Lauren Van Ewyk of Wellspring Counselling Services engaged the in-person and virtual audience for the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture 126th Annual Meeting with her talk on “Resilience: Practical Strategies to Cope with the Everyday.”

As a compliment to the Maintaining Mental Fitness Series 1 and 2, Lauren focused on the microskills to remain resilient in challenging times in dealing with chronic stress, creating healthy boundaries, breathing exercises, self-care, gratitude, focusing on what you can control, and building resilience.

Chronic Stress

Farm workers experiencing chronic stress can trigger a release of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. The result is an increase in heart rate and energy as part of the fight-or-flight response.  This frequent flip in hormone release in farmers can result in the feeling of hopelessness and helplessness.  Build up of cortisol within the body can be harmful to health to include anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle tension and pain, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke, sleep problems, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment.

Four ways to effectively get rid of cortisol is exercise, ugly cry, relationships and carbohydrates.  Lauren did remind us that ½ a cookie contains enough carbohydrates to counterbalance the effects of cortisol, rather than 2, 3 or the entire box.  I am sure I could find a few readers who may argue that point.

Healthy Boundaries

Heathy boundaries help us set limits so we don’t become too overwhelmed and commit to things we don’t have the  time or energy to give.  Boundaries may include setting time just for you, maintaining a level of privacy, improving your ability to say no, not overcommitting yourself, delegating tasks, asking for help, and speaking up when you are not comfortable.

Breathing Exercises

Lauren walked us through Sniper Breathing as a method of stress release which can decrease anxiety and release built up tension in muscle and joints.  We learned of another method of deep breathing in the Progressive Relaxation microskill  post in Maintain Mental Fitness Series 1 plus we have a We Talk We Grow Breathing card available for download or in print.  Find the right breathing exercise that works for you.

Self – Care

Lauren reminded us that self-care isn’t being self-indulgent or selfish.  It is about regrouping and getting ourselves ready for the day to day.  A method of recharging our batteries.  What do you do for self-care?  Read a book, have a bath, weed the garden, walk the fields, sit and meditate on the porch after a long day, journal, the options are endless, but choose what works for you. 

We learned a great deal about self-care in the Mental Health First Aid class with Alison Butler Consulting.  I learned a great deal more on how I need to be better at this in the October Self-Care Challenge with Alison.  This isn’t something I have prioritized accordingly and should.  I was surprised, as I thought I was doing a good job at taking care of me first.  You may be surprised too.


We watched a short video on gratitude in Lauren’s presentation.  Gratitude is the intention of being grateful and showing appreciation; acknowledging what is good in our lives.  We learned we can do this with journaling or writing at least five meaningful things that we are grateful for in our daily lives. 

Start out your day with writing those 5 things down, read them aloud, and it will set the tone for your day.

What are somethings to be grateful for?  Here is a list that may help you get started:

  • Good night’s sleep
  • Healthy food
  • Workers available to come work on the farm
  • Working with your hands
  • Family
  • Ability to make choices
  • The smell of fresh cut hay or grass
  • Watching the sunrise or sunset

Focusing on What You Can Control

We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to things we can’t control.

A quote by Avis J Williams.

Simply put, it means putting our time and energy into the things that we have control over and not fret to much about what we are not able to control or change. This can be a challenge for many of us and may require a bit of work to make the adaptation.  Only because we care!

Building Resilience

Being resilient is the ability to recover or bounce back from difficulties.  To help us do that there to keep the following in mind:

  • We need to be more self-compassionate; we are our own worst critic.  What would you say to a friend or colleague facing the same circumstances? 
  • Understand we are not alone and we can reach out to others who may have similar experience.  We Talk. We Grow!  
  • We don’t have to be perfect. 
  • It is ok to continue learning through experience. So don’t be afraid to test our knowledge, be curious, and try new things. 
  • Practice self-care.  This is what we do to recharge our battery and regain our energy?  As you know, most equipment will not run well on a depleted battery source, so why are we humans expected to do it?  Take care of you first!
  • Practice coping skills.  Figure out what works for you.  This can be similar to self-care through rejuvenation but also work on time management, delegate tasks, ask for support, establish boundaries, and create a to do list and put priority items at the top of the list.
  • Lastly, Lauren says limit rumination.  Try not to compartmentalize everything, but share and let it out.  We Talk.  We Grow.