Identify your stress triggers before winter takes its toll
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.
PEOPLE WHO ARE EMOTIONALLY RESILIENT TEND TO BE FLEXIBLE IN HOW THEY DEAL WITH STRESS