We are all feeling the impacts of living in a world gripped by many problems. At times, nothing feels normal or right anymore. We stumble through days of managing a farm, taking care of our family and keeping it all together. How is this happening? It can feel like a lot. It is a lot. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed by it all. It’s OK to feel like you’re barely making it. Each of us handles stress and anxiety differently, but it should all circle back to the same thing: self-care.

Krekelberg emily
Extension Educator – Farm Safety and Health / University of Minnesota Extension

I have long been an advocate for self-care. Now, with the unique challenges our world faces, it is more important than ever. You may be wondering, “What is self-care, anyway?” Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately to take care of our physical, mental and emotional health. Sleeping is self-care. Talking to a friend on the phone is self-care. Sounds easy, right? Self-care is – in fact – easy, and it can improve your mood and reduce anxiety. Self-care is more than a singular event; it is a set of practices that you do routinely. Self-care should be intentional.

Think of yourself and your overall well-being as a three-legged stool. The seat represents you and the legs represent your physical, mental and emotional health. We need to attend to all three legs equally to ensure we are properly supported. How do we do this? Self-care! The cool thing about self-care is: A single action can positively impact all three areas of your health. For me, that’s going to the gym. It is good for my body, it allows me to clear my mind, and as a result, I can express myself properly.

Here are some self-care strategies I encourage you to try; hopefully, you’re already doing some of them.

  • Sleep seven to nine hours every night
  • Eat well-balanced meals and snacks (carbs, protein and fats)
  • Be physically active for at least 10 minutes a day (outside of farm work)
  • Hobbies (cooking, hunting, reading, writing, etc.)
  • Connect with your social network
  • Deep breathing
  • Reflection – five good things that happened today, three things you’re grateful for, etc.
  • Positive mindset
  • Talk to a trusted friend, member of your faith community or a mental health professional

Are you feeling like you can’t do this? I often hear the excuse, “I don’t have time for that kind of stuff.” With all due respect, I disagree. Here are five quick “swaps” you can make to integrate self-care easily into your busy schedule.

  1. Instead of bringing pop and a candy bar along for a snack, try a protein bar with either water or chocolate milk.
  2. Instead of losing your temper when something goes wrong, try taking three deep breaths.
  3. Instead of staying up late looking at the weather radar, try being screen-free when you get in the house and getting some extra sleep.
  4. Instead of sitting during your lunch break, try going for a quick walk.
  5. Instead of spending the entire day alone, try inviting a friend or family member to join you for a few hours.

The most important thing to remember is that self-care is not selfish. Taking time to take care of yourself is crucial to your well-being. You can’t pour from an empty cup; you aren’t able to give 100% to others if you’re at 0%. Make yourself a priority. Create a great day.