How your emotional awareness affects your mental health
Resilient, tough, capable of meeting any challenge – these are the narratives that producers tend to perpetuate about themselves, explains Dr. Jody Carrington, psychologist, best-selling author and public speaker.
It’s so critically important that we are OK. Our farms will not be OK unless we are OK.
But that doesn’t paint the full picture. The data is clear: the last few years have been stressful for Canadians. Carrington points out that since the beginning of the pandemic, domestic strife is higher and divorce has increased by 30 per cent.
Producers are not immune – and they endure the stress of hard work, long days and fluctuating economies on top of it all.
Carrington knows the unique demands producers face. “We put a big emphasis on how to fix our finances, what we’re growing, what the cattle prices are doing,” she says. But the reality is that the industry is always going to have ups and downs.
“It’s so critically important that we are OK,” Carrington says. “Our farms will not be OK unless we are OK.”
Recognize emotions to help reduce stress
Producers who recognize, acknowledge and address the pressure they’re under are better equipped to take the steps needed to survive and thrive in stressful times.
Emotional awareness, also referred to as “emotional intelligence” is the ability to identify and regulate emotions – and is considered one of the key attributes of successful leaders. This includes emotional literacy, that is, the ability to recognize the nuances of what you’re feeling.
For example, you may feel angry at first, but when you dive deeper, you realize that you’re actually frustrated or anxious.
Producers don’t need to be stalwart beacons of silence through tough times – they need to be equipped with the skills to identify and deal with emotions constructively.
When you’re emotionally aware, you can engage in constructive conflict and work through strong emotions to help in the decision-making process. Leaders with strong emotional awareness can guide their team and their business through adversity – and improve their own mental health in the process.
Learn to communicate your emotions
For farm leaders, Carrington says communication is really where the need is highest.
“We need an emotional language,” she says. Producers need to be able to discuss their challenges and their successes. They need to connect. They need others to lean on. They’ve got to be able to talk it out.
“We have never been this disconnected,” she says – and it’s not just due to the global pandemic.
Over the course of a generation, the industry has undergone a seismic shift in both the boots-on-the-ground management and the day-to-day reality of farm family life.
How farm families function has changed. While today’s producers may well be sending texts rather than sorting out the details at the dinner table, that doesn’t change the need for level-headed thinking and carefully considered communication.
Being mindful of your own emotions — able to identify what it is you are truly feeling — opens the door to those more authentic conversations.
The close-knit nature of farm life may have expanded and evolved, but those same old ties still bind.
“We still base this industry on a handshake,” says Carrington. “We will never automate the importance of looking each other in the eye.” Rekindling that connection is key, explains Carrington.
“When’s the last time you played cards with the neighbours?” she asks. “Let’s do Sunday dinner again. Let’s gather around that fire pit again. That’s what makes agriculture great: the people.”
Building that connection and practicing community may well be the first step in growing your own emotional awareness.
Build emotional awareness into your life and business
Producers who cultivate emotional awareness are better equipped to steer their business through turbulent times.
Self-awareness can help pave the way toward open and honest discussion. Anger and silence don’t solve problems. Paying attention to your emotions, reflecting on your actions and being willing to learn from your mistakes can all set the stage for building self-awareness – which in turn boosts confidence.
From a Rooted in Resilience article by Emily Leeson.