate. But it’s so important for our mental health, physical health, and overall well being.
I would encourage you to use this holiday season to practice shutting down the voices telling you that you need to be working more. Instead focus on the things that bring you joy, that inspire you, and that allow you to step away from the craziness in this world. I promise you that inflation, low commodity prices, and expensive inputs will still be around when you get back to work. There will always be more to do, more to worry about, and more things that require your attention.
As for me, I’ve enjoyed the past few weeks. I’ve focused my work-free time on being a fur mom, seeing my family, and resting. I’m starting to feel better and — gasp — I’ve even dusted off the old treadmill. Of course, mental health isn’t something that you just magically achieve overnight and never have to worry about again. But I’m cutting myself slack, working through things on my own time, and working on self-kindness.
The Farmer’s Daughter USA will return. I’m actually excited about jumping back in, creating new content, and indulging my creativity again. I want to speak out on policies and issues that matter to farmers. I want to hold companies accountable. And I want to share the story of American agriculture.
More importantly, I want to find a way to do it while also taking care of me. I hope you’ll consider doing the same. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.