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Self-care critical for agricultural stress

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The Ag Community Support Initiative, presented by the University of Minnesota Extension, Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center and American Agri-Women, along with Annie’s Project and the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire Foundation hosted a webinar providing information for responding to agriculture-related stress. 

The webinar features Dr. Brenda Mack, who has specialized in providing therapy and crisis response services to a farm community for 21 years, and currently is an assistant professor and the director of field education in social work at the Bemidji State University. 

Mack explains stress is a fact of nature, in which inside or outside forces affect an individual’s emotional or physical well-being. Due to the overabundance of stress in individuals’ lives, stress tends to be a negative experience, she says. 

Building resiliency

“We are in an unexpected, unprecedented time with COVID-19, with the impact heavily on the agricultural community,” Mack continues. “Some of us might be worried about our loved ones with underlying health conditions, worried about our kids who are ready to go back to college or school and what additional expectations or pressures might be on us during these times.” 

Mack shares thinking about people individuals are comfortable with and activities which bring joy help to “fill their cups.” 

“Self-care is a solution to reducing stress and symptoms of burnout – things we see manifest as exhaustion, inefficiency and cynicism,” she says. “Self-care builds resilience and is the thoughtful and mindful engagement in a healthy lifestyle, which builds resilience to endure personal and professional challenges and demands.” 

These activities, Mack notes, are often ignored because of feelings related to other tasks. However, putting self-care tasks on hold is detrimental to dealing with stress and feelings of being overwhelmed.

“It is important to talk about the positive things in our lives and what we are doing to take care of ourselves,” she adds. “By sharing with others, they might give themselves permission to do some self-care practices, also.”

Self-care tips

Mack provides what she calls her “three-legged stool” of self-care to reduce stress. The first leg of the stool is relational. 

“Healthy relationships and connecting with others is critical fuel for resiliency,” she shares. “Often in times of stress, we isolate and detach from others, when research has proven one of the most critical things we can do to deal with stress is to connect with others.” 

She adds, “Just being an unconditionally caring person in a farmer or rancher’s life makes a world of difference.” 

The stool’s second leg is cognitive. Changing negative, self-defeating self-talk into positive and empowering self-talk has the ability to change perspective, especially when developed into a habit and practiced often. 

The third leg is the physical reduction of stress, including eating right and drinking consciously, getting a good night’s rest and exercising. 

“When we pay attention to our physical health, eat healthy foods and drink water, we feel better,” Mack notes. “Getting a good amount of sleep at night helps us to recharge and prepare for the next day.” 

“In farming and ranching, there are a lot of things we don’t have any control over, such as commodity prices, the impact of COVID-19 and weather,” she says. “But, what we do have control over is our thoughts and behaviors and how we approach and react to certain things.” 

Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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