Farmers may already have the tools they need to handle the added stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 quarantine, a Spokane consultant says.

“Actually, in a lot of cases, you’re used to not being in control of things — crops not turning out, weather, some of those other things that happen,” said Jill Yashinsky-Wortman, owner of Momentum Coaching and Consulting and a hobby chicken farmer and gardener. “You may already have a skillset in managing the unknown that is already there, it just might be applying it in a different time, space, resource.”

Yashinsky-Wortman spoke to industry leaders during a web seminar on resiliency in the midst of COVID-19, hosted by the AgForestry Leadership program and Gonzaga University. The webinar was available to current members and alumni of the Ag Forestry program.

Yashinsky-Wortman said she has been de-stressing with her 19 chickens.

“There has been in some ways nothing better for my mental and emotional health than to just go and hang out in my chicken yard for a little bit with my girls and just talk with them about who knows what,” she said.

She asked participants to think about the ways their bodies respond to stressful situations, and how they behave. If they’re going to regulate their emotions, she said, what strategies can they use to feel more, if a feeling is helpful, or less, if it’s not.

“Resiliency isn’t just about how we bounce back or how we adapt, it’s also about what do we learn, how are we changed?” she said. “Just like what we’re going through now — we’re adapting, changing and bouncing forward. How do we use and make meaning out of what’s happening now to bounce more forward?”

One participant asked the best way to manage political chaos.

Yashinsky-Wortman recommends people be aware of how constant knowledge of current events helps or hurts them. They should moderate their intake of news and find a healthy balance, she said.

“The political chaos, in reality, isn’t going to stop, for a number of reasons,” she said. “One, we’re in a pandemic. Two, we’re in an election year. How do you moderate your own consumption and decide what’s important for you, and where are you going to get the information that’s important for you?”

Participants should balance hope and optimism with the reality of the situation, Yashinsky-Wortman said. They can choose to look for positives and personal purpose during the situation.

She offered several tools:

• Do the basics, such as eating, sleeping or exercising.

• Connect with people.

• Be curious about your emotions.

• Give yourself permission to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.

• Be realistic about finding your own positives and purpose.

• Rediscover your strengths.

• Do small chunks of bigger actions.

“People need leadership food,” said Matt Kloes, executive director of the AgForestry program, on the purpose for the webinar. “They need reminders sometimes about what they may already know. In order to be effective, leaders need to be positive and clear-minded.”

Sometimes, people just need to do something to distract themselves, Yashinsky-Wortman said.

“Try wiggling your toes on one foot but not the other,” she said. “It’s really hard to do anything else when you’re thinking about that.”

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