Tips for women in agriculture to help manage Covid-19 related stress

Tips for women in agriculture to help manage Covid-19 related stress

The full extent of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Australian agriculture sector is largely unknown, however rural women will likely feel social and psychological impacts.

South Australian farmer and clinical psychologist, Steph Schmidt, says while the concept of social distancing is “nothing new” for most farmers, it will be mostly women who are left to care for children when social distancing laws come into effect.

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Many women in agriculture will also have to give up “off farm work” to care for their families, while maintaining the business side of their farms, says Schmidt, who is the winner of the 2020 AgriFutures SA Rural Woman of the Year.

Schmidt, who has been working from home this week as she recovers from a cold, says while the concept of working remotely is a good one, the reality is different when children are involved.

“It doesn’t work,” she says.

“We have had three years of drought and uncertainty, so in a way we are conditioned to deal with challenges. This is a whole new level of uncertainty…and there will be anxiety around that.

“Often in farming, men will continue to need to work on the farm while women stay at home with their families. We have the benefit of having thousands of acres to self-isolate, but women often bear the brunt when it comes to thinking about financial and health factors.”

Looking after mental health during these times is especially important, Schmidt says. Social media, phone calls with friends and spending time outside with family are all important aspects of self-care, she says.

Schmidt has shared four tips with The AgWrap to help rural women now:

  1. Recognise that our anxiety is our brain doing its job – looking out for danger and keeping us safe
  2. Practice acknowledging the anxiety. This might be as simple as saying “here is the anxiety” and naming the feelings that come up
  3. Practice letting go. Notice the thoughts and feelings that come and go. We can practice choosing not to get hooked on a thought. A good farming analogy is to practice “drafting” your thoughts, like you would sheep. Let go of the stuff that is not helpful
  4. Get outside and be present with the moment. Spend time with your kids or focus on what is in your control on the farm

Source: Steph Schmidt, farmer and clinical psychologist

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