Self-Care Options for Farmers in a Tough Year
Farming is not just a profession; it's a way of life deeply intertwined with the rhythms of nature. However, the life of a farmer can be incredibly demanding, both physically and mentally, especially during challenging years when factors like market downturns, cost increases, unpredictable weather, and personal hardships converge to create a perfect storm of stress.
In such times, practising self-care is essential, enabling you to navigate adversity with resilience and maintain your own vitality while looking after your farm.
Connect with nature
Farmers are no strangers to the healing power of nature. Amidst the chaos and uncertainty, taking a moment to immerse oneself in the natural world can provide solace and rejuvenation. Whether it's a brisk walk in the fields with your dog, sitting by a quiet pond or under a tree you have planted, connecting with your favourite cow or simply observing the cycles of growth and decay, these moments of connection can be profoundly grounding and calming. Alternatively, take some time off to go tramping, hunting or fishing.
Seek support networks
Farmers far too often carry the weight of their responsibilities alone. However, reaching out to fellow farmers, agricultural associations, or support groups can be a lifeline during challenging times. Sharing experiences, challenges, and solutions can help alleviate the burden of isolation and offer valuable insights and emotional support.
Prioritise rest and sleep
Farmers are notorious for their relentless work ethic, but it's crucial to remember that rest is not a luxury but a necessity. Sleep deprivation can lead to physical and mental health issues, and make farming more risky. When you are tired you are much more likely to not take a moment to consider if what you are doing is safe. Prioritising adequate rest ensures you are better equipped to face the challenges that a tough year can bring.
Embrace mindfulness an meditation
The practice of mindfulness and/or meditation can be particularly helpful for farmers dealing with the unpredictability of farming.
Mindfulness and meditation may sound fancy and maybe even difficult, but it means learning to stay present and accept things as they are. Being in the moment you are not thinking about either past or future (and not worrying about it either. Managing stress through mindfulness techniques can help build resilience and improve mental well-being.
Look after your own health an fitness
Farmers often neglect their health due to busy schedules. A tough year should be a reminder of the importance of all aspects of health and fitness.
Regular exercise; get fit before calving, not by doing the work and being sore for the first few weeks.
Health check-ups, balanced nutrition, and the right exercise can go a long way in maintaining your most important tool, you! It should take priority and not be the last thing on the list.
You look after your cows, calves, machinery and buildings, looking after you should be first on the list so you can look after the rest.
Delegate and Share Responsibilities
Farming doesn't have to be a one-person show. Consider delegating tasks and sharing responsibilities with trusted family members or hired help. This can help distribute the workload and reduce the stress of trying to do everything on your own.
You can outsource things you are not good at or do not want to do (like your payroll or your accounts) to professionals who will ensure it gets done on time and correctly. If you are short of hands on the farm, consider if it might be easier to find someone to help you clean your house and do some cooking for you, while you do the farm work.
Financial planning to manage your stress
Financial stress can be a significant burden. Seek the guidance of experts to create a realistic budget, explore potential grants or subsidies, and develop plans to mitigate financial risks.
Understanding your financial situation and having a plan can reduce anxiety and uncertainty. It can be confronting to see the outcome of your current season now. Knowing where you stand, doing all you can to minimise the damage is much better than stressing all season not knowing how you are getting through it! Talking to the bank now if you need an extension of your overdraft is better than after you hit the limit.
Amidst the challenges, take time to acknowledge and appreciate the positives in your life.
Gratitude is a powerful tool for maintaining mental resilience and fostering a positive outlook, even in the face of adversity. Make it a habit to think of something you are grateful for each day. Pick a time that suits you, when you are brushing your teeth in the morning, at breakfast with your family (as a shared habit it is awesome) or at the end of the day at dinner. One of my friends has everyone at the table share the best thing of their day before we eat. Other families do things like the best, worst thing of your day and your hero of the day. It is a great habit.