Iden­tify your stress trig­gers be­fore win­ter takes its toll

Irish Independent - Farming - - FARM OUR - MARY KIN­STON

YOU GOT through the im­pacts of snow and ice in March, a tough wet spring and a pro­longed drought and fi­nally you’ve enough rain to see some grass grow­ing be­neath your feet.

So it’s rea­son­able to be op­ti­mistic about your abil­ity to feed the cows with some ease for the next while. Time then, for some well-earned rest and maybe a trip to the Plough­ing.

But if it was last Wed­nes­day, and you were in the car park in Tul­lam­ore for three hours, hav­ing po­ten­tially trav­elled for hours and maybe with kids, you’d be ques­tion­ing what else 2018 was ready to throw at you..

Wait­ing for the storm to pass and the Plough­ing to open, and then the dis­ap­point­ment of a wasted jour­ney, would test the met­tle of even the most emo­tion­ally re­silient among us.

What is emo­tional re­silience? By def­i­ni­tion, it’s “the science of mas­ter­ing life’s great­est chal­lenges”. Peo­ple who are re­silient tend to be flex­i­ble — flex­i­ble in the way they think about the chal­lenges and flex­i­ble in the way they re­act emo­tion­ally to stress.

They are not wed­ded to a spe­cific style of cop­ing. So the con­cept of emo­tional re­silience gets you think­ing about how you han­dle your­self in the face of stress.

This is im­por­tant be­cause for many the fod­der cri­sis is far from over. A lot still hangs on the weather.

What is clear is that farm­ers need to work on emo­tional re­silience fac­ing into the next six months, es­pe­cially as there’s likely to be a hang­over — be it fi­nan­cial, strate­gic or health-wise — from the past year.

As farm­ers we have to start talk­ing se­ri­ously about the things we just don’t like to talk about.

Oth­er­wise the strength and the re­silience of this in­dus­try may be weak­ened at the base and ex­pe­ri­ence some losses along the way which may be avoid­able.

Hav­ing high­lighted the is­sue ear­lier in the year af­ter the tough spring, one of my dis­cus­sion groups re­turned to the is­sue of stress.

We spoke about the recog­ni­tion of stress trig­gers and po­ten­tial in­ter­ven­tions such as fu­ture plan­ning and ac­tion on cre­at­ing buf­fers in silage re­serves.

The im­por­tance of be­ing able to switch off came to the fore where a lady in the group dis­cussed the need for the main­te­nance of the ‘three Rs’ in the face of stress:

÷ re­la­tion­ship with self.

÷ re­la­tion­ship with oth­ers. ÷ re­la­tion­ships off-farm.

Hav­ing seen the farm­ing life from ‘the other half ’ per­spec­tive, I’ve cer­tainly tried to high­light the rip­ple ef­fect that farm­ing prob­lems can po­ten­tially have on the fam­ily if not man­aged.

Few fam­i­lies will avoid the pres­sures that start off in the yard, as we’re all in it to­gether.

Dur­ing the spring, our dis­cus­sion group con­cluded that proper plan­ning, hon­esty with your­self, and low­er­ing ex­pec­ta­tions were im­por­tant.

And then came the sum­mer drought. I can see lads are tired, and drained of en­thu­si­asm — which is go­ing to take some time to re­vive.

Many farm­ers now have a se­ries of press­ing is­sues and they need to first iden­tify them, and then tackle each prob­lem one step at a time.

Hav­ing been stressed my­self in the past, it is my ex­pe­ri­ence that you only re­alise the ex­tent of the stress in hind­sight, which is not much good be­cause the per­sonal dam­age, big or small, is done by that point.

The key to this is to man­age the sit­u­a­tion be­fore you be­come stressed!

Iden­ti­fy­ing your stress trig­gers is a start.


Fi­nan­cial pres­sures will top many of our lists.

Ex­ten­sive feed­ing re­quires funds and if that comes out of cash­flow, there’s a re­duced cash sur­plus for cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture, draw­ings and tax.

You can’t avoid the 2017 tax due and you need a cer­tain level of draw­ings, so we need fi­nan­cial buf­fers.

Hav­ing sav­ings, con­sol­i­dat­ing stock num­bers, pay­ing tax off monthly, a feed bud­get, an an­nual cash bud­get, monthly cash­flow bud­get­ing and hit­ting sea­sonal tar­gets for work­ing cap­i­tal are skills we all need to de­velop and im­prove.

Why rely on ex­pen­sive money in the form of over­drafts be­cause you may have over-spent on cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture in 2017 or are pay­ing off debt too quickly when ex­tended terms would give some breath­ing space?

We can’t con­trol the weather, but we can and do con­trol our day-to-day de­ci­sions, so iden­tify prob­lems and act be­fore stress takes its toll.


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