It is a 24-hour, seven day a week commitment to be there for someone who needs help taking care of themselves.
National Family Caregivers Month recognizes those using all the time and effort they can to assist the elderly, the sick, and those with challenges who just may happen to be their loved ones.
The current coronavirus pandemic has only made these stressors worse, both for those in need of care and for the caregiver. In addition to immediate concerns for health and safety, we have lost our ability to perform daily routines and tasks without fear or worry. For many, this loss of normalcy has created an overwhelming feeling of stress, anxiety, and grief.
For this post, I want to recognize the wellness and self-care or those caregivers. You cannot give from an empty cup.
How full is your cup right now?
Have you been telling yourself that you are just fine, because you’re used to being busy, putting others ahead of yourself… dancing on the edge of exhaustion without knowing it?
Is your body or mind trying to get your attention?
Surveying information out there, I have come across some tips you can use to help address the burnout you might be facing. Here are some presented by Scott Berinato wrote an article on this topic titled “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.” He described the grief we are collectively experiencing this way: “We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different Here are several suggestions you may consider trying.
“Find balance in the things you’re thinking”
Balance worst case scenarios with scenarios that are not so dire. If you are thinking of something awful happening, try to imagine something good happening as well. Remember: both the bad scenarios and the good are possible.
“Come into the present”
Try naming objects in the room or finding items in the room that are a certain color or tuning into the five senses and stopping to breathe. This practice can help “ground” you when moments might feel especially challenging or difficult.
“Let go of what you can’t control”
Focus on what you can control. For example, let go of what your neighbor is doing and focus more on what you can do to stop the spread.
“Stock up on compassion”
Practice understanding when people aren’t acting like themselves. Everyone is stressed and people may respond to stressors (or day-to-day interactions) with less patience and more fear than usual.
“Become okay with feeling our feelings”
If you feel sad, stay with it, let the feeling come and go on its own. “Let yourself feel grief and keep going;” “emotions need motion.” It’s okay and normal for feelings to come and go.
Self-care is vital for building resilience toward those stressors in life that you can’t eliminate. When you’ve taken steps to care for your mind and body, you’ll be better equipped to serve others. It’s important to assess how you’re caring for yourself in several different domains so you can ensure you’re caring for your mind, body, and spirit.
Cultivate the habit of checking how full your cup really is. You might be surprised by how low your reserves have gotten—far better to realize and remedy this now, than later.
Those that you care for will be the beneficiaries.
September is Suicide Prevention Month and I wanted to shine a light on the LGBTQ+ community, the additional stressors they face, the challenges for acceptance, and how mental health is adversely impacting a large group. First, I want to make abundantly clear that myself and Apportis are Allies to the LGBTQ+ community, we want to lift up not just queer voices but black queer voices, queer sex workers’ voices, and impoverished trans people’s voices, among other identities let’s celebrate and support each other.
- Here are some frightening statistics that give some perspective (pre-pandemic) of the the challenges this community faces:
- 40% of LGBT adults have experienced rejection from a family member or a close friend.
- LGBTQ+ youth are also disproportionately harassed at school, both physically and verbally, which can significantly impact their mental health.
- May face rejection within their workplace or faith community (erosion of support).
- LGB adults are nearly twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a substance use disorder.
- Transgender individuals are almost four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a substance use disorder.
- LGBTQ youth and young adults have a 120% higher risk of experiencing homelessness
- High school students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers.
- 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide in their lifetime, compared to less than 5% of the general U.S. population.
Being LGBTIQ+ does not cause these problems. The reasons why those of us with LGBTIQ+ identities are more likely to get them are very complicated. But it is most likely to do with facing things like:
- Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia
- Stigma and discrimination
- Difficult experiences of coming out
- Social isolation, exclusion and rejection
I certainly wish I could wave a magic wand and fix the ills of our society, have everyone embrace acceptance rather than division, provide love and understanding rather than hate, and always look for the common greatness in each of us rather than scorn and fear. Alas, I cannot. I also can never fully understand all of the challenges my friends have faced, the struggle in their journeys to actualize on their gender identity, and the obstacles that they have had to overcome and still face on a daily basis. I however can proudly stand alongside them and support them.
For those interested in being a more supportive voice, and ally to the LGTQ+ community, here is an excellent article for you, the ally: https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/6/22/18700875/lgbtq-good-ally
I won’t be presumptive to say that myself or Apportis the answers, but in a month that sheds light on suicide, and the common factors that cut short the lives of talented and loving people… our neighbors, the best that I can do is show you some facts and provide some resources.
Please take care of yourself, you are loved and you matter.
Here are is a long list of resources provided by SAMHSA for the LGBTQ+ community:https://www.samhsa.gov/behavioral-health-equity/lgbt
More data points on the Mental Health Factors in the LGBTQ+ community, provided by the Human Rights Campaign:https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/LGBTQ_MentalHealth_OnePager.pdf
Resources provided by the CDC:https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/index.htm
And please remember – ‘Think of the most vulnerable person you know and vote in their best interests.’
Do you recognize the signs and symptoms of overdose?
What is the impact of drug use and overdose on family, friends and those experiencing it?
International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on 31 August each year and aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.
International Overdose Awareness Day spreads the message that overdose death is preventable.
Thousands of people die each year from drug overdose. They come from all walks of life.
Apportis is headquartered in Dublin, Ohio a suburb or Columbus, the State Capitol. The Franklin County Coroner’s office is partnering with Equitas/Safepoint for International Overdose Awareness Day. Community members will have access to free Narcan kits, Fentanyl test strips, harm reduction materials, and other community resources at 2090 Frank Road (directions located here).
In fact, here is a way that you can help… right now and you don’t have to leave your chair. You can download the Overdose Awareness Day Social Media Kit to help get the word out. It has everything you need to join in and you just might save a life.
Get the kit here: Overdose Awareness Social Media Kit
Spread the Word!
You can find additional resources here:
International Overdose Awareness Day web site
SafePoint – Harm Reduction web site
Equitas Health – A Non-profit Providing Medical, Psychiatry & Counseling For The LGBTQ+ Community web site
Like you, the talk in our family always circles back to COVID-19 and the news. We discuss strategies for staying safe, acquiring groceries, reaching out to loved ones to see how they are doing, and the reacting to the news. This pandemic dominates our thoughts and certainly adds layers of stress onto everyone in our household. The CDC has published some advice and resources to help cope with the anxiety that this is causing, and it is some solid advice:
- Outbreaks can be stressful – The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress can make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
- Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, your unique personality, and the community you live in. People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include:
- Older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19
- Children and teens
- People who are helping with the response to COVID-19, like doctors, other health care providers, and first responders
- People who have mental health conditions including problems with substance use
Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger. Ways to cope with stress include:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals
- Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Connectiveness is a funny word… it is a recently coined word that refers to the quality and quantity of a person’s connections to others, either personally or online. This speaks to the mental wellbeing of community support for an individual and for farmers in 2020, its meaning is becoming painfully clear.
I have had the absolute pleasure of talking to AgrAbility groups associated with University outreach programs. If you are unfamiliar with AgrAbility and their mission, they are part of a national program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that assists farmers and other agricultural workers with disabilities by providing the resources and support they need to live independently, and to continue or return to working in production agriculture. A tall task indeed, now add in the stressors of COVID-19.
Here locally, I was able to speak at the Ohio AgrAbility Conference put on by Ohio State University, please check them out here, stay connected to these great people and their resources ( https://agrability.osu.edu/ ). Apportis has also been plugged into the great work coming out of Purdue University ( https://ag.purdue.edu/stories/agrability-helps-veterans-launch-and-maintain-careers-in-agriculture/) another fantastic resource to connect to. This group is a consortium of 20 states that is backed by the USDA and their national AgrAbility program ( http://www.agrability.org/ ).
As any farmer or rancher can tell you, farm life can be demanding and stressful. It’s reaching a critical stage with coronavirus impacts on top of trade wars, natural disasters, depressed commodity prices, labor shortages and other factors. Given these ongoing challenges, it’s no surprise that more farmers and farm families are experiencing stress and mental health issues.
If you, or someone you know, are struggling with anxiety, depression, or another mental health challenge, you are not alone. Check out the following resources and follow #FarmStateofMind on social media to show your support.
Learning the signs of mental illness means it can be detected early and action can be taken sooner, rather than later. According to the American Psychiatric Association, it may be useful to follow up with a mental health professional if several of the following issues are occurring:
- Sleep or appetite changes— Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or decline in personal care
- Mood changes— Rapid or dramatic shifts in emotions or depressed feelings
- Withdrawal— Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Drop in functioning— An unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks
- Problems thinking— Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain
- Increased sensitivity— Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations
- Apathy— Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity
- Feeling disconnected— A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings, a sense of unreality
- Illogical thinking— Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult
- Nervousness— Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling
- Unusual behavior– Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture addressed the growing mental health problems in rural America, adding $50 million for mental health resources for farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill passed in December. The FARMERS FIRST Act was included in the Bill and originally introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
However, that meager amount was prior to the new stressors brought about by COVID-19.
“FARMERS ARE THE BACKBONE OF OUR RURAL ECONOMY AND LEADERS IN OUR RURAL COMMUNITIES. WASHINGTON HAS BEEN SLOW TO RECOGNIZE THE CHALLENGES THAT FARMERS ARE FACING, AND THE DAILY STRESSORS THAT THEY EXPERIENCE DURING DIFFICULT YEARS” SEN.BALDWIN.
FARMERS FIRST stands for Facilitating Accessible Resources for Mental health and Encouraging Rural Solutions for Immediate Response to Stressful Times.
How can you help? Start a conversation
- Although it may feel like it is out of your comfort zone, you can start a conversation in any number of ways:
- Acknowledge what they’re going through. “I know a lot of people have lost their markets this year, which can be devastating. How are you holding up?”
- Remind them of something they’ve said and express interest. “I heard you say your meeting with John was a disaster. Can you tell me about it?”
- Share a habit you’ve seen change. “I’ve noticed you haven’t come to coffee for a long time. Are you doing OK?”
- Don’t wait for them to ask. “You seem to have a lot on your mind. How can I help?”
- If they’re willing to reach out, encourage them. “I’ve heard that talking to [a counselor, a doctor, a religious or spiritual leader, etc.] can be really helpful. Have you considered that?”
Try not to compare their challenges to someone else’s or minimize what they are going through. What matters most is showing genuine care and empathy and listening.
Five Steps to Help Someone in Emotional Pain
- Keep them safe
- Be there
- Help them connect
- Stay connected
Visit the National Institute of Mental Health website for more information. If you or someone you know needs mental health support, you can access a list of resources compiled by Farms.com.
Apologies for the long blog post, but this is a critical issue that is overlooked by most Americans. We are happy to shop at the grocery store, bemoan if there are any shortages, but we all need to recognize the strain COVID-19 has had on our farmers and ranchers. Please follow the provided links, connect, and share the resources.
Through Connectiveness we can help build the infrastructure of support for all.