The COVID-19 pandemic has quickly disrupted daily life around the world. With school, work and personal routines replaced with unpredictability and uncertainty, mental health has quickly become a top concern in the wake of the pandemic.
Psychologist Pierrette Desrosiers, who specializes in working with farmers on their mental health, spoke with Dairy Farmers of Canada to offer her advice to farmers on maintaining mental health during COVID-19.
“The most important problem for farmers, of course, would be the overload of work,” explained Desrosiers. Running a farm is already a huge responsibility and with the recent changes many people now have children at home, spouses out of work or working from home, a lack of employees on the farm, an increase in health and safety protocols to manage, and a great deal of uncertainty about the future.
Facing these challenges, Desrosiers advocates for a proactive approach to manage stress by maintaining clear priorities and caring for yourself first.
“When you know what you stand for it’s easier to make decisions,” she explains. Collectively we are facing a new reality which brings a new perspective to our normal life. It’s an opportunity to reassess our values in life and adjust our priorities accordingly. Putting this advice into practice starts with small actions. Desrosiers suggests two steps to begin this process every morning:
- Take 10 minutes to stop, breathe and reflect on your current reality and your personal values. Based on this reflection, readjust your priorities to align with those concepts. Events such as COVID-19 may force some important pieces of our lives to shift and we must respond accordingly.
- Create a standing meeting with your family and another meeting with your employees or partners every morning. A five-minute check in reassures others, defines leadership, opens room for dialogue, and ensures everyone is operating with the same information.
“When we can take control over some of our environment it helps to decrease anxiety,” explains Desrosiers. By forcing yourself to do a personal inventory of values and priorities you can recognize where you may be falling off track.
But, managing your priorities does not necessarily mean your workload will be easy to accomplish. She recommends caring for yourself first if you want to be able to take care of your family and your business. Much like flattening the COVID-19 curve, small actions can have a large impact on your mental health: Care for your body, care for your mind, limit unhealthy coping or unnecessary stress, and lastly, practice gratitude.
Finally, Desrosiers stresses that we must look out for each other. Physical, emotional, cognitive or behavioral changes are all signs of distress, and those affected often do not recognize these changes in themselves. We must rely on each other now more than ever.
Source: Dairy Farmers of Canada