Changing how you are wired to handle stress is extremely hard, but it’s possible with focus and time, said Athena Diesch-Chham, a clinical veterinary social worker at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine during an Iowa Swine Day webinar. Take these steps.
1. Recognize your own stress and your stress response type. There are three main ways people respond to stress: hot reactors (explode in the moment), sustainers (go and go and go until they can’t anymore) and the resilient (lower reactivity and healthy daily habits).
2. Normalize help seeking. Push past canned answers and really listen and find out how your friends are doing. Wait for a real response – don’t let people think they can just say “I’m fine” all the time.
3. Do some digging. Find people in the community who are educated in rural mental health. There is a need to train mental health professionals about the challenges of the rural lifestyle.
4. Recognize when you are too far gone to help and get it for yourself. You can’t pull anyone else out of the river if are in, too. We need to get to the place where we are all more emotionally healthy and can encourage and support our friends and colleagues to do the same.
5. Recognize what you can control and what you can’t. There are a lot of things that we perceive we have control over that we don’t. We can control our reactions, emotions and communication. We can’t control what anybody else brings to the table.
6. Recognize what we should and shouldn’t be carrying with us. We tend to make assumptions what people say is always a reflection of us. It’s often not. We shouldn’t be carrying around those extra things that weren’t meant to be ours to carry.
7. Breathe. Take a deep breath and watch how it impacts the people around you. When we become more present in ourselves, stress starts to come down. Breathing is one of the easiest things we can do to handle stress. When we think about it, we tend to do it better.
Try This: BRAIN Tool
B-Breathe. Breathe deeply 5 times, releasing the air slowly.
R-Relax. Tell yourself to relax either out loud or internally. Notice where there is tension in your body and work on releasing that tension.
A-Ask. Ask yourself what you need or want to feel. Focus this on the internal and what you can have impact on versus external which you may not be able to change.
I-Imagine. Imagine feeling what you identified in ASK.
N-Now. Now check in with yourself again, how do you feel now?
Source: Michigan Farm Stress Program