Are you stressed?
Apparently we are busier and more stressed than ever before. Between being stuck in traffic, long commutes, meeting targets and having to be contactable via social media and email, as human beings we are not responding well to these pressures apparently. At least farmers don’t have long commutes I guess!
Causes of Stress in Farming
Farming can be a stressful occupation not to mention one of the most dangerous so we focused on ‘stress and wellbeing’ was the topic of the #agchatirl last week. This study by a discussion group and published by Teagasc shows the main reasons for stress amongst farmers. ?It makes for interesting reading:
As you can see there’s plenty there for farmers to get stressed about with so much of it being outside their control e.g. world prices and the weather. ?It certainly made me think as there’s lots there to ensure that Brian and I are stressed! Apparently the main causes of stress were long work hours with an average being 70 hours. I’m not even going to add up how many hours Brian works per week at certain times of the year. As you might expect, weather patterns and grass management can be stressful. Poaching, by the way, doesn’t refer to people stealing rabbits or other wildlife from the land but refers to heavy land being damaged by stock in wet conditions so that you see more mud than grass! It’s been a great summer for us this year as we have heavy land so the conditions were ideal.
Cashflow is another difficulty and this year was very stressful for anyone supplying factories with beef as prices were poor and farmers were left having to continually feed finished cattle knowing that their profits were disappearing with each passing day. I was working out our cashflow from now until February last night and thought we weren’t doing too bad until I realised I’d forgotten to add in the tax bill we have to pay on Thursday! We won’t have income from beef until February and the milk cheque in December will be small so it means that there is almost no farm income for 2 months but loans and direct debits will still be collected so cashflow needs to be calculated.
The farmers questioned in the survey stated that having a supportive partner (refers to a wife) makes a huge difference but I think this works both ways. If Brian was continually stressed when coming in for meals, it would stress me out too. On the occasion when one of us is stressed, the other tends to be quite realistic and state the usual ‘money is only paper’ or ‘as long as sickness and death happen out in the yard’. ?We also recognise that we enjoy being self-employed, being our own boss and not having to tolerate too much that we don’t enjoy.
Loneliness and isolation can cause stress too apparently and I often wonder if I would feel lonely if I didn’t have social media. I love the fact that I can tune in and out of social media depending on whether I want to chat or not. I do think farmers have to enjoy their own company and be happy working on their own a lot of the time. While some farmers still have labour on their farms, more and more are working on their own.
Although the weather can cause stress, it’s a case of dealing with it as best you can and putting things in place to try and minimise damage to the land (ie roadways) while maximising the amount of grass the cattle can eat. What really stresses both of us is if cattle are ill and the vet lab can’t tell you what is wrong. Or if we losing a calf when you feel you should have saved it can destroy the mood for a wee while.
Dealing with Stress
As the Teagasc publiation points out, stress can have serious effects on mental and physical wellbeing. If farmers are tired and stressed, it can lead to accidents, even death. One thing that Teagasc is trying to encourage is that people ask for help. The IFA had a number of ‘talk and walk’ events last spring which were well attended. I think farmers are masters in bottling things up – often to their own detriment.
I did feel stressed coming up to the blog awards. There were two important elements to the awards – ensuring the judging was being completed to a high standard and ensuring that the event was going to be a good night. I had too many things on in a relatively short time too – my own fault but heyho. ? I wasn’t interested in attending a day spa at all but I decided to book myself in for a morning with Sylvia Shirley after the awards. ?I have to admit that when I arrived I was wondering if I’d achieve as much relaxation going for a long walk. However, there is such a relaxing atmosphere there, you can’t help but feel that you’re unwinding with each minute. I had a facial, a back massage and some reiki and it was bliss. I dozed off during the massage and doing the reiki. ?Sylvia said I had one of the most relaxed backs she has worked on – no knots at all, which surprised me. Maybe I do deal with stress fairly well after all.
I went for a reflexology session with Caroline Cunningham too. Caroline is working in a fabulously light, high, white room that makes you feel so much at ease the second you walk in. It really is a beautiful space. I found the reflexology to be really interesting as well as relaxing. I have very ticklish feet and I was wondering would I just end up giggling but not at all. Yes, I fell asleep again! ?Not only did my feet feel great after it, but my whole body felt relaxed and rejuvenated too. Caroline was able to tell me some interesting thoughts about my personality based on my feet which I found to be fascinating.
I know reflexology has lots of benefits. I do think it’s important, whether it’s a massage, a reflexology treatment or a cycle, to take some time out. For me, I like walking, cycling and reading. Brian likes gardening. But going to another place, a really calming environment, for a treatment really boosted my energy and ‘feel good’ zing too. I tend to put going for treatments on the long finger but I really should book myself in occasionally.
Do you find stress ?gets you down sometimes? What do you do to alleviate it?