Imagine that your home and farm— the essence of your work and family– were all destroyed by a tornado. This was the reality that Rebecca Simon and her family faced and had to find their way through. They are not alone, countless farmers have had to overcome devastating losses, injuries, and traumas.

Farmers are, undoubtedly, resilient folks! However, research by Andria Jones-Bitton and colleagues (2019) found that the average resilience scores of the farmers in their study were lower than the general population.[1] This might be due to our culture that values working hard and pushing through. However, it is most likely a result of constant demands and chronic stress. This same study found that nearly half of the farmers reported experiencing high stress and chronic stress trains our brains to be on constant alert for more problems and difficulties, which lowers our resiliency.[2][3]

What do you do to build your resilience in the face of adversity? For Rebecca, she said that her family:

“took it one day at a time, focused on the positives (we survived, things can be replaced, we have insurance, etc.) and relied heavily on faith and prayer”.

She also described how the support of their friends, family and community helped tremendously.

Journalist and author, Amanda Ripley (2008) describes resilience beautifully and accurately:

“Resilience is a precious skill. People who have it have three advantages: a belief they can influence life events, a tendency to find meaning and purpose in life’s turmoil, and a conviction they can learn from positive and negative experiences.”[4]

We can enhance our own resilience skills by responding to hardships with the following strategies.

1. Having a balanced and compassionate perspective that allows us to non-judgmentally assess the situation and recognize what is and is not in our control. Blame and self-criticism zaps needed resources for healing and recovery.

2. Trusting in ourselves and in our faith (if it applies) to recover and adapt. Resistance and denial are natural reactions, but they create more suffering. Learning to accept the situation as it is will be painful, but also allows you to focus on how to grieve, process and eventually move forward.

3. Connecting with others for support and recognizing you’re not alone in these experiences. Sometimes when we’re hurting, we may feel inclined to withdraw, shut down or ‘do it alone’, but this too aggravates the adversity.

Resilience skills can be cultivated through practice and intention and are best done with the help of trusted others. Visit the National Farmer Mental Alliance resources page for more information on programs and online tools to help with coping and connection.

Big thank you to @rebeccasimon for sharing her story and wisdom.

[1] Jones-Bitton, A., Best, C., MacTavish, J., Fleming, S., & Hoy, S. (2019). Stress, anxiety, depression, and resilience in Canadian Farmers. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 55, 229-236. Read more on mental health research on farmers by the AJB Research team.

[2] Jones-Bitton, A., Best, C., MacTavish, J., Fleming, S., & Hoy, S. (2019). Stress, anxiety, depression, and resilience in Canadian Farmers. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 55, 229-236.

[3] O’Conner Professional Group. (2007). Stress and Resiliency Part 1: A Physiological Point of View. Retrieved June 20, 2022 from https://oconnorpg.com/blog/stress-resiliency-part-1-physiological-point-view/

[4] Ripley, A. (2009). The Unthinkable: Who survives when disaster strikes- and why. Harmony. Read more of her writing on resilience on her website.

In addition to helping farmers connect with psychotherapists that are culturally competent and experienced in agriculture, we also offer comprehensive Mental Health Strategy support options for organizations and Agriculture Informed Therapy (AIT) training for psychotherapists servicing rural areas.
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