Mental Health Awareness Week: A chat with Laura Koot

Laura Koot is a champion for women in ag. Her tourism business, Real Country holds farming and hunting workshops that help women and girls have authentic rural experiences and build their confidence.

She is also the Executive Director of The Fairlight Foundation, a registered charity supporting aspiring rural women with a practical farm training programme that results in a formal agricultural qualification.

(NZNFS): What steps do you take to look after your own mental health?

(Laura): I made the decision several years ago to create a life that I really wanted. As a result, every day brings me joy and I don’t need to have set steps anymore because I’m just naturally happy and content.

I choose to focus on the small things that I am grateful for like my dogs, a career that brings me satisfaction, and being able to live next to a lake surrounded by mountains. Choosing to be grateful and to focus on all the amazing things I have means that my mindset stays positive, even when things don’t go according to plan.

I haven’t always been this fulfilled. I used to live a life that made me unhappy and where I kept making bad decisions. It was hard to get myself out of this negative spiral. I didn’t know how to make better decisions and I didn’t realise back then that I had the ability to choose my mindset.

The positive changes came when I started volunteering at a horse rescue farm and got a ‘feel-good’ feeling from doing that and I wanted more of that feeling. So, I started volunteering more, and slowly, through satisfaction from helping others and being in environments I loved, I started to see new possibilities and how I could create a new life for myself. So that’s exactly what I did.

(NZNFS): What helped you cope with the uncertainty of the pandemic and the effect it has had on your business?

(Laura): It was hard. I lost my business and income overnight and felt that because my business had failed, that I too had failed. I had no idea what I was going do. The thing about uncertainty is that it can be both terrifying and exciting. If you choose to focus on the pitfalls and get worried about all the negative things that may happen, it’s scary.

However, if you choose to focus on the opportunities that you can’t yet see and the amazing things that could happen as a result, uncertainty becomes exciting. How you deal with uncertainty is therefore a choice. So, choose wisely.

(NZNFS): What is your advice for people who want to build their confidence?

(Laura): Confidence must be earned; it cannot be simply acquired. You earn confidence by putting yourself in uncomfortable situations where you are not sure how you will perform, but you do it anyway. No matter the outcome, you will learn something and develop more confidence in your abilities. Choose to put yourself in new and uncomfortable situations and try new things and you will develop more confidence.

Helplines and support:

If you or your whānau and friends need wellbeing support, we encourage you to visit your doctor, chat with a mate, or get in touch with one of the helplines and services listed below:

Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
Will To Live RuralChange program:
Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 or free text 4202

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