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March 31, 2020

Take Care of Yourself First

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

There’s a lot of advice circulating about how you as a farm business owner and employer need to step up to keep your employees healthy, informed, motivated and productive.

But that’s of little help if you, yourself, are feeling overwhelmed by the current COVID-19 crisis, coming on the heels of almost 5 years of low prices, labor shortages and constant stress.

A recent article in the Harvard Review by authors Tony Schwartz and Emily Pines offers some prudent advice that boils down to: Take care of yourself first. You won’t and can’t be of much use to yourself, your family or your employees if you are not physically and emotionally well.

Staying well and staying on top of your emotions is no easy task. You first have to understand that you are dealing with two contagions—the COVID-19 virus itself and the emotional reactions that it generates in your mind and body.

“Fatigue, fear and panic undermine our ability to think clearly and creatively, manage our relationships effectively, focus attention on the right priorities, and make smart, informed choices,” they say.

But here are few things you can do:

• First, understand that we each are dealing with different versions of our selves. The first is the overwhelmed self. It is the most defenseless, vulnerable and childlike part of our personalities. The second is our adult self, which like a parent, tries to sooth and reassure our overwhelmed self. And the third is our survival self, which rushes to our defense and acts reactively, impulsively and haphazardly.

“We can’t change what we don’t notice, so the first step is becoming more aware of what we’re feeling at any given moment…. Simply naming our feelings gives us more distance from them, especially when they’re intensively negative,” they say.

• The second step is to calm yourself. “A simple but powerful way is to use your breath,” they say. “By breathing in through your nose to a count of three and out through your mouth to a count of six, it’s possible to clear your bloodstream of cortisol—the most pernicious stress hormone—in as little as one minute,” they say. Movement can also be helpful, like a burst of jumping jacks or running up and down stairs.

• Third, once you feel calmer, you are better able to reflect and act as your adult self. “By putting our adult self back in charge, it’s possible to move from an enveloping experience of anxiety and fear, to a calmer place in which we’re able to hold and contain our most vulnerable self, so it no longer feels overwhelmed,” they say.

Take three minutes and read the full article here.