Dealing with stress and uncertainty

Whether it’s extreme weather events or changing regulations, dealing with uncertainty is a constant for many farmers and growers. Here are Farmstrong Ambassador Sam Whitelock’s tips for getting through tough times.

Sam Whitelock comes from a farming background and will head back into farming once he hangs up his boots. As a professional athlete he’s also had plenty of experience at handling pressure and setbacks. Here are a few of his insights.

Keep it Simple

“I think the best players I’ve seen at handling pressure are the ones who can just focus on doing the basics really well game after game, irrespective of the weather or the ref or pressure on the scoreboard. When I’m under pressure, I try and keep it simple and just concentrate on the things I’m good at and can control.”


“Work on a farm is never done, so it’s important to prioritise. Work out what you can and can’t do in a day and be okay with that. Ask yourself ‘what are the top two or three tasks I need to do?’ and park everything else. Once you’re feeling back in charge, your stress levels will go down.”

 Keep talking

“Pressure is pressure whether you’re a grower, a farmer or a rugby player. I know from my own experience that talking these challenges through with mates and family helps enormously.”

“If you see someone struggling, start that conversation, ask them how they’re going and make time for a proper catch-up, whether it’s over a coffee or at the pub. You don’t have to have all the answers, just listening can be a huge help to someone who is feeling ‘under the pump’.”

Tap Into Local Knowledge

“One of the best things I’ve learned is to listen to people who have been through similar experiences before. There’ll be a lot of knowledge in your community, people who’ve been through droughts or floods or other adverse events before and got through ok. Make sure you tap into their wisdom and advice.”

Retain Perspective

“Rugby is a big part of my life, but I also have other things going on in my life so it doesn’t define who I am as a person. The expectation is always there that we will win every game, but that’s not the reality. So, while losing a rugby game still hurts, I can tell myself, I’m still a father, a husband, a son with a great family. The reality is I also have other things going on in my life, so it doesn’t define who I am as a person.”

Give Yourself A Breather

“No-one can just go ‘hammer-down’ the whole time. We all need time to ‘reset’ physically and mentally, even if it’s just for a short while at smoko or lunch. One of the things I’m doing now is planning a ten-minute slot into each day and say, ‘this is my time’. I know taking breaks when you’re busy sounds odd, but I’ve learnt it makes you a lot more efficient and productive in the long run. You’re not tired and overthinking things.”

Plan Breaks

“If you’re only thinking about one thing such as the weather all day, every day, of course it will start to get on top of you. So, it’s important to go and do something else from time to time. I play rugby because I love it, but I also go hunting with mates to relax, unwind and forget about rugby. Time away from your main job energises you for when you are back at work. “

Lock in ‘The Five Ways To Wellbeing”

“These simple habits help keep things in perspective when the going gets tough: staying connected with mates; keeping active; taking note of and enjoying the simple things in life; learning new things to keep fresh; giving back to friends and community.”

“Farming, like professional rugby, is a job with a lot of challenges. That’s why it’s important to look after yourself by investing in your wellbeing. I’ve found the Five Ways have a positive, cumulative effect over time. They make you more resilient and give you something to draw on when you are under pressure. Different things work for different people, so find out what works for you and ‘lock it in’.”

Farmstrong is a rural wellbeing programme that aims to help farmers and farming families  live well to farm well. To find out what works for you and lock it in, check out our farmer-to-farmer videos, stories and tips on

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