COVID-19 is doing a number on both urban and rural communities — the fear of the virus, the implications when/if a family member gets sick, the loss of jobs or economic stability, worries about the future, the added stress of trying to maintain a full-time job while homeschooling big kids, babysitting toddlers, and dealing with calving season (during inclement weather for many) — it’s a lot to handle.
Without question, families across America will battle some tough times and make some hard decisions in the weeks and months ahead. I could give you my sob story about how this virus has impacted our family, but chances are you’re going through something similar or worse, so I’ll save you the pity party.
Instead, what I would like to focus on in the days to come are messages of hope, resources to cope and ideas for how to navigate the new routines that working families are getting adjusted to.
If you’ve missed my previous posts, which offer words of encouragement in such challenging times, check out the following:
- COVID-19: Our kids are watching how we respond. What are they learning?
- COVID-19: Communities rallying together while social distancing
- Americans shine during COVID-19 pandemic
- Social distancing? Check out these kid-friendly resources/activities
- Scenes from the ranch offer calm amidst the coronavirus chaos
Also, see the entire BEEF team’s coverage of the COVID-19 crisis, which includes helpful articles and resources, by clicking here.
Today, I had the chance to visit with fellow ranch mom, Amber Smith, about habits we can adopt to help us deal with the emotional toll of COVID-19. Smith is the Women in Ranching program manager for the Western Landowners Alliance and lives and works on the Antelope Springs Ranch in Cohagen, Mont. She is currently working at home full-time while also homeschooling her two children, ages 7 and 9.
Smith shared some tips with me that I think we could all incorporate into our daily routines. Here are her five tips to help families, both rural and urban, during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond:
1. Have a purpose every day.
“Find a purpose for every day that makes you feel good,” she says. “Make it big like re-organizing the garage. Make it small like spending an extra 10 minutes with the kids reading or playing a game. Whatever makes you hit the pillow content — prioritize it!”
This is a great tip, and one I’ve been focusing on as well. My husband recently made a bookshelf for me, and I’ve found some comfort in organizing some of my favorite books that have been collecting dust in storage. Additionally, it’s been rewarding to explore the many free educational tools online, and the kids and I are having fun discovering these new resources together.
Even on days where it feels like I’m spinning my wheels, taking a step away from my computer to tackle a house project or focus on my kids truly makes all the difference for me!
2. Spend focused time doing something that absorbs you.
“If you love to read, exercise, cook or work on your long-term business plan, do whatever fills you with joy and keeps you out of your own head. Do it, even just a little bit, every day.”
This one can be tough, especially when all of a sudden your free time away from your job is spent homeschooling, picking up messes, washing dishes, doing laundry and trying to keep your sanity. However, she makes a great point here. Find something that you can pour your heart and soul into, and just focus on that for a while.
For me, it’s spring calving season around here, and while the cold, snow and ice we’ve had in the last 48 hours hasn’t been fun, doing hard, physical work outside in the fresh air has been a great way to relieve stress and get away from the panicky news reports on the TV.
3. Set a timer to focus on things you don’t love to do.
Hate washing dishes? Despise cleaning the bathroom? Get frustrated with the muddy boots in your entry way?
Smith says, “For the things you don’t love to do but must be done, set a timer for 20 minutes and tackle that task. Once the timer is done, call it quits and do some more tomorrow.”
My strategy in this category is to tackle these tough jobs just before bed. A quick pickup that includes loading the dishwasher or the clothes dryer means I’ll wake up to a clean, reset house and be able to jump right into important tasks in the morning.
4. Practice gratitude.
In stressful times, it can be easy to focus on the negative. Smith says we need to find something to be thankful for each and every single day.
She says, “Every day, even if it feels like a day from hell, verbalize to someone what you are grateful for. Or if you'd rather, keep a gratitude journal and write down at least three things that you are grateful for each day. This little activity has the immense promise of changing your life.”
I recently bought a prayer journal, and even if I’m hitting the pillows completely exhausted and overwhelmed at the end of the day, I take the time to read just one page and write down my prayers and intentions for that day. It really helps me prioritize what truly matters, and it also seems to make my worries appear just a little bit smaller and more manageable than I think.
5. Ask for help.
Don’t despair alone. Find someone to talk to when things get really hard. Let’s face it — ranchers are being impacted greatly by this situation, and the struggles we may soon face might seem insurmountable.
Smith says, “If things don't seem right — if you’re not able to sleep, are overly tired, have little appetite and are anxious — find help. There are loads of great people who have the skills to help you via a phone call session or even via your computer. Don't be ashamed to seek the help that you need. You are WORTH it!”
One more thing I would add because I’m a Type A, control freak personality — there are a lot of things we can’t control right now — the weather, the market, the spread of this virus and the political response to it — so it’s important to focus on what we can control. Do the little things that provide security, safety and well-being to your family and maybe put a little less weight or focus on the rest of it.
Oh, and be in constant communication with your spouse. Chances are they are carrying heavy burdens, too, so make sure you are on the same team fighting the same demons together. And if you can't feel like you can do any "extra," don't stress about it. Sometimes being in "survival mode" and just sticking to the bare necessities is the best route to go in a time of crisis. Don't exhaust yourself trying to do more than you can handle!
More on this topic can be found in this article from the University of Missouri Extension. Click here for additional stress-relieving tips while sheltering in place.
We’ll be OK. We’ll weather through this storm. If you’re struggling right now, try one or all of these tips if they are feasible and practical in your life. Even the tiny little efforts can make a huge difference in morale.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.