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Stress Reducers

Stress is not something a good night's sleep or a short holiday will fix. Stress is a very real thing that affects our minds and bodies. It influences work efficiency and how we related to others, not a one-time fix just when things get overwhelming.

On a farm. there always seems to be one more thing to do and one more thing to think about. Information keeps arriving. People keep demanding decisions. Bills pile up. Machinery breaks down. Buildings need maintenance. In the busy seasons not even darkness signals the end of the working day.

Personal care tends to be a "we'll see if there's any time left" part of life. Many of us have been raised with a sense of false heroism. Machines, buildings, crops and animals often get better care than we do ourselves. Working harder, we believe, can cure whatever ails us.

But, we're wrong. We need to balance hard work with a proper plan for maintaining our health and sense of well-being; to make time to look after ourselves. That's easier if we accept that mental and physical health are critical to success in living and farming.

Thinking about health is not enough. We need to take the next step, which requires decisions. first, learn to be aware of yourself. Don't dismiss the physical signs of unhealthy stress. These include insomnia, fatigue, eating too much or too little, excessive drinking, excessive smoking, stomach cramps, high blood pressure, teeth grinding, diarrhea, constipation, head/back/neck pain.

Amoung the emotional danger signs are ongoing feelings of frustration, anger, bitterness, withdrawal, nervousness, mood swings, depression or worrying. These can show themselves in behaviour such as shouting, staying in bed all day, listlessness, and irregular personal care.

Ignoring stress symptoms triggers negative attitudes, a feeling of worthlessness and failure, a lack of focus leading to injury, and an overall feeling of hopelessness.

To combat unhealthy stress, first sit down with your farming partners and examine ways to improve communication and disperse work so that no one is overloaded. Take time to plan, talk about expectations, and do some problem solving.

Fun is an important part of stress reduction. We all need rest, and breaks during the day with relaxing activities to look forward to. Exercise is another stress-reducer. Walk for 20-30 minutes a day, go for a jog, a swim or a bike ride. Develop a hobby. Having at least one activity that carries no responsibility is refreshing.

Eating slowly and enjoying your meals makes a difference. Good food is more than simply downing a couple of donuts. We think al lot about how we feed our livestock, and should think more about how we feed ourselves. Avoid alcohol whenever possible. It increases depression. Don't over-medicate yourself. Read the instructions on medications. report any side effects that worry you.

Don't let anger grow roots. Storing anger inside is dangerous. But venting it on family members and hired hands is also destructive. Find a counsellor or trusted friend to help you explore anger, challenge you to name it and find ways of dealing with it. Pinpointing the real reason for anger helps resolve the immediate difficulty and other problems too.

Cultivate your support network. Admitting you need support whether from a professional, peers, or clergy is not an admission of weakness but actually a signal that you want to become strengthened.

When dealing with a major problem, try to break it down into smaller parts. For example, if you have a barn that needs a lot of repairs, pick out one job and concentrate on gettin git done. That way you see yourself progressing. Once the first task is completed, pick out another, and so on. Gradually, the problem as a whole will begin to look more manageable.

Learn to say "no". Many people have a hard time saying "no" because they think it will make them look negative, unhelpful and selfish. The truth is, we all have to know when enough is enough.

Also, remember that old line about laughter being good medicine? It's true! Look for humour. Watch a funny show, read a funny story, listen to a funny program, look for humour in what you do. Positive thoughts and humour help us maintain perspective when tackling serious problems.

There is no way to completely eliminate stress. Aim instead at developing a healthy lifestyle that limits the amount of stress. This requires a conscious personal commitment, but benefits are worth it.

Taken from "The Farm Line" by Gabriele Del Bianco


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