Harvest Hostility

By Monica McConkey, a Rural Mental Health Specialist at Eyes on the Horizon Consulting. Thank you for contributing these articles each month.

The scenario goes something like this:

Rain clouds are on the horizon. The weather forecast reports chances of rain every day for the next 3 days. You have hay down and are trying to get wheat off. A belt goes on the combine. The implement is closed and there are no spare belts that size in the parts room. It’s as if all forces of nature are coming together to conspire against you. Add to that immediate stress the fact that commodity prices are low, you can’t keep a hired man on the farm to save your soul, and the argument you had with your spouse days ago is not resolved.

This is the perfect storm for Harvest Hostility.

The reality is that during harvest when you are using your equipment, your equipment will break down.  When you are working from sun-up to long past sundown, you are going to be exhausted. Your hired help will not work as hard as you do or care as much. You will feel like you are carrying the weight of past, present, and future on your shoulders all at the same time. Given that reality, it is not a mystery why harvest time is especially stressful and can push people past their ability to cope.

The key is to know and understand the reality of your situation and work to mitigate the stress and damage that can come from anger and frustration getting out of control.

First, make sure you are meeting your basic needs. Drink water, eat regular healthy meals, take medication as prescribed, and get as much sleep as you can. This doesn’t “fix” your stressors, but helps you deal with them more effectively.

Second, focus on what is on your plate now. Reliving past mistakes or questioning past decisions is not helpful. Anticipating future failure in “worst case scenario” thinking is not helpful. Discipline your thinking to remain on what is in front of you and what needs to be dealt with today. Delegate when you can. Trim your to-do list. The way you think and what you think about directly affects your feelings…which directly affects your reaction to those feelings.

Third, keep the rational, problem-solving, prioritizing part of your brain engaged. When you allow emotions to take over, you lose the ability to think clearly and communicate effectively. Take note of when feelings of anger or frustration start creeping in. Immediately account for what thoughts are causing those feelings. Back up and deal with the thoughts. Make a plan. If it’s a breakdown, focus on the repair vs. the rain that is on the way. If it’s raining, focus on the tasks you can get done while harvest is paused vs. feeling anxious over the crop getting wet in the field. Separate out what you can control vs. what you do not have control over.  Focus on the controllables.

Reining in Harvest Hostility is not easy and takes a lot of practice, but you can do it! 

When It’s Hard to Hope

By Monica McConkey, a Rural Mental Health Specialist at Eyes on the Horizon Consulting. Thank you for contributing these articles each month.

Most of us have been there at one time or another, feeling like we can think positive and hold onto hope until “the cows come home” but is it really going to matter? Difficult times in the dairy industry are here once again, and hope for many is dwindling. However, hope is something that we need to dig deep and uncover … even when it is the last thing we feel like doing!

What does finding hope do for us? It helps us hang on. It helps us refocus, problem-solve and re-prioritize. It helps us look at what is going well in our life and all the blessings we have.

Let’s do a little activity right now. Wherever you are, look around and notice all the things that are red. Go ahead … notice the reds.

Ok next, look around you and notice all the blues. Got them?

Now a question – when you were looking for the reds, did you see the blues? Were the blues there? Yes? No?

The answer of, course, is yes the blues were there, but we didn’t see them because we were looking for the reds. This is what happens in life. The difficult things, adversities, stressors, conflicts (the reds) seem to be looming large everywhere we look. And guess what happens? When we are tuned into the reds, we see more and more reds. We anticipate reds. We accept the reds as inevitable.

However, if we focus on the blues (what we are thankful for, what we accomplished, what is within our control), we will see more and more blues. Reds will still pop up, no question about that! But we don’t have to let the reds rule our lives. We can deal with the reds as we need to and go on focusing on the blues.

This, of course, is an exercise in controlling our thoughts and our mindset. Our mindset determines how we feel and how we deal with adversity. Our mindset determines holding on to hope. It is hard to have hope over the things outside of our control (like weather and milk prices), but we can have hope around the things that are within our control like the quality of our relationships, taking a problem-solving approach to things that cause stress, taking care of ourselves physically, nurturing our spiritual beliefs, and finding joy in life.

This is my encouragement to you to hold onto hope and focus on the blues instead of the reds!