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Well-being relies on physical, mental and emotional health

Quick facts

  • The strains of the economy, family and health can make it hard for those working in agriculture. 
  • Physical health includes getting enough sleep at night, eating balanced meals and staying active.
  • Mental health refers to your ability to process information.
  • Emotional health is how you express feelings based on the information you have processed.

Many farmers across the country have felt the strain of low commodity prices, high debt loads and high interest rates. The ups and downs of the agricultural economy often burdens farmers with a long list of stressors.

Now more than ever, it is critical that we think about and discuss the need for mental well-being in farming and across agriculture as a whole.

Balancing physical, mental and emotional health

Think of you and your overall well-being as a three-legged stool. The seat represents you and the legs represent your physical, mental and emotional health.

  • Physical health is the general well-being of your body: sleeping 7-9 hours each night, eating balanced meals and snacks and being active.
  • Mental health and emotional health can be a little tricky to tell apart but think of them as a tag team. Mental health refers to your ability to process information.
  • Emotional health refers to your ability to express feelings that are based upon the information you have processed.

We need to attend to all three legs equally in order to ensure we are properly supported. If you neglect one area, imagine cutting an inch off of one of the legs. You’ll still be upright, but it will be uncomfortable and more difficult to support.

Mental health vs. mental illness

It is important to understand the differences between mental health and mental illness. As we have learned more about our brains, we have shifted from an old narrative that mental illness is a character flaw and that mental health was optional. The new narrative focuses on the interconnectedness of mental, physical and emotional health and the ways our mental health is impacted by fear, trauma, chronic stress and where we live, learn, work and play.

Mental health and mental illness are two separate phenomena, but they do intersect. It’s possible to have a mental illness and still be mentally healthy by managing your symptoms and practicing self-care.

Find more support for farmers and mental health resources.

Author: Emily Krekelberg, Extension farm safety and health educator

Reviewed in 2021

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