GFB News Magazine

Protect & improve your mental clarity

by Jennifer Whittaker
Editor, Georgia Farm Bureau News

Posted on March 4, 2024 9:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        iStock photo

Having mental clarity – the ability to think clearly in complex situations and make smart decisions quickly – helps farmers.

“Having mental clarity is as important for a farmer as having good seed and soil,” said Dr. Anna Scheyett, coordinator of UGA Extension’s Behavorial Health Team.  

Scheyett discussed tips for improving your mental clarity and protecting it from stress while speaking at the Southeast Fruit & Vegetable Growers Conference in January.

Having a good memory, quick thinking, good judgement and being able to identify the source of a problem are signs you have mental clarity, she said.

Mental clarity enemies 

We’ve all been there - times when we have rushing thoughts, cluttered thinking or information overload. Some describe it as feeling foggy, fuzzy-headed, spacy or confused.

Chronic stress can destroy our mental clarity. 

“Sometimes your brain is not your friend,” Scheyett emphasized. “Just because your brain is telling you something doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Short-term enemies to making good decisions include: sleep problems, medication side effects, overeating, inactivity, using substances, being really angry or sad. 

Ignoring short-term problems can lead to long-term chronic fatigue, chronic self-neglect and chronic stress, which often lead to health or behavioral health problems. 

Chronic fatigue comes when we work long hours every day with no stress outlets, Scheyett said. Living on energy drinks and crackers is an example of chronic self-neglect. 

“Chronic stress signals our bodies to make excess cortisol. If your cortisol level never goes down it starts damaging your body with inflammation that can lead to diabetes or heart disease,” Schyett said. “It can also lead to depression.”

Short & long-term solutions

RPM is a short-term method for managing stress Scheyett recommends. Recognize you’re not thinking straight. Put decisions on hold if possible. Make a plan for responding to stressors.

“Sometimes you can’t fix a stressor, but you can manage your stress response to keep stress from harming you,” Scheyett said. “Recognize the things you can’t control, such as the weather, and the things you can.” 

Scheyett said long-term solutions are sometimes needed. “If you can’t get mental clarity and things don’t get better or feel wrong, go see a doctor.”

Preventing, managing & coping with stress

Scheyett recommends the SAFER method: Sleep, Awareness of stress, Focus on positives, Eat well/drink water, Reach out to others.

Activities that increase your brain’s ability to rewire itself also help prevent stress. Naps, word or number puzzles, learning a second language, or doing routine things differently can help.

To manage your stress response, Scheyett advocates breathing from your diaphragm, listening to positive music or using apps designed to lessen anxiety with soothing sounds or images.

 “You can do these things in five to ten-minute intervals while you take a shower or sit at a red light,” Scheyett said.

Scheyett urges people to adopt coping strategies that address or lessen their stress rather than provide an escape.