If you’ve ever been on a plane, you know the drill. The flight attendant points out the emergency exits and goes through the spiel of demonstrating how to put on the oxygen mask. And, while it may sound a little self-centered, you’re instructed to put on your own mask first before trying to help someone else. The point is, you’re not much help to someone else if you’re not sustaining your own life.
You can apply that concept far beyond life-sustaining oxygen.
While attending the Michigan Farm Bureau annual meeting early this month, I had the pleasure of listening to Scott Carbonara, who is self-described as a passionate international speaker and trainer, author and consultant specializing in leadership topics. But, on this day, his speech to about 500 farmers was tailored more to mental wellness and how to value oneself — something he also knows a lot about. In his early career he was a crisis counselor, where he learned how to listen authentically and think on his feet while implementing life-changing solutions.
While some farmers managed to squeak out slight margins this growing season, most would rather put 2019 in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, as 2019 was just the latest blow in a multiyear boxing match. Time and time again, farmers have had to pick themselves back up, go to the corner, wipe the sweat from their brows and head back into the ring. It’s taking a toll, and there’s no shame in admitting that.
Carbonara offered some tips and several real-life examples of his own challenges, including the loss of his daughter at age 18 to a heroin overdose. It blindsided him, and he said he was in bad shape for a couple of years. He admitted, “Even therapists need therapists.”
Prime the positivity pump
So how do you stay positive, while trying to swim in a sea of debt, doubt, denial, despair, destitution? Wow, there sure are a lot of negative “D” words. I know farmers are sick of bills — and bills not being passed.
Carbonara says to use the power of anticipation because it releases positive endorphins. Three times a day, prime the positivity pump. Find three good things to focus on, and identify what is working.
If you look for the positive, you will see more than the negative. Count your blessings and find joy in small things — charge your battery, don’t drain it. And, at the end of the day, express gratitude to God.
Develop a mantra, Carbonara says. “Maybe ‘This, too, shall pass,’” he says. Life is full of good and bad. Take a mental image of the good, so you can recall it later. Many before have walked through the fire and lived.
It helps to help others, too. It relieves pain. We see this every year: No matter how bad things might be, farmers band together. Every harvest, even this year with such a short window of opportunity, farmers have showed up with combines to harvest the crop a sick farmer could not.
It helps to keep your sense of humor, Carbonara advises. Negativity becomes sticky and contagious. Replace it with light. Reframe a situation.
You don’t teach crops to grow toward the sunlight — they naturally do, he says. Gravitate to the positive. Be the positive to others by calling, visiting, teaching, mentoring, supporting and encouraging. “Someone needs you to be their sunshine,” he adds.
Time is precious … just ask anyone battling cancer, fighting for another day. You got this. Celebrate life — 2020 is full of potential. Find the light, be the light.