Farm­ers: keep tabs on your well-be­ing


FARM­ERS are very good at look­ing af­ter their ma­chin­ery and live­stock. If some­thing isn’t right they tend to deal with it straight away; this at­ten­tion to de­tail is im­por­tant for the pro­duc­tiv­ity and prof­itabil­ity of their farm.

How­ever, very often farm­ers over­look the most im­por­tant ele­ment to good farm­ing – them­selves. Aches and pains can be pushed aside dur­ing the busy calving or lamb­ing sea­son, or farm­ers who are phys­i­cally or emo­tion­ally un­well don’t want to talk to any­one about how they’re feel­ing. Farm­ers act fast when live­stock are un­well or the trac­tor won’t start; this same in­stinc­tive at­ti­tude should be adopted when they feel un­well them­selves.

Farm­ers must re­alise how im­por­tant they are to their farms, their fam­ily and their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and seek to make changes to stay in good health and ul­ti­mately get the most out of their en­ter­prise.

For the farm to be man­aged well, pri­ori­tise ac­tiv­i­ties on the farm into dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories e.g. daily tasks, such as milk­ing or feed­ing cat­tle; sea­sonal tasks such as calving or spray­ing; or other projects such as main­te­nance work. En­sure that you at­tend to the most im­por­tant jobs first and that you spread your work­load out over time to avoid too many jobs pil­ing up at once.

When plan­ning to do jobs al­ways con­sider if you need help with the work. This will help you to pace your­self and avoid rush­ing through jobs.

When a farmer pri­ori­tises, plans and paces him/her­self, it re­duces stress as you know in ad­vance that im­por­tant tasks will be com­pleted. A key ap­proach to man­ag­ing stress is recog­nis­ing the signs and re­spond­ing to them. The signs of stress can be phys­i­cal signs such as high blood pres­sure, dis­turbed sleep pat­tern or weight change; or men­tal signs such as neg­a­tive at­ti­tude, feel­ing un­cer­tain, feel­ing over­whelmed, re­duced con­cen­tra­tion, and be­havioural signs such as loss of in­ter­est and en­joy­ment, ir­ri­tabil­ity and mood swing, or with­drawal from friends and fam­ily.

2018 is a par­tic­u­larly stress­ful year with the cold spring and a sum­mer drought cre­at­ing a fod­der cri­sis for many farm­ers. The fod­der cri­sis along with other de­mands such as work, fam­ily, fi­nan­cial etc can make us feel over­whelmed and lose con­fi­dence in our abil­ity to cope.

When stressed, talk­ing to some­one and shar­ing your con­cerns can have an al­most im­me­di­ate ben­e­fit.

This is one of the ad­van­tages of farm dis­cus­sion groups as you re­alise you’re not alone and that pos­si­bly ev­ery mem­ber of the group is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some level of stress.

Shar­ing prob­lems; fo­cussing your at­ten­tion and en­ergy on the things that you can do; eat­ing healthily; tak­ing time to re­lax; get­ting enough sleep; do­ing ex­er­cises or join­ing a lo­cal club all helps to re­lieve stress and al­lows you to take back full con­trol of your­self.

If al­co­hol is in­ter­fer­ing with your life or work in any way, you should im­me­di­ately cut back on how much you drink. Quit­ting smok­ing is the sin­gle most im­por­tant thing you can do to live longer, and it’s never too late to stop, no mat­ter what age you are or how long you have smoked.

Iso­la­tion is a com­mon ex­pe­ri­ence for many farm­ers liv­ing alone in ru­ral ar­eas. It is im­por­tant to break the iso­la­tion trap by join­ing farm dis­cus­sion groups, cy­cling/walk­ing groups or go­ing to events. Iso­la­tion is a prob­lem but it can be over­come.

You might feel very well both phys­i­cally and men­tally, but it is rec­om­mended to visit your doc­tor for an an­nual checkup, and never de­lay seek­ing a med­i­cal opin­ion if you have any health con­cerns.

If you put your­self first you put ev­ery­thing first.

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