Prioritize your health during challenging situations

Basic self-care, awareness of stress responses and reaching out to others all key for dealing with difficult times

Cynthia Beck speaks about chronic stress and health during a webinar hosted by the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

When faced with a crisis, prioritizing your physical and mental well-being is extremely important.

“You are the number-one piece of machinery on your farm,” says Cynthia Beck, cow-calf producer at Milestone, Sask. and clinical psychology masters’ candidate at the University of Regina.

Practicing self-care is vital, Beck explained during a recent Canadian Cattlemen’s Association webinar on mental well-being during a crisis. Her definition of self-care includes ensuring that you are well-hydrated, eating nutritious foods regularly and getting enough sleep. She recommends listening to your body when you need rest and movement, as well as disconnecting from the news and social media at least an hour before bed.

In addition to basic self-care, Beck offered several suggestions for taking care of your mental well-being in stressful situations:

Find your identity beyond agriculture

When we worry about the possibility of losing our farms, Beck explains, part of that stress relates to how we tie our identity and self-worth to agriculture.

“We lack self-identity outside of our farm, and I know that a lot of people have a really hard time when I talk about this because we’ve been taught for generations or centuries that we are the farm and the farm is us,” she says, stressing the importance of finding interests outside of agriculture.

“In today’s day and age, the farm is a business. It’s your chosen profession, and at some point, I encourage you to learn who you are outside of farming.”

Be aware of how you act in stressful situations

Understanding what triggers your stress response and how you cope with those situations is important for finding healthier ways to react.

“If sorting cattle with your in-laws always leaves you raging and angry at the end of the day, okay, there’s your trigger. If you know that going in, you can prepare yourself for that, and there will be a different outcome,” says Beck.

“A lot of times when we’re experiencing high rates of stress, we take that stress out on the family, friends, hired hands.” This is an opportunity to step back and be aware of how you’re behaving and then choose differently.

Focus on the facts

“If you’ve ever muttered the phrase, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t take this anymore, I’m a failure, I’m a terrible farmer, I’m going to lose the farm, I’m not smart enough' — those are all lies,” says Beck.

Focusing on the worst-case scenario means that you’re not seeing the whole situation. “It probably isn’t an imminent fact, and you have many other steps to go through and solutions and strategies to use before you get to that point. So stick to the facts because it helps you regulate your emotions.”

Seek support

Remind yourself who you can turn to in difficult times, and be proactive in contacting your personal support system when you’re feeling overwhelmed. “If you recognize that you are struggling and that you would benefit from some additional support, get out there and contact that additional support,” says Beck.

She also encourages producers to reach out to others who may need support as well. Something as simple as sending a text to say you’re thinking of someone and ask how they’re doing can make a difference in getting through difficult times.

“When you feel like quitting, remember why you started,” she says. “You got into farming for a reason. It takes an incredible amount of knowledge for you to have come as far as you’ve come, so please keep that in mind.”

For mental health resources and support, see the following:

For more content related to drought management visit The Dry Times, where you can find a collection of stories from our family of publications as well as links to external resources to support your decisions through these difficult times.

About the author

Field editor

Piper Whelan

Piper Whelan is a field editor with Canadian Cattlemen. She grew up on a purebred, Maine-Anjou ranch near Irricana, Alta., and previously wrote for Top Stock, Western Horse Review, and various beef breed publications.



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