Maybe it’s a workout class, going on a walk or chasing the cows that got out last night. The better shape you’re in, the better you feel and the better you perform.

Shaw rebecca
Brand Manager / Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative
Rebecca Shaw is also the vice president of the Dairy Girl Network Board of Directors. She was for...

Two hundred days ago, I heard about a book called Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. It was everywhere on social media. When I first saw it, I thought, “I am not giving in to some silly hype.” However, that quickly subsided when a mentor told me I needed to drop the attitude and buy it.

Three pages in, and I knew my mentor had been right. This book was good. And exactly what I needed to get out of the unshakable funk I had been in personally and professionally. Was everything fine? Yes, things were actually great at work and at home. Yet I still couldn’t seem to drop this weird, uneasy feeling something wasn’t quite right.

On top of that was guilt, knowing there are people, specifically in the dairy industry, with problems significantly bigger than mine.

While reading Girl, Wash Your Face, my friend Meg, who also read the book, asked me if I was doing the author’s 90-day challenge, which focuses on taking the last 90 days of the year to commit to five major goals. I never officially joined, but I’ve followed along as the challenge progresses.


Meg got my wheels spinning when she summarized the challenge, “Her brutally honest words really resonated with me and gave me the spark to re-engage with my own self-care.” She continued, “The behavior that has made the biggest impact is getting up earlier and taking time for yourself. It’s allowed me to refocus on what’s truly important.”

This was the wake-up call I needed. I realized I was ignoring the importance of my health mentally, physically and nutritionally. My funk was likely tied to my lack of sleep, stress, random workout routines and inconsistent diet. I was also convinced I wasn’t where I should be personally and professionally “at my age.”

This is something that bothered me to a point where it was affecting my happiness and my actions. Not anymore.

I know I’m not the only person not focusing enough on this idea of self-care, so I’m addressing my self-reflection, paired with advice from people who influence me.

Mental health

It’s hard to even type ... but the well-being of farmers is at risk. You can see it on the news or when someone posts another heartbreaking suicide statistic. Your state of mind can determine your happiness, your success at work or your relationships with critical people in your lives.

I’m proud of the light our industry is shining on mental health and the resources organizations are bringing to our producers. Emily Wilmes, extension educator – livestock production systems with University of Minnesota Extension, talks about mental well-being on a weekly radio segment, writes articles and columns about it, tweets about it and covers it at meetings. “I have found being willing to talk about it so openly helps people feel more comfortable with a traditionally uncomfortable topic,” Emily said.

Physical health

I’m not saying you need to run a marathon or even buy a gym membership. I am saying you have get up and get moving. Maybe it’s a workout class, going on a walk or chasing the cows that got out last night. The better shape you’re in, the better you feel and the better you perform.

Take the time to improve yourself. My younger sister inspires me to do something every day. She started a fitness Instagram page (dairygirlfitness) to encourage people to exercise and eat dairy products as part of a healthy lifestyle. She told me, “If you aren’t taking care of yourself, how are you supposed to put 100 percent into what you’re doing?

When things out of my control are going wrong or causing me stress, I know I can at least control how I’m treating myself and how I react to them.” Amen.


The dairy industry spends a lot of time telling people how dairy is a part of a healthy diet, but do we practice the advice we preach? One trick I’m trying to master is packing plenty of healthy snacks for my day. Snacking on string cheese, yogurt and veggies keeps me from getting “hangry” and yelling threats in the Taco Bell drive-through at 3 p.m. Sparkling water has also helped curb my cherry Coke obsession … after a while, you forget how bad it tastes.

Abigail Copenhaver, MS, RDN, CDN, pairs her nutrition education with boots-on-the-ground dairy experience. Abbey and her husband farm in New York, and she competes for Team Chocolate Milk in triathlons and running races. She said, “Never underestimate the importance of self-care. Making healthier food choices, hydrating and exercising regularly all have a positive effect on our mental, emotional and physical health.”

There isn’t a scientific study here. Instead, I simply want you to leave this article feeling inspired by these strong, powerful individuals to do what’s best for you and your health. You have a responsibility – to yourself and to the people who count on you – to be the best version of you.

“I want to shout at the top of my lungs until you know this one great truth: you are in control of your own life!” Preach it, Rachel Hollis.  end mark

Rebecca Shaw