Sue Peart, a Samaritans volunteer, shares some helpful tips and ideas on how to support your mental health and well-being.
Looking after your mental health is important. For people living in rural communities, such as farmers and those working in agricultural and allied industries, good mental health support and connecting with others before crisis point can be life-changing.
Tips for looking after mental health
Mental health is as important as physical
Farm life tends to be quite physical; you need to be physically strong to be a farmer. Mental strength is harder to measure, but you need that too. In the same way as your physical strength can sometimes suffer, like when you’re ill or under the weather, your mental health can too, for example when you’re going through a difficult life event. We all know that we need to take care of our physical health, but we need to look after our mental health too.
Take time for you
Before an emotion spirals out of control, check in with it and pay it some attention. Allow yourself time to understand why you feel like you do. Sit in the feeling for a couple of minutes, breathe, and ask yourself: ‘What am I feeling?’ Sometimes, when you focus on a feeling and look it in the eye, it puts it into perspective. It no longer has quite such a firm hold over you. You might find you can continue your day alongside the feeling, and instead of it controlling you and stopping you being effective, it is simply there – because you allow it to be.
Check in on yourself
Take a few minutes every day to check in with your mental health. You could think of it as a daily test of your mental health temperature. Is this a good day? Did you wake up feeling optimistic and looking forward to the day ahead? Or did you wake up feeling anxious, with the world looking very grey? If it’s the latter, take real care of yourself as the day progresses. Work through the essential tasks at your own pace, and take time in between to rest, have a hot drink, and allow yourself time to think. Breathe deeply, and try to clear your mind. Think of times you were happy, and how you might get to that place again.
What to do if you're struggling to cope
If you’re struggling with difficult thoughts and emotions, or feeling isolated, don’t try to battle on alone, reach out to someone. Think about who there may be in your family or friendship group or community who you feel you can open up to. Ring them up for a chat, or suggest meeting for coffee or a drink. Many people find it hard to talk about their feelings, but you might be surprised how receptive people can be when it comes to supporting you, and how much it helps just to talk about what’s going on for you. And you can ring Samaritans. It’s free, and there’ll always be someone there to listen and support you.
Try to engage with how you're feeling
Our tendency is to push down, resist and even fight difficult feelings. Try to view them differently, as something that is normal to human beings and something that countless people experience. Instead of seeing them as the enemy and something to fear, try to engage with them. Remember it’s not a weakness to experience difficult feelings; it is simply human.
Make self-care part of your routine
Think about anything you particularly enjoy that offers you calm and solace. A walk with the dog, maybe. Reading the children their bedtime story. Listening to music. Anything that offers you a chance for your mind to calm, for you to rebalance, and spend some time with your own thoughts. Try to build that time into your everyday life.