Have you ever felt ‘blah,’ neither good nor bad, just lacking in passion and motivation? Then you might have experienced something called languishing. Imagine that mental wellness exists on a spectrum: on one end is the state of ‘flourishing or thriving,’ the middle is ‘doing a-okay’ followed by languishing, and on the opposite end is mental illness or suffering. 

As a psychotherapist and a farmer’s wife, I’ve witnessed the unrelenting demands and challenges farmers’ face daily and understand how it contributes to feeling anxious, stressed, and depressed. However, sometimes the impact of these pressures can be more subtle: you go through the motions of the work but lose your motivation and passion. This usually happens slowly and can be the result of the work being demanding of your resources and draining of your tenacity. While you can’t control many of the challenges of farming, you can help improve your mental well-being.

Psychologist, Adam Grant, defines languishing as the subtle, but damaging state of ‘joylessness,’ ‘stagnation and emptiness’ and an overall ‘absence of well-being’1. If you’re in this state, you’re not alone and you’re not stuck. Grant suggests that the solution to languishing can be found in ‘mastery,’ ‘mindfulness’ and ‘mattering’2. All three are inherent in farming and can be nurtured in yourself and in your relationships.

Mastery is experienced when you have the skills, knowledge and/or experience to succeed at a challenging task. You might experience this at the end of a prosperous harvest or calving season. However, mastery can also be discovered in ‘small (but significant) wins’3 such as getting the tractor unstuck, helping a lamb survive a complicated birth, or selling grain when the market is up. You can gain the most psychological benefit when you take notice of your progress- big and small! Consider reflecting on the ‘wins’ of the day. When farming is feeling out of control, engage in a different mastery task, such as stacking blocks with your toddler, walking an extra kilometre, or volunteering to help at a community event.

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment. In farming it’s easy to worry about the past (‘should I have got a new header for the combine’?) or the future (‘what if the rain doesn’t let up’?), which is understandable given that learning from the past and preparing for the future are critical for success. However, your mind needs a break from the constant flow of thoughts and be allowed to fully engage in the task at hand. The next time you’re in the tractor or barn, turn off your phone and focus your mind on the present moment.

Mattering is the recognition that the work and the things you fill your life with hold meaning and purpose. Farmers feed the world– it is one of the hardest and most important jobs. To reconnect with the ‘mattering,’ remind yourself of why you went into farming, focus on the people that appreciate and value your hard work, and allow yourself time to invest in off-farm activities and interests. 

Improving your well-being starts with recognizing where you are on the ‘mental wellness spectrum’ and focusing on the ‘wins,’ the present moment, and remembering that the work, and most importantly, YOU matter. You don’t have to do this alone! Connect with your people and check out our resources section for agriculture supports.

Carrie Pollard, MSW RSW is the co-founder of the National Farmer Mental Health Alliance, wife of a grain farmer, mother of five, and owner of Flourish with Compassion Psychotherapy.

  1. Grant, A. (2021). There’s a name for the blah you’re feeling: It’s called languishing. The New York Times, retrieved March 2023 from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html
  2. Grant, A. How to stop languishing and how to start finding flow. Retrieved February 2023 from https://www.ted.com/talks/adam_grant_how_to_stop_languishing_and_start_finding_flow
  3. Grant, A. How to stop languishing and how to start finding flow. Retrieved February 2023 from https://www.ted.com/talks/adam_grant_how_to_stop_languishing_and_start_finding_flow
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🌱🤝As you may have noticed, on our social media, April is National Volunteer Month! A big shoutout to all the volunteers supporting farmers' mental health and well-being. Your efforts make a difference, helping to cultivate resilience and community in agriculture. Let's continue to grow together and support one an#NationalVolunteerMonthn#farmersmentalhealthn#communitysupporti#nfmhalliancem#nationalfarmersmentalhealthalliancet#nfmhan#farmermentalhealthn#agmorethaneverr#AgMentalHealthntalhealth ... See MoreSee Less
Grande Prairie’s Resource Centre for Suicide Prevention and Northwestern Polytechnic’s office of Applied Research & Innovation are hosting a Mental Health Summit on May 6th & 7th! We are honoured to be leading some workshops at this summit:-Protecting Your Greatest Assets -Leadership (Becoming a level 5 leader/ Team Building and Morale Boosting)-Farm Succession and CommunicationWe would love to meet you there!@sprevent @northwestern_polytechnic#nfmha #nfmhalliance#farmersupportfarmers #farmstrong #farmermentalhealth #farmerwellness #agmentalhealth #farmfamily #agmorethanever #ruralrooted #ruralwellbeing #therapistsofinstagram #socialworkersofinstagram #supportoneanother ... See MoreSee Less
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