The magic wand of mental health

Although there is no “mental health magic wand,” there are a number of ways to help support your overall mental health.

Two people standing and sitting near puzzle pieces on the floor.
Photo: Pexels/Mikhail Nilov.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a mental health magic wand that removed all the stress in your life? A magic wand would be helpful because, as outlined by Hans Selye in his 2013 book titled “Stress in Health and Disease,” stress (especially chronically elevated stress) or distress, can cause physical, emotional and behavioral health problems.

  • Physical symptoms of distress can include headaches, digestive problems, dizziness, muscle tension, backaches and high blood pressure.
  • Emotional symptoms may include feeling anxious, angry, sad or hopeless and may lead to depression or other mental health conditions.
  • Often, people experiencing distress try to manage it with unhealthy behaviors, like smoking, drinking or gambling. Distress can also disrupt normal sleeping and eating.

The reality is that there is no such thing as a “magic wand” which can remove all the distress from your life. Fortunately, there are many tools and resources that have been shown to improve mental health. A great first step would be to learn to recognize your unique signs and symptoms of stress. This may include any of the physical, emotional and behavioral problems listed above, like changes in eating or sleeping habits. If you find yourself eating a large pizza for breakfast, especially if this is not a normal habit for you, then you may be experiencing distress. Journaling or anything that helps you become consciously or mindfully aware of your daily behaviors may help you recognize signs of stress. What do you do when you first wake up? What habits follow breakfast or before bedtime? Recognizing and watching your own physical and mental health, and the health of individuals you interact with, is an important part of managing stress.

Several strategies may be useful to you if you are experiencing distress. Results from a randomized controlled trial conducted in 2020 with German farmers indicate multiple stress-reduction strategies, like exercising, meditating and speaking with a mental health professional, can improve well-being. Naming what you can and cannot control may also help you manage your stress. None of the above strategies are as effortless as a magic wand. Like the time, energy and commitment it takes to be an agriculture producer, it takes a similar investment to manage your stress, which will help you live a healthier and more fulfilled life.

Opportunities to connect

Michigan State University Extension’s many resources and information on farm stress can be found at the Managing Farm Stress website. This includes access to the teletherapy pilot project MSU Extension Teletherapy and free online farm stress training Rural Resilience: Farm Stress Training. There you will find descriptions of programs such as Communicating with Farmers Under Stress and Weathering the Storm, as well as other articles, projects, and resources. Learning self-awareness, signs and symptoms of stress, mental illness and suicide can better enable the farming community to support each other during trying times.

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