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5 webinars to help you put it together and keep it together

Somula Schwoeppe for Progressive Dairy Published on 19 July 2019

As farmers, we face challenges and feel stress every day. It is when it becomes unrelenting and overwhelming we begin to experience negative side effects. Dairy farmers are some of the smartest, most innovative, problem-solving, optimistic people in the world. It is good to take a moment to be reminded of this fact.

When you have some windshield time, use the opportunity to do a bit of self care and listen to one or all of the webinars in the “Cultivating Resiliency” series. 

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1. Impact of Farming and Ranching Stress

Not all stress works against you, and positive stress can be incredibly motivating and work for you to accomplish projects and tasks on time. Feeling pressure can positively motivate you to organize and work efficiently. In this webinar, Brenda Mack reminds us stress can work against us. Feeling overwhelmed, having difficulty sleeping or eating, or when we begin to feel anxious and on edge, our ability to function can be affected. When we feel depleted, defeated, sad or depressed, we start to see the impact of stress on our overall health and well-being.

As we try to manage self care, it is all about learning how to deal with the stressors in our lives. Shauna Reitmeier notes consistently remaining in a heightened state of stress, a constant fight-or-flight mode, the hormone cortisol is released into the body and creates negative health impacts when people are trying to manage their self care.

2. Self-Care Tips to Help Reduce Stress

In this webinar, Reitmeier challenges listeners: “How do we impact all three legs of the stool because they are so interconnected with each other? When stress is overwhelming, and our stool gets wobbly, we have to ask ourselves: ‘Is it me and my self-care, or is it the ground underneath my stool that is unstable?’” Controlling the controllables ensures a stable foundation. When things are out of our control, such as commodity prices, politics or the weather, our foundations become shaky, and it is time to reach out to our support systems for help with stabilization. If we don’t have support systems in place – if one of the social, emotional or physical components of our stool are missing – Reitmeier suggests maybe it is time to move the stool to a new foundation.

The three legs of the self-care stool are interrelated:

1. Social

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Healthy relationships and connections to others. Humans are herd animals; we are not meant to function without others. There are better outcomes in reducing stress and increasing happiness when you connect with others rather than isolating yourself. Connecting with others varies from person to person; consider both introverts and extroverts.

Social media should not be substituted for personal interaction and may have an unhealthy effect. Comparing yourself to others may lower your self-love and self-compassion.

2. Emotional

Change negative, self-defeating talk to positive, optimistic, compassionate, hopeful and realistic self-talk. Throughout the day, say out loud three kind, compassionate, positive self-statements. Before you go to bed at night, write down three good things that happened during the day. Remember who and what you are grateful for.

3. Physical

Exercise has great benefits for mental health; it releases endorphins that make you feel happy. Sleep in a cool room, limit screen time before bed, and make your bedroom a restful sanctuary. Deep breaths are relaxing; consciously pay attention to your breath and fill your diaphragm to ensure you are getting oxygen so you can think, process ideas and make decisions. Healthy eating, drinking water, and paying attention to what you are putting into your body for food will make you feel better.

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3. You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup – How Do You Fill It Up to Support Yourself and Others?

Our goal is to move from the chaotic feeling of being overwhelmed by stress to feelings of peace and calm to create a sense of well-being. In this webinar, Mack reminds us organized decision-making processes help us manage our thoughts and create a sense of well-being. By asking ourselves questions such as, “What do I have to do?” “What high-risk items need to be accomplished?” and “What is the low-hanging fruit I can easily check off the list?” we can get ourselves organized and accustomed to using the following decision-making process:

  • Identify the decision; problem-solve.

  • Gather information, facts and values.

  • Identify options; weigh the risks.

  • Weigh the evidence.

  • Choose options; there may be multiple.

  • Take action; use an action plan.

  • Review the decision.

4. Building and Maintaining Relationships in Stressful Times

In this webinar, Reitmeier challenges us to be mindful of our relationships and be mindful of the people in our lives who give us positive energy. Being mindful about fostering relationships is like a flower garden, and when you fertilize and water your garden, you benefit from the abundance of a beautiful flower garden and a beautiful friendship.

Relationships provide strength to our self-care stool from a social and emotional standpoint. Healthy relationships that are aligned to your values and rooted in strong communication and shared values create a safe place to interact. Both Reitmeier and Mack state relationships are two-way streets and emphasize the importance of active listening by paying attention, making eye contact, showing your attention through body language, providing feedback, deferring judgement and responding appropriately.

Mack encourages working discussions because some people are intimidated by face-to-face communication, and they are more comfortable having difficult discussions while walking or working side by side. She encourages people to read The 5 Love Languages; The secret to love that lasts by Gary Chapman. People are comfortable with different types of communication and respond to one another differently. She concludes that no matter which way you choose to engage, knowing the way your partner responds and connects with you will help open the door for conversation.

5. Increasing Your Joy and Happiness While Living a Farm Life

In this webinar, Mack focuses on joy and happiness. She did not discount the hardships we are currently experiencing in farming and ranching; the goal is to provide suggestions and strategies to build happiness and joy in our lives by:

  • Think less; feel more
  • Frown less; smile more
  • Judge less; accept more
  • Watch less, do more
  • Complain less; appreciate more
  • Fear less; love more

Mack reminds, “If there is only one take-away from this webinar series, remember: Connection and relationship with other people is instrumental in helping you deal with stress to overcome your emotional pain. We are all biologically hardwired to connect with other people. There are better outcomes in reducing stress and increasing happiness when we connect with others and do not isolate ourselves. You don’t have to go out to dinner and be around a lot of people. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, remember who the people are in your lives who help to energize you, unconditionally care for you, build you up on a difficult day and celebrate with you when you have something exciting to share.”  end mark

Somula Schwoeppe
  • Somula Schwoeppe

  • Dairy Producer and Freelance Writer
  • Huntingburg, Indiana

‘Cultivating Resiliency’

“Cultivating Resiliency” webinars provide a wealth of tools and resources to help control your stress levels. The recorded sessions are 45 to 60 minutes long with an additional 30 minutes of questions and answers at the end. The webinars, along with downloadable handouts, are available 24-7 free of charge after registering at The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH) website (Cultivating resiliency webinars).

The webinars were created for farmers and by farmers through a joint partnership of the American-Agri Women, Minnesota Agri-Women’s District 11 and the University of Minnesota Extension Women in Ag Network. With over 20 years’ experience in behavioral healthcare, and their lifetime experience in agriculture, the presenters are equipped with awareness and insight into the unique challenges farming presents.

Shauna Reitmeier, MSW, currently serves as CEO of the Northwestern Mental Health Center. Brenda Mack is a behavioral health and human services trainer and presenter and works as an assistant professor in the social work department at Bemidji State University. Both have extensive education and experience providing mental health and crisis response services to the farm community, are actively involved on their families’ farms and are passionate about increasing access to mental health services for our nation’s farmers.

Serving as project co-leaders and facilitators of the webinars, Doris Mold and Megan Roberts created a team which has worked hard to develop programming to weather stress and deliver tangible help specifically tailored to farmers and agriculturalists. These women grew up either milking cows or working in the fields during harvest and experienced all the joys and stressors of the lifestyle of agriculture. Their love of serving community inspired them to create this project to put tools into the hands of farmers and enable them to cultivate their resiliency to stress in agriculture.

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