Getting through tough times
All industries have challenges and farming is no different. Weather patterns, fluctuating prices, changing legislative requirements and media stories are all part of the pressures farmers deal with every day.
This year farmers are facing issues as wide ranging as the zero carbon bill, freshwater policy, M. Bovis, changes in the dairy sector, supplier uncertainties and winter grazing.
The good news is that you can prepare mentally and physically for these pressures by proactively investing in your wellbeing. This means you’ll be more resilient to handle the ups and downs.
Here are some tools and tips that farmers have told us work for them.
First give yourself permission to feel the way you do. Everyone has off days. You’re allowed to feel a bit shit from time to time so cut yourself some slack.
But if you’re feeling that way, chances are your neighbour is too. So connect with others, your mates, your family. Don’t bottle it up, share the load. Talking about challenges and frustrations with others really helps people get through tough times. Remember, it’s not all happening to you. Others will be in the same boat too.
Invest in your wellbeing
We know farming is a job with a unique set of challenges, that’s why farmers are known for being epic problem-solvers. But no one can control the weather. At times we might be able to influence legislation or what the market does but significant aspects of these can also be out of our control.
However what you do to look after your physical and mental wellbeing is within our control. Just like you look after your stock, land and equipment to ensure they perform well, there are things you can do to look after yourself too, even during tough times.
A concept we use at Farmstrong is the Wellbeing Bank Account. Think of your wellbeing like making small investments in your account. These will add up over time so that when you’re under the pump, you can draw on them to help you get through. Simple but it works.
The investments you can make are – keeping physically fit and in condition, eating well and having the right fuel in the tank, staying connected and having good relationships with staff, friends, family and your local community, having planned breaks and organising regular time off to recharge your batteries and adopting helpful strategies to deal with unhealthy stress.
To go back to the bank account analogy, the best time to invest is when times are good as you will have more energy to develop these small investments into regular habits. But it’s important to keep investing in these habits during tough times too. It could be as simple as going for a walk, picking up the phone and yakking to a neighbour, coaching or watching kids’ sport, organising a BYO during the RWC. Simple habits like this will really add up and boost your mood.
We all know healthy crops need small, regular amounts of water to thrive. We don’t wait until they’ve almost dried up, douse them and expect them to bounce back. The same goes for you. Small, regular investments in your wellbeing bank account will make you much more likely to cope well with pressure.
Remember your ‘why’
Having a sense of meaning and purpose in work and life has been scientifically shown to help your mental and physical health. The trouble is when we are busy working through our weekly to-do list, it is easy to lose sight of why we are doing it and what we enjoy about it.
Take some time every week to reconnect with your own meaning and purpose. Here are a few questions to think about:
- What activities throughout the day make you feel more positive and energised and what do they have in common?
- What have you always wanted to do, but never got around to doing?
- Consider your life looking back as an elderly person, what have been your proudest moments and what would you prioritise?
Some farmers and their families find journaling helpful – writing down three good things that have happened to them each day out on the farm. Sometimes it’s easy to forget all the great things people enjoy about farming. Jotting them down reminds us of the good things about the job.
Take a break from the news
Also remind yourself that there is lots of support from other kiwis for the work you do. A recent UMR research showed the vast majority of New Zealanders are solidly behind farmers. New Zealanders are almost five times as likely to hold a positive view of sheep & beef farming than a negative one and twice as likely to hold a positive view towards dairy farming than a negative one.
So if a few headlines are stressing you out, take a break from the news and social media cycle to go and scratch behind your cow’s ears, stop to enjoy the view from ‘your office’ or connect with your mates.
Visit Farmstrong for more tips and advice
Or even better still, visit the farmstrong website and see what other farmers are doing to invest in their wellbeing. That’s what helps you get through tough times.