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Self-Care, Mental Health, and Taking a Half-Day Off

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By Keba M Hitzeman | Feb 24, 2020

As a woman who is very driven to get all of the jobs done, period, end of story, it’s been a tough challenge for me to accept that (1) I’m not getting any younger, (2) my body is reminding me of that every day in a myriad of ways, and (3) I just can’t keep up this pace forever. I tend to work until I can’t, crash for several days (or longer, sometimes), then pick myself up and wade back into the fray. Rinse and repeat.

Well, I’m tired of the “crash days” – I literally can’t get any work done those days because I’ve pushed myself too hard and too far. The answer? Not a vacation in the socially accepted view of that word. I can’t get anyone to watch the farm and the animals, and I really don’t want to go anywhere for an extended period. Maybe that means I’ve made that life that I don’t want a vacation from? Whatever the reason, more than a day away from the farm is problematic and more stress than I want to deal with (a close parallel to teaching here – it was easier to teach while sick, because getting together sub plans and dealing with the aftermath of being out of my classroom was simply awful.).

How about a day trip? Great idea in theory, until I got to thinking about it. Most of the places I would day-trip to are a good couple of hours away, effectively shooting half the day before I even get started. Plus, those places are materialistic-based, and that’s not where I am anymore. To me, spending the day shopping sounds more torturous than relaxing!

Enter my dear husband, who is effectively a mind-reader and can usually determine what it is that I truly want, even when I’m saying, “yeah, I want to go antiquing all day for a vacation.” His solution? Just take the morning off – get some breakfast, a fancy coffee, hit the used bookstore, check out the downtown stores, and come home when you’re ready.

I have a master’s degree and didn’t think of that.

And yes, that is what I wanted to do, and that’s where I am right now. Drove to the county seat, got a lovely breakfast from the local bakery downtown, now sipping on my fancy coffee, writing, and watching the people go by. May get a second because it’s delicious. Going to stop by the candy store because they have the British-made gummies that I love. Circle around to the used bookstore. Get a greasy cheeseburger and a cherry Coke (real cherry syrup and crushed ice, folks!) at one of the best local burger places I know.

Why an entire post dedicated to a few hours away from the farm? The mental health of farmers has been in the news. Dairy farmers losing their contracts, awful crop years all over the country, the daily and general stress of this way of life we have chosen. In my circle of farmer friends, many are in debt, some are working jobs off the farm to bring in some regular cash, others are unable to get reliable help, all are concerned about climate change and crop production, and the list goes on. We’re worried, we’re scared, and many people (sometimes including our non-farming families and friends) don’t understand.

Friends, we all need to take care of ourselves, however that manifests for you. Take those few hours – go fishing, go shopping, buy that fancy meal or coffee, write, paint, draw, get a massage, meet a friend, sit quietly in the woods. Whatever that “thing” is that you always want to do more of, but put off doing. Don’t wait until your body shuts down because your mind has been overwhelmed by the challenges of the job that you do. The dollars those hours may cost is worth not being sick in bed for days or longer, or heaven forbid, a hospital stay. Is it going to fix whatever stressors are swirling? Doubtful. But just maybe it will provide a recharge for your mind and body.

I’ll have been gone for maybe 4-5 hours, but I’m already feeling more relaxed than when I left the farm this morning. That could be the stuffed french toast and coffee talking, but if it works, I’m going to run with it. Apparently, I need to run with it a bit more often than I have been. I can’t care for my family, my animals, or my farm, if I don’t keep myself in good working order. I had forgotten that, but now I remember, and you can remember, too. Work as hard as you can, and care for yourself as hard as you can – if you’re caring for yourself, you can care for others even better.

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