Getting through tough times

Extreme weather has left many farmers and growers with major clean-up and repair work ahead. Farmstrong ambassador Sam Whitelock shares some insights about getting through a long haul.

“First up, my thoughts and best wishes go out to everyone whose lives and livelihoods have been impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle and other flooding. I know the storms have bought a massive amount of stress and extra work for many. Here are some tips that farmers and growers have shared with us about navigating major setbacks.

Ask For Help If You Need It

“These are exceptional events, so it’s hardly surprising if you start feeling ‘under the pump’ at some point. The main thing is – don’t bottle it up. Getting things off your chest and having a natter with a family member, friend or someone from the Rural Support Trust will relieve that stress and give you a boost. When you catch up like that with others, you soon realise everyone’s experiencing the same thing, you’re not alone and your community is there to help you.”

Use Others As A Roadmap

“A big part of being resilient is using the skills and knowledge of people around you. One thing farmers have emphasised is to ask questions and listen to others who have been through similar experiences before. There’ll be a lot of knowledge in your communities about how to get through events like this, so make sure you tap into that wisdom. These people can provide a helpful perspective and act as your roadmap ahead.”

Focus On What You Can Control

“Worrying about things you have no influence over only adds stress. Prioritise the things you can control. List out what needs to be done, make a plan about what to attack first and break down the work into achievable amounts so you’re not overwhelmed by the scale of the task. Putting pen to paper like this also gives you a sense of purpose – that you’re moving your life forwards, rather than just letting it happen to you.”

 Be Realistic About Workload

“Don’t expect too much out of any one day. Make a realistic list of tasks to achieve, so you finish the day feeling like you’ve accomplished something. That’s the sort of daily motivation required during a lengthy recovery. As one farmer summed up, ‘Don’t try and eat the elephant all at once.’”

Schedule Recovery Time

“One thing I’ve learnt during my career is that no one can just go ‘hammer-down’ the whole time, particularly during an intense period. Sometimes we just need to step away for a breather and ‘reset’ physically and mentally. If you’re only thinking about one thing all day, every day, of course it will start to get on top of you. That’s why recovery time is important. Getting together with friends and having a yak over a cuppa after a tough event can work wonders. It relieves the pressure and you start thinking, ‘maybe I can do this’.”

“One flood-hit farmer in Hawkes Bay mentioned how helpful a change of scene can be during the week. It could be as simple as getting off farm to pick up groceries or coach kids’ sport.”

Start A ‘Convo’

“Remember, as well as getting on the tools, you can also help others by just listening. Being a good listener eases stress for people and makes a big difference to how they feel. On the Farmstrong website there are tools to help you recognise the common signs of stress and have a ‘listening conversation’. You don’t need to have all the answers, just providing a friendly ear is a huge help. If you see someone out there struggling, put the billy on and start that ‘convo’.”

Don’t Neglect ‘The Basics’

“I remember after the Christchurch earthquakes we all got by on adrenalin for the few first weeks, then people started falling flat. When you’re facing a big task, it’s tempting to just get stuck in and forget the basics like sleep, eating well, staying hydrated and getting some regular form of exercise. But these are the things that are going to give you the energy and resilience to make it through. As one farmer put it, ‘no one can run a marathon on adrenalin alone.’”

Celebrate The Small Wins

“When you’ve got a big task ahead, don’t just focus on the big picture, celebrate the small wins too. Treat every new fence line as a win. That sort of attitude will help you keep going and motivate others.’

Prioritise Your Wellbeing

“Remember, you are the biggest asset to your farm and family. If you’re going well, everything else around you is going to go better too. That’s why your own physical and mental fitness has to be an absolute priority during challenging times.”

Stick Together

“I know it’s hard going for many people at the moment. Stay safe, stay strong and look after those close to you. And remember, the experience of all the farmers and growers who’ve shared their stories to date with Farmstrong shows that there’s always something you can do today, that’ll make tomorrow better.”

Farmstrong is a nationwide, rural wellbeing programme for farmers and growers. To find out what works for you and ‘lock it in’, visit

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