This R U OK? day pick up the phone or drop in on a neighbour who might be doing it tough
R U OK? day is held in Australia annually to mark world suicide prevention day. It is a day for all of us to band together and reflect on our own mental health, as well as those around us. This year we want to emphasise the importance of being brave enough to start those tricky conversations that are easy to shy away from.
A whirlwind year for all of us, 2020 has brought with it the stress of drought, flood, fire, and now of all things, global pandemic. It is more important than ever that we reach out to our mates and check in on how they are really doing.
Rural men are twice as likely to take their lives than their mates in the city. With this in mind, we want to encourage everyone to take the time this week to pick up the phone, or pop over to a neighbours house and check in. Simple conversations really can save lives.
We understand, perhaps more than most as a result of being lucky enough to work alongside so many of you, that farmers are a tough breed of people. They live for the land, do what they love, and love what they do. It takes a lot of courage to talk about your mental health, so this year the team at AgriWebb are leading by example and sharing what we do to maintain a positive mindset.
Over the years the focus on my mental health hasn’t always been at the forefront of my mind. However working from home, lockdowns and social isolation has certainly thrown a spanner in the works; as I’m sure it has for a lot of people right now! Personally, when I’m struggling, I love to call my friends and family and just have a chat.
I also find going for a walk, reading a good book or simply eating a tasty snack can really boost my mood and help me re-centre myself. At the end of the day when you’re feeling down or stressed finding something that allows you to relax and re-focus on whats important is key.
I ensure I connect daily with at least 2-3 things that raise my energy whether that be spending time with my daughter, going for a little walk around the block, or something completely random that sits outside of the grind.
It may seem small or obvious to do these things, but I have personally found the days I don’t are the tougher ones and so I have ritualised this process to support myself mentally as much as possible!
It’s not a ‘bad thing’ to not feel ok. Mental health remains a neglected subject despite amazing support networks out there that can help each and every one of us – it’s ok to not be ok – especially with the way the world is placed at the moment!
A book I aim to read every year – ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle is a great reminder of the importance of staying present; I’m desperately trying to not think (and therefore worry) too far into the future or indeed the past – it’s amazing when you stop thinking what you can appreciate & enjoy in the here and now. A terrible but ever-true phrase – ‘control the controllables’.
Everyday I try to get some good sleep (not always possible with a one year old!), exercise & eat/drink well – there is no doubt they all contribute to a positive mindset. But if I don’t quite get there and the thinking begins – I do all I can to stay in the present.
Since we’ve all been at home, it’s really easy to fall into the habit of constantly working. We have a young family, so I make sure that time with the kids is real time with the kids – the phone is in another room and I’m fully focused on them. That time is really precious to me, so I really try hard to be present with them, engage with them, and see the world through their eyes. It has also been important to completely switch off, whether it’s getting out for a bike ride, listening to music or binging a TV series with my wife helps me slow down a bit.
It’s also important for me to think of family and friends who might be in a more isolated situation than I am. My dad passed away a few years ago, so I call my mum every few days to see how she’s going and get the latest gossip.
That’s a really important connection and also helps me step back from the details of my work and family life to remember there’s still a world out there.
Maintaining a balance in the ‘whole of life’ is an effective way to stay positive and content for me. Connecting with family and friends regularly for a chat on the phone or face to face is the most important. Never underestimate the power of laughter and connecting with somebody else even for a brief moment. I spend 20-30 minutes a day doing some exercise to get the endorphins and energy flowing. Remember that this is different to physical work throughout the day and if you can pull off both you’ll be better for it.
Each day I meditate using the Headspace app as well – it’s not your traditional view of meditation and has a simple focus on breathing and being in the moment to put space between all the thinking that we do. I face day to day challenges with a bit more calm and perspective having done this for some time now.
Research has found that our mental health is directly linked to our gut health and the food we eat. Eating fresh food – meat, fruit and veg has a positive effect for me. Don’t get me wrong I love a good burger and chips – but I stay aware of the foods that don’t sit well with me and avoid them where I can. Simply having awareness of things like this has shown me patterns in my physical and mental health and I try to adjust these to lean towards the positive outcomes.
Getting into the habit of small practices is perhaps the biggest challenge, but it’s possible and the reward is worth it. I’d recommend having a read of the book Atomic Habits for some helpful advice on how to start building these habits.
This year I’ve created space in the early morning to maintain my mental health – usually jumping in the ocean, running or cycling – as the dawn fills me with gratitude and positivity. I’ve found the challenge of learning a new skill incredibly therapeutic; having started ocean swimming lessons during lockdown, I’ve progressed from a sort of structured drowning to a more confident freestyle which has been very rewarding! I find yoga releases a lot of physical and mental tension, creating space to observe my thoughts so that they don’t fully absorb me. I’m also trying to be a little kinder to myself, for example, thanking my mistakes for what they’ve taught me rather than beating myself up or rewarding myself with non-edible treats to avoid sugar slumps or coffee lows!
Finally – “a problem shared is a problem halved” – I am lucky to be able to share my thoughts with close friends who listen, give me a new perspective or simply make me laugh.
What works for you when times are getting tough? Feel free to leave a comment below.