Resources and Strategies for Mental Wellness in Times of Crisis

From ONnurserycrops Blog by Jennifer Llewellyn, OMAFRA Nursery Crops Specialist:

As we advance towards May, the uncertainty around lost sales and contracts, major changes in business operations and social distancing restrictions of isolation have left many of us feeling anxious and frustrated. Stress is nothing new to farmers and other horticultural business owners, but in times of crisis, stress levels can build to new heights causing even the most resilient horticulturalists to struggle.

Having good mental health and emotional resilience can help to ensure that we are able to both enjoy life and deal with the challenges we are facing.  This balancing act can be difficult; sometimes we need to find outside resources that work for you to help keep us going.


For this article, we’ve gathered some of our favorite tips on mental wellness in hopes that they can provide some strategies for you and your family during these unprecedented times.

  • Stop. Find a quiet place to retreat and take some deep breaths.  A tried and true strategy for reducing stress is deep breathing.  You may have heard of some of the more common techniques like Box Breathing “4-4-4-4”, or  the “4-7-8 technique”.  You can try these breathing techniques by sitting in a quiet place (or put your headphones on with lyric-free music) and closing your eyes.
    • For Box Breathing close your eyes and 1) Take a deep breath in for a count of four,  2) Hold the breath in for a count of four,  3) Let the breath out slowly for a count of four and, 4) Keep your lungs empty for a count of four.
    • For the “4-7-8 technique”  close your eyes and empty your lungs of air. 1) Take a deep breath in for a count of four.  2) Hold the breath in for a count of seven.  3) Let it out slowly for a count of eight.
    • Repeat the deep breathing exercise at least three times until you feel like you are letting the negative emotions go.  Sometimes it helps to focus your mind on a phrase like “I’m letting it go, I’m letting it go, I’m letting it go.”  Once your heart rate comes down and you feel more relaxed, you may want to take some time for meditation or prayer.


  • Reach out to those you trust. Talking to someone who might understand the challenges can really be helpful.  Often times, talking to someone can help us gain very valuable insight, especially from someone outside your immediate circle. The physical distancing rules may make it difficult to talk in person, but a phone or video call can make a huge difference and help you to stay connected. You might consider talking to the following people when you are under stress:
    • Your parents
    • A spouse or partner or another trusted family member
    • A friend inside or outside of the industry, such as a fellow grower
    • A coworker or boss
    • A pastor, spiritual advisor or church elder


  • What about the things that are going right?  Our brain’s bias towards the negative can give us laser focus on everything that’s going wrong, causing us to forget about the good things. This type of thinking can create a lot of anxiety for us, which can result in more negative reactions to future experiences. This is when a good friend can really help us talk it out and helping us to remember all the good things that we need to keep at the top of our mind. Finding gratitude can be your ticket out of a negative, unresourceful state.  Access to ample, clean drinking water and fresh food, the love of family and friends and good health are all regular items on our own gratitude lists. When everything is uncertain, everything that is important becomes clear.


  • Remember what you can and cannot control. In the Circle of Influence, it becomes clear pretty quickly that sometimes, the only thing we have control over is our reaction to situations. You cannot control the sales market or the buying patterns of customers. It’s okay to be uncertain about moving ahead with new plantings, crops or diversifying into other products or services. Spend your energy on things that you can do something about. You may find that you have more energy to come up with new strategies for doing business during these uncertain times.  Be kind to yourself and give yourself some space to think creatively .

Circle of Influence


  • Remember that you have had challenges before. Now is the time to remember that you have had business challenges before, and that you made it through. You will make it through these challenges too, and you will come out on the other side a wiser person that will be able to handle any future challenges that come your way. Get certain and get confident that you can handle this, because you can. You got this.


  • Take a break from the news. Sometimes being inundated with bad news on a regular basis can make it hard to move forward and act. It can be helpful to assign a specific time each day to check in with the news.  After that time is over, move on to more constructive tasks.


  • Gather as much information as possible. Are you worried about finances or trying to sell to consumers in a new way? Sometimes, arming yourself with information can help to calm your fears by making you more prepared.  In the case of finances, make sure you have a clear understanding of your current cash flow and invoices owing.  Talk to your lender about any options that might be available to you.  If you are a grower, make sure to register for AgriStability. Talking to Agricorp can help you understand your options for government support during economic uncertainty (1-888-247-4999 or


  • Take care of yourself. Ask yourself if you are getting enough rest, down time and exercise.  Take time to enjoy some non-work related activities.  Call an old friend, listen to a podcast, go for a socially distanced walk or bike ride with your kids, make a meal with your family or order take-out from your favorite local restaurant. Making time for the simpler things can remind us of just how blessed we really are.


If after trying some of these strategies you are still feeling overwhelmed, there are many people and organizations that are here for you.   Remember: asking for help is a sign of resourcefulness.  You are not alone.

If you are having trouble coping day to day with anxiety or depression, or are struggling with thoughts of hurting yourself or others, seek professional help.

Need immediate help?  Use the following resources:

Mental Health Helpline: 1-866-531-2600, you can also e-mail them or chat online

Ontario 211 (Province wide Crisis Line)Connects callers to mental health supports in their communities.  Call 2-1-1 or visit their webpage

Distress & Crisis Ontario: Offer confidential, private support for anyone who is feeling emotionally impacted or in distress due to challenges at home or with your business. You can talk to them for yourself, or someone you care about like family members, friends, coworkers or staff. Staff are available 24/7 by phone or email.

All Distress Line phone numbers can be found on their webpage. If you cannot find a local number, please call 2-1-1.

Additional Helpful Resources:


Ontario Federation of Agriculture:

Farm Credit Canada:

Do More Agriculture Foundation:

Niagara Region:

Online Counselling Services:

About Sean Westerveld

Ginseng and Medicinal Herbs Specialist, OMAFRA
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