Happy June fellow readers! I hope the crazy month of May has treated you well. It always seems like
May is here and gone in a flash.

As we transition from May into June, I want to reiterate the importance of mental health awareness. I think many people understand and pay attention to the fact that May is mental health awareness month, but then forget the importance of it as soon as the month ends. Mental health never ends. There’s never a certain time of the year where your mental health’s importance is less than. Mental health is important all year round. Every single day of the year.

Generally, most people struggle to focus on their mental health and the acceptance of the issues they are dealing with. Mental health is a touchy subject for too many individuals in today’s society.

Furthermore, it’s even harder for farmers to focus on their mental health. It’s sometimes even difficult having a conversation about it with others. Even if the conversation is baseline.

“Never Enough Time”

People in general will use the phrase “there’s never enough time” as an excuse to dismiss the importance of their mental health; but I hear this excuse a bit more often from those in the agriculture industry. The agriculture industry does have tasking demands. However, the importance of our mental health should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. I understand that many don’t and will never feel this way. There’s always the other excuse of having the needs of their operation come and be tended to before anything else.

Intentionality

Spending time with our loved ones, even during our busiest seasons on the farm takes intentionality. It is okay to take time away from our occupations to focus on our mental health and taking a breather. This pertains to anyone in any occupation, but today I want to focus on farmers, ranchers, and anyone involved in the agriculture industry. Those involved in agriculture don’t exactly have a set time of year where they can take a break and go on vacation. No matter what season, farmers and ranchers put every ounce of effort they have into their operations. Season after season.

During this time, it is common for family and friends to receive less time and attention. Not to say this is intentional, as the occupation holds many tasking needs. There is no doubt that those in ag related families are hit with the backlash of time being taken away as the seasons go by.

Factors that make quality time difficult:

  • long hours in the field, barn, or cab
  • uncontrollable weather
  • lack of sleep
  • lack of time
  • lack of timely meals
  • machinery breakdowns
  • fluctuating values of commodities (grain/livestock)
  • physical strain
  • mental strain

Mental Strain

There is also strain in the farming community, unless you are a large farmer or rancher, most of these people need to get a second job to support their needed income. All whilst trying to support their families.

Due to most farmers striving for perfection in their farming and breeding their cattle or any herd, there is a huge mental strain on farmers, ranchers, and anyone involved in the agriculture industry.

Lack of sleep and lack of timely meals put a mental strain on the farmer/rancher and the family. The family due to taking the backlash from their family member who is so mentally strained. Because of all these mental and physical stressors, it’s even more important to take a break, and spend some time with family and friends. You won’t regret it. Everyone always says, “we have next week, we have next month, we have next year”. Life is short. You just never know when that time is up. You don’t want to look back at your life and think, “I missed out.”, “Where did my life go?”.

Speaking from experience, traveling has become an incredible coping skill. Traveling invigorates me in ways I can only describe as those you’d feel if you were the star in the movie. Every trip I’ve taken, I’ve returned home stronger, wiser, more at ease with the world and my life. Whenever I’m away from home, I don’t feel so much pressure in my chest about my life and the future. I’m exceedingly more present with my surroundings. How we should all be everyday, really. It’s hard leaving home, your family, friends, pets, farm, herd, and ultimately your life for a bit. But just think of it as a little breather. Something I learned quickly through my traveling era is this: everything will be right where you left it when you return.

You can lose relationships over the neglect we show being so immersed in our work. People can eventually give up on you and stop asking you to come to certain occasions. Relationships take work. Yes, you want to make a living and provide for your family but you need to keep working on your relationships as well. At the end of the day, your loved ones are all you have. The most priceless, precious gifts given to us. Don’t take advantage of your life and the time given to us. Whether it’s spending more time at home and with your loved ones or taking your loved ones on a getaway— make time.

No matter what journey you’re one, always remember to give yourself some grace.

Karlee Jo Mertens

Karlee Jo Mertens is born and raised in Milbank, South Dakota. She graduated with an Associates Degree from South Dakota State University, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies and Animal Health. She currently juggles three jobs: veterinary technician, car detailer and assists in embryo transplanting in dairy cows and heifers at the local Dairy. She has a heart for animals, loves to travel, and is a passionate mental health advocate in response to her own mental health journey.

She can be found online at
Website: www.unwellwarriors.com
Facebook: Karlee Jo Mertens 
Instagram: karleeejooo
TikTok: Karlee.mertens

She has also just published her first book “Grippy Sock Vacation”.

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