Ranch Musings: The privilege of staying calm in place

Columnist David Zirnhelt writes about having a calm response to crisis

David Zirnhelt

Observer Contributor

During these times, information can be readily available on the media around us. But information isn’t all we need. We need the correct response to the situation, which most likely will require not more panic and anxiety, but more calm. Brene Brown, in a podcast series called “Unlocking Us,” talks about how we can respond to any crisis.

If we respond with anxiety, then that can be contagious to people around us. On the other hand, if we can mindfully slow down and collect our thoughts and information before we respond to the crisis situation, then we can be calm.

This calmness might then be as contagious as the anxiety would have been. A calm response is one which ratchets down the cadence, volume and tone of our response.

This kind of response is going to contribute to our mental health. During a crisis, we don’t want to be either over-functioning (micromanaging others) or under-functioning (not dealing with new situations). Brene goes on to say in her podcast:

“We are hardwired for connection, and connection requires courage, vulnerability and conversation … We were never meant to deal with life alone.”

My musing has led me to realize just how privileged most of us are to have a place close to us where we can get away from anxiety, by leaving the constant bombarding we get from 24-hour newscasts on every device and information source we have.

The trends in mental health tell us that a full third of us will have anxiety disorder. Men will make up one-third and women two-thirds of those affected by the disorder.

It is no wonder that farm organizations and farm lenders have pamphlets on mental health and where to seek help. We need our mental health to continue farming.

No one can describe the place we need to be better than Wendell Berry, farmer/writer/philosopher, quoted by Dr. Allen Williams in the Understanding Ag blog.

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake.

READ MORE: Ranch Musings: COVID-19 and ranching


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