Sometimes health can fall low on our list of priorities as professionals dealing with all the stress of the real world while navigating our seasonal work and market conditions.
Ignoring health can create bigger problems, though. With COVID-19, people have sometimes forgotten about or avoided their basic care, leading to “collateral” diseases like advanced infections or heart disease. Even before the pandemic though, there has been a major area of wellness that people have long avoided addressing: mental wellness.
In natural resources, the subject of mental health can have negative connotations. Words like “weak” or “not tough enough” come up often. We in agriculture have a tendency to keep ‘toughing’ it out and to tell people around us to suck it up and keep going.
The problem with this attitude is that all of us have limits.
Sometimes toughing it out is not possible. We as humans have a large range of “normal” states of mental health. One day we can be happy-go-lucky or not have a care and the next we can be stressed out and lethargic. Feeling tired and overwhelmed in times of stress can be completely normal, but they can also be signs of mental fatigue and illness when they don’t improve. It is important that we accept the fact that our mental state is as important and in or out of our control as much as an illness such as the flu. Unfortunately, dismissing mental health and good habits can make us less likely to recognize a problem and ask for help.
I for one went through a time in my life when my mental health was not as good as it could have been. I would wake up with anxiety, I would want to nap all the time, and had a hard time focusing on tasks. My wife noticed these issues before I did. She discussed them with me and let me know it was okay to be struggling. We discussed my physical state (I was out of shape) and other issues related to my health like blood pressure and diet. She encouraged me to talk with my doctor about it, but I was embarrassed and didn’t want to discuss these personal issues with a stranger. However, with my wife’s support and encouragement, I did sit down with my doctor and work through all those problems.
To make a long story short, my doctor helped me work out a plan to address both my mental health issue (depression) and my physical issues. This has led to a long-lasting relationship with my doctor that opens the door for me to discuss issues with her well before I end up in a bad place physically or mentally.
My point in telling this story is to highlight how my wife helped me identify the issues I was unwilling to admit to myself. Now in my life I try to pay attention to others around me, be that family members, employees or co workers. I have never had to call a mental health line for someone, but I have given people the opportunity to discuss stress in their lives. If I had to reach out for someone I would, I could call my county health administration and ask for resources they have available to help the specific person I was worried about.
Many times people are just experiencing life. Knowing people care and will help can give them the strength they need.
So, please remember we are all going through some sort of struggle and that doesn’t make us weak or soft. Knowing people are there for us and being there for each other is where it starts.
Oregon Aglink President