Easy ways to look after your mental health

12 February 2024

An image of two farmers talking as they walk along a farm path

As this week marks Yellow Wellies’ 7th annual Mind Your Head Week, we look at some simple ways that you can improve your own mental health, as well as the mindset of your friends and farming neighbours.

Check on your farming neighbours

A simple phone call or quick regular chat can help both you and your neighbour. By talking about pressures and stresses of farming life with someone who has similar experiences can help provide support and reduce loneliness.

Take advantage of community events

Organisations such as local vets, polices, NFU, commodity groups, Farming Community Network etc., often put on events for communities. These events give an easy opportunity for communities to gather. This again can help reduce loneliness and pressures of farming.

Keep active

While agriculture is predominantly active and out of doors, it is still important to make sure you keep active at times of the year when paperwork takes priority. Taking a regular walk outside can improve your levels of Vitamin D and endorphins, both important for improving mental health.

david exwood portrait 01

“There is help out there, and often reaching out is the first step to feeling more in control. Please remember – change starts with a conversation.”

NFU Vice President David Exwood

Eating right and taking care of your physical health can help to improve your mental wellbeing. Processed foods may contribute to poor mental wellbeing, whereas foods that are nutritious and high in essential minerals and vitamins, such as vitamin D may help to improve mental wellbeing.

Write concerns down

Often the stresses and pressures of farming and life can build up, and when they do build, they can cloud our mind and take focus away from other important things. By writing concerns down it can help you process things on your mind and help maintain balance between those important things.

Get enough sleep

As farmers, time is often a resource that is not in abundance. At various times of the year such as calving, lambing, harvest etc., sleep can often be compromised in when farming takes priority. Lack of sleep can affect our ability to process thoughts, emotions, actions etc., and therefore can have a significant impact on mental health.

Taking time away from the farm

As a farmer’s home is often located on the farm, this can make it hard to separate farm work from home life.

Taking time out away from the farm, even if it is just for an hour or two, may help reduce stress by getting away from the environment that may be causing the stress, even indirectly.

Taking up a sport could be a good option, as it allows time away from the farm for training sessions and matches, as well as socialising with people, and providing some physical activity that may help to increase endorphins and subsequently improve mental wellbeing.

Take up a hobby

Taking up a hobby or activity separate to your work can help you unwind and take focus away from stresses and pressures of life, giving something to look forward to each day. It can also be a good way to become part of a community.

Make the most of local support

There is a wide variety of local and national support groups. For further information, visit: Find wellbeing support in your area | NFUonline


Mind Your Head week

Founded by the Farm Safety Foundation, Mind Your Head week brings together more than 300 partners from across the UK to encourage those working within the agricultural sector to look out for each other this week, and every week.

According to the charity’s latest survey, 95% of UK farmers under the age of 40 rank poor mental health as one of the biggest hidden problems facing farmers today.

Stephanie Berkeley, Manager of the Farm Safety Foundation said the campaign is now recognised by 67% of farmers since its initial launch in 2018.

She added: “Mental health is always a sensitive subject but it’s something that is thankfully growing in importance and profile. The answer to the question “who cares?” is everyone – and everyone should.

"Agriculture is a proud and hardworking industry and vital to the UK economy. Far from being downtrodden, the UK’s farmers are resilient and resourceful and committed to finding ways to tackle any challenge they face.”

Speaking on this year’s campaign, NFU Vice-president David Exwood placed an emphasis on the challenging times farmers and growers are currently facing and therefore the importance “that we look after ourselves both mentally and physically”.

“We already support each other in so many ways, but this Mind Your Head week is an excellent time to reach out to neighbours, friends and family to check in and make sure they’re alright. But we should feel comfortable doing this at all times.  

“By opening up and talking about our own struggles with mental health issues and how we cope with them can make others feel comfortable to talk about managing stresses they are feeling, particularly at a time of such a difficult time.

“There is help out there, and often reaching out is the first step to feeling more in control. Please remember – change starts with a conversation.”

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