Let’s just admit it: 2020 has been a real challenge. It all seemed to happen right around the time when we reset clocks in mid-March. Now, as we prepare for the end of daylight saving time in early November, and after recently spending some valuable time away, I’ve found a renewed energy, positive perspective and several new memories that will keep me focused. 
I take pride in a strong work ethic. Being raised on the farm, vacation was a novel concept because there was always work that had to be done. But I made a promise to a friend two years ago to really “unhook” and I’m glad I did. Doing so can provide a different perceptive on what is important in your life, helping you recognize priorities. 
This year after my pause, I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the abundance in my professional and personal life. I’m grateful that unhooking allowed me to spend quality uninterrupted time with people I care about, many of whom are involved in agriculture. I was able to see life through their eyes and experience a new routine different than my own. 
Visiting my farming families (safely social distanced of course), preparing harvest suppers, picking up supplies and building on the foundation of fellowship that has lasted decades was valuable. Our conversations were deep as we shared successes, frustrations, hopes and struggles. Our friendships were enriched and I was reminded of how important these relationships are to me. 
Life can be a real rollercoaster ride and offers plenty of heart-skipping adrenalin. In times of high anxiety, the challenge is to provide balance during the ride, gaining a different perspective as you hang on for the deep lows and treasure the exhilarating highs. The mind stores great memories, but when faced with continual challenges, people can sometimes lose sight of the good times and become suffocated with hopelessness that can crush the human spirit.
That dark cloud can be ominous and terrifying. Pausing, taking a break and stepping away to spend time with people important to you or doing something you enjoy can often provide the perspective you need. Some people will mask their struggle or pain, but there are signs if you know what to look for. Examples include disconnecting from normal activities or attendance at events, a once-tidy farm or home becoming unkempt, neglect of personal health or lack of care for living beings, missing routine commitments, loss of faith and talk of despair. Or there could be no signs at all.
When people are paralyzed with fear it can help to know that someone is concerned, willing to listen, able to offer hope and can point them towards help. You don’t need to be the expert, but you can show empathy and compassion by asking how things are going. If they don’t respond, share your concerns with a family member. 
Check out a powerful special program about rural mental health featured on RFD-TV and additional resources at http://farmstateofmind.org. Active on social media? Follow the hashtags #agmentalhealthweek (Oct. 10-16) and #farmstateofmind to learn more and join this important conversation. 
Robin Kinney is senior director, member engagement at the American Farm Bureau Federation

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