Harvest has begun, and Alberta farmers are spending long hours swathing, combining and hauling grain, not to mention unexpected tasks like road trips to buy machinery parts.

It is a time when self-care seems like a luxury, while in fact it is a necessity. If you think of self-care and selfishness as the same thing, consider the instructions that a flight attendant gives passengers during takeoff. In an emergency, passengers are told to put on their own oxygen mask before directing their attention to others. There is an understanding that you can only be effective helping someone else when your own needs are looked after. Self-care is a basic tool that contributes to good health and safe working conditions. Among your own strategies for self-care, consider the following:

Recognize the symptoms of fatigue: feeling sleepy or tired, headaches or dizziness, blurry vision, poor concentration, slow reflexes, feeling irritable and aching or weak muscles. Monitor yourself and others for signs of fatigue and know when it’s time for a break. Even a few minutes can help.

Make healthy choices for meals and snacks: limiting high-fat, high-sugar options like candy bars and potato chips. Choose water, juice or soft drinks low in caffeine and sugar over excessive amounts of coffee.

Exercise. Any exercise is better than none. Make a brief walk part of the morning routine, possibly while checking cattle or equipment. Walk around and stretch a few times throughout the day.

Stay in touch. Talk over the day’s tasks with another person and have a good laugh. Keep communications open during the workday.

Establish boundaries. There are limits as to what an individual can accomplish in any given day. Learn to say “no” when it is time to look after yourself.

Self-care can help you manage the stresses of harvest and improve responses to hazardous situations. You’re worth it. Stay safe this harvest season!