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The right mindset isn’t just something you can set and forget. Farmers that choose to pursue soil health in their practices have changed how they view their relationship and impact on the soil. This mindset has to be maintained continuously over time. That goes for soil health, but it also goes for mental health as well. That’s the topic for today’s episode. Uncertainty, which is par for the course in agriculture, can really amplify stress and anxiety. Add on to that the desire to try new practices and a challenging economic environment, and you have a recipe for a very high stress environment.
Monica McConkey is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and rural mental health specialist with Eyes on the Horizon Consulting. Her main contract is with the farm business management program in Minnesota. This is a legislatively funded position involved with mental health outreach for farmers and farm families throughout the state. She meets with farmers several times per week helping them with the unique stressors that farmers face. Monica grew up on a farm and understands farming.
“Farmers are faced with so many uncontrollables, uncertainties and unknowns any of which can ultimately determine success or failure in their operation….That really affects mental health in the sense that they can work and work and plan and put in effort and at the end of the day, it’s something outside of their control that’s impacting them.” – Monica McConkey
Isolation, family dynamics and access to mental health care are additional pressures felt by rural communities. Oftentimes, these stressors are minimized as part of the agriculture experience. Monica recommends paying attention to those closest with you and if they have mentioned that “they are worried about you” or “you don’t seem the same as before” then perhaps it is time to reach out for help. Generally others will notice it about their peers before they can identify it in themselves. Disruption of baseline functioning in habits such as sleep, panic attacks, or interruptions in being able to do what you need to are all red flags for a struggling mental health.
“Our farmers are dealing with chronic stress, years of difficult commodity prices and some regulatory issues that some have dealt with. It’s just a difficult time. So it’s not like the changes happen overnight. It’s been years of accumulating stress that has caused them to be more isolating.” – Monica McConkey
Monica encourages her producers to focus on four main areas of their lives including physical health, mental health, social health and spiritual health. Making sure these core basics are being addressed and maintained first will improve overall functioning. Focusing on sleep and diet habits, having a support system, being more aware of your thoughts and the impact they have on your behavior, and fostering your beliefs will help build a foundation for support and self-care.
“So if there’s lessons to learn from the past or mistakes or regrets, take those lessons, but then you need to move in one direction and that’s forward. And there’s no easy trick for doing that. It is really intentional thinking.” – Monica McConkey
This Week on Soil Sense:
- Meet Monica McConkey, a rural mental health specialist with Eyes on the Horizon Consulting
- Discover how rural mental health presents its own unique challenges
- Explore the different ways intentional thinking can affect your day to day functioning
- Learn about how to find resources in your community and reach out if you think you might benefit from some additional help
Connect with Soil Sense:
Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.