Feeling Wiped Out? You’re Not Alone.

Feeling Wiped Out? You’re Not Alone.

Article By: Jen Pino-Gallagher of M3 Insurance

The phrase "pandemic fatigue" was originally used in the medical and public health communities to describe the dwindling energy within society to continue combatting the pandemic (wearing masks, getting vaccinated, social distancing, etc.)

However, today we believe this level of fatigue also applies to the mental, physical, and emotional impact that comes from living through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, increasing rates of inflation, high input costs, unpredictable weather, and uncertainty in the global commodity markets.

It's greater than pandemic fatigue - it's "life fatigue".

Physical fatigue is understood in the farming industry. Farming is hard, physical work. But "life fatigue" goes beyond the feeling of tiredness, which can often be fixed by getting good rest.

How does life fatigue affect farmers?

One aspect of farming that contributes to stress and mental fatigue is its occasional solitary nature. The isolation that sometimes accompanies farm work can exacerbate the feelings referred to as “life fatigue”.

To generalize, life fatigue makes people feel disconnected. Similar to Adam Grant’s definition of “languishing”, it’s that “looking at your life through a foggy windshield” feeling, like you’re running on autopilot without a purpose.
The degree to which people feel the effects of life fatigue, though, differentiates the concept. Life fatigue runs the gamut from that aimless, meandering feeling to full-blown hopelessness, or even depression. It’s a mental health crisis that’s bubbling beneath the surface – and we’re already seeing how these unique factors are affecting people on an individual level, as well as a societal level.
The last time a stress and mental health crisis had such a widespread impact on the ag industry was during the farm crisis of the 1980s. I was a kid then, growing up and working alongside my family on a dairy and beef farm in NE Iowa.
I vividly remember how lines of stress marked the farmers’ faces I saw at the feed mill, the dairy cooperative, and the grocery store. The lines were written by the stress they felt as land prices bottomed out, commodity values sunk, and inflation rates hit historic highs.
The farming community is an important thread in the fabric of our rural communities. That crisis, like a thread pulled in fabric, frayed the entire agribusiness supply chain, hitting ag coops, banks, schools – the whole community. Like today, everyone in the rural communities felt the effects of that crisis.
One difference from that crisis to today’s challenges is that the discussion of mental health and life fatigue are embraced rather than shunned. And, the resources available to the agribusiness industry and farmers are more focused and available than ever before.
If you're looking for help, what can you do?
First and foremost, recognize that you are not alone in this struggle. Pandemic fatigue and stress are isolating feelings that can be exacerbated by keeping the worries inside. Resources exist at both the local and state level, including the following:
  • The Rural Resiliency Project was started with seed money from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Foundation. The purpose of the project is to increase the resiliency and promote the vibrancy of rural Wisconsin focusing primarily on farmers, farm families, and those in related agricultural fields. Their programs seek to improve the lives of farmers and enrich our understanding of the impact of farms, farmers, and agriculture on rural Wisconsin and beyond. Available offerings include virtual programming on the human side of farm transitions and a series for women juggling it all. For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/The-Rural-Resiliency-Project-102356922531665  
  • Wisconsin Farm Center offers farmer wellness support services. These include counseling services provided by ​mental health professionals through the 24/7 Farmer Wellness Helpline, tele-counseling, counseling vouchers, a​nd farmer online support groups. For more information, visit: https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/AgDevelopment/FarmCenterOverview.aspx
  • University of Wisconsin Extension helps farmers, families, businesses, and communities remain resilient by learning how to manage stress and use planning tools to make sound decisions and create a road map for the future. For more information, visit: https://farms.extension.wisc.edu/farmstress/

The federal government has also taken notice of the mental health challenges and is supporting them through grant funding and resources for the farming and agribusiness community.

  • Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center's (UMASH) mission is to improve the health and safety of agricultural workers, owner-operators, and communities in the Upper Midwest. To reach UMASH, visit: http://umash.umn.edu/stress/
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) was created by the National Farm and Ranch Assistance Network which supports projects that provide stress assistance for people in farming, ranching, and other agriculture-related occupations. 
  • North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center includes state-specific resources which can be found here:  https://farmstress.org/wisconsin/
Farming and rural communities are known for their resilience - but we could all use a helping hand at times.  The proverb - "A problem shared is a problem halved" has never been more true than today. If you or a loved one is feeling the effects of "life fatigue" know that you don't have to suffer alone. Hope does exist.
About the Author
Jen Pino-Gallagher is the director of food and agribusiness practice at M3 Insurance. In her role, she works with businesses and individuals along the entire supply chain, from farm to fork, to identify growth opportunities and ways to strategically manage risk. Jen's interest in agriculture dates back to her childhood where she grew up working alongside her family on a farm in NE Iowa. For more information, contact Jen at 608.288.2842 or Jen.PinoGallagher@m3ins.com.