Prairie Doc Perspective Week of June 18th, 2023
Coping with the “out of our control” reality of Agriculture
By Curstie Konold, MPH, CSW, QMHP
Marrying a farm kid has shown me the immense amount of pride in being part of the Ag community. It is prevalent that the agricultural profession, while rewarding, is challenging. Running big dollar operations that are both physically and mentally demanding creates some serious strain on our mental health. Whether it’s a co-op employee spraying chemicals or spreading fertilizer for 70+ hours a week or a farmer during planting or harvest, the demand never truly stops.
In my practice I talk a lot about focusing on what is within our control. I can control the way I cope in a situation, but I cannot control how someone else chooses to cope. Likewise, I can control my choices on what products I utilize in my operation, but some things are simply out of my control, like grain and livestock prices, or the unpredictable weather of the Midwest. The livelihood of Ag operations and families balances on influences out of our control. We are forced to leave many factors up to chance, and that creates a lot of pressure.
When we focus on things out of our control, we can start to experience negative mental health impacts. During times of stress, our body releases hormones to help regulate our stress responses. We experience toxic stress when our body is constantly releasing stress hormones into our body, which can create negative effects on our health. Starting in childhood and throughout our life, we learn mechanisms to help ourselves cope during stressful experiences.
In Agriculture there are many things outside of our control. So, what can we control? We can control how we choose to take care of ourselves and whether we use healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress. Healthy mechanisms might include exercise, healthy diets, spending time outside, mindfulness, relaxation, quality time with loved ones, or taking time to do things we enjoy. Likewise, when we are experiencing high stress moments, it is okay to step away from machinery, our phone, or other people for short periods of time. This is an example of one healthy coping skill to take care of ourselves in those moments.
There is no shame in seeking support. If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out:
Curstie Konold, MPH, CSW, QMHP is the Outpatient Clinical Mental Health Therapist Avera Medical Group Behavioral Health Brookings Clinic