As a very proud Michigan State Spartan living in Indiana, basketball is my favorite sport to watch — especially during March Madness. I’ve been known to scream “rebound” and “defense” loudly, even in public settings. The best teams work together to play their style of ball, and for the Spartans, that’s run and gun — move fast and shoot often, with solid rebounding at both ends of the court. When they allow someone else to control the game, they lose.
How does that apply to your life? Do you train and try to make the most of your skills, putting yourself in a more winning position? And when you allow others call the shots, is it a losing proposition? Letting external factors control the pace of your life, whether it’s planting, work, or your business, can create a whole lot of stress, especially if you don’t have the right team in place to help.
Consider who you have on your team and the roles that need to be filled. It’s different for everyone — Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James all needed different types of teams supporting them. Likewise, I need a different support team than my neighbor.
I’ve curated a lot of different resources on my Cause Matters site, to try to help the people of agriculture build their support team.
Who do you need on your team when it comes to your mental well-being?
- Medical doctors
- Social workers
- Counselors and therapists
- Crisis support specialists
- Family members
- Substance abuse professionals
- Certified peer specialists
- Close friends
- Faith leaders
- Peer groups
Dr. Carrie Telgen, DVM, talked with me about her mental health journey and the importance of having a support team. She turned to virtual counseling when she found herself in a state of depression and apathy after facing personal and professional challenges. She realizes now that she experienced suicidal thoughts during her darkest days.
She realized she had a problem and needed help. She called around to local therapists in her rural community but didn’t find options that she needed.
As a person of faith, she was embarrassed and ashamed to talk to her pastor. “There’s still this stigma around mental health,” she said, “and if I were to go to a local therapist, everyone would recognize my vet truck parked there. It’s embarrassing.”
Telgen found faithfulcounseling.com, a faith-based counseling service, and signed up to work with a virtual counselor. She found at-home “on my couch” counseling to work best for her, recovered from depression, and overcame the apathy that haunted her.
“You need to make sure you are matched with the right therapist. Don’t be afraid to change and find the right match for you,” she said.
FindaTherapist.com and Talkspace.com are additional sites often recommended to help find professional counseling.
Beyond seeking professional help to maintain mental wellness, many people turn to external factors for their support team. For me, it’s time in the barn with our cattle, bike riding with my husband, or talking with a close friend. Many people point to their pets or getting outside on long walks as stress relievers.
- “Never underestimate the value of touching the dirt, mud, grass with both feet bare and flat on the ground. Taking a walk, sitting in the sun, going to the gym … my gym girls are my posse!” said Tracy Snider.
- A former Michigan farmer pointed out, “After leaving a farm job and not feeding/caring for livestock for over a year, I recently got chickens. I find ‘doing chores’ helps me de-stress after working the day job.”
- An Extension educator in North Dakota, Sarah Bedgar, talks about the power of community; she points to other 4-H or show moms as key players on her support team. She also says, “Goats, or whatever animal may be therapeutic to you. They don’t talk back but they sure listen well.”
Whether you’re in high school, college, or a 4-H mom — who can you find that shares similar life experiences and will be present to listen to you talk through challenges?
Emily Mohn-Nalevanko, an EMT in Minnesota, sums it up well. “Self-care and mindfulness is easier said than done. The beautiful thing is they mean different things and look differently for everyone. It’s the one place where you can let go of “standards” because it’s just … you.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, also recommends these resources.
As you move through different chapters of life, you’ll find a need for different support players and mental wellness training. Don’t be afraid to make the changes to your team when you need to. And if you’re a rockstar post player, find a shooting guard — because posts are going to get banged around and will need to let the guards step up and lead. Because the reality is that you can’t lead your entire life and everyone needs a support crew.
My point is that there is no singular answer for how to play the game of life. No two people will have the same team supporting them — and that’s OK. Just work to have your team in place and remember to turn to them to better deal with life’s stress.
Michele Payn helps the people of agriculture have the tough conversations about managing stress, connecting with consumers, and making sense of science through her speaking and writing. Learn more at causematters.com or follow @mpaynspeaker on social media.