SUNDAY, MARCH 22, 2020

Staying calm in stressful times

Maintaining perspective is exponentially more beneficial for you during stressful times than stockpiling toilet paper.

by Jess Campbell

In 2020, it’s an incredible time to be alive.

But currently, it’s also a rather scary and stressful time to be alive.

The COVID-19 pandemic is all anyone seems to be talking about. You can’t get away from it: it’s all over the news and all over social media. Empty store shelves and spiked prices for basic goods like toilet paper are a stark reminder of the situation, not to mention the postponements and cancellations of everything from school and church gatherings to sports events and international flights.

As if you need reminding, right?

Even though the effects of COVID-19 on farming and agriculture have yet to be seen, that doesn’t mean the panicked groupthink that seems to be happening doesn’t affect farmers.

It’s okay to admit that you may have thought about how lucky you are to have an endless supply of milk, beef or other animal protein, and that you live away from an urban centre. And it’s also okay to be worried about it all the same.

If you find that you’re worrying an excessive amount over the state of the world right now, here are a few things you can do to combat that worry and gain back a sense of calm.

MANAGE YOUR MEDIA

This one is listed first because it’s arguably the most significant. It’s easy to fall down a social media rabbit hole on the best of days, let alone when the world seems to be spinning out of control. Dialing back your social media use in a significant way will decrease your mental clutter, calm your (possibly very frayed) nerves and help you maintain perspective. If you’re someone who’s always online, set aside specific times during the day when you allow yourself to hop on. Outside of those blocks, however, try to keep Twitter in your pocket.

Extra helpful: silence or shut off social media notifications so your phone’s vibration mechanism can have a break, too.

STAY YOUR TYPICAL PATH

Farmers are usually pretty good at maintaining routine, especially when there are hungry livestock expecting to be fed at the same time each day. But when things like school and extracurricular activities are cancelled, it can throw said routine right out the window. Whatever is happening outside the barn or off the farm, try your best to stick to a regular routine. Doing so will help you maintain a sense of control within a situation that can otherwise feel pretty chaotic.

Extra helpful: if your regular routine just isn’t possible (i.e. because of kids at home or having to work from home when you usually commute to an off-farm office), set up a new one that will work for the short term – and that works for everyone involved.

PRACTICE MINDFULNESS

When uncertainty looms – especially of this magnitude – it’s easy to want to “numb out” with distractions like social media. Except, we’ve already talked about how social media can be unhelpful here – so why not practice staying present? If you find yourself worrying about the future, focus on your five senses to bring yourself back to the present moment. What colours do you see around you? How does the air smell? Close your eyes and name the sounds you hear. Take note of how your clothes feel underneath your fingertips. Open and close your mouth to loosen your jaw and notice the taste in your mouth. Taking note of your senses forces your mind to come back to the present instead of spinning off into the what-ifs of the future.

Extra helpful: download a free app, like Headspace or Calm, and give meditation a try. Meditating for even just one minute can have a profound effect on your stress level.

TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE

No, you can’t discuss the score of the Raptors game last night (sadly). But even during a pandemic, life goes on. There is still work to be done and things to be accomplished each day, especially on the farm. So, talk about that! For example, now is a great time to make sure your spring planting plans are in order or to make any adjustments before getting out into the field to begin your busiest time of year.

Extra helpful: if you’re looking for something to talk about, play a board game or a game of cards. Surely, the competition will lend to some great conversation! 

CHECK IN WITH OTHERS

Of course, we’re not talking about heading out into the crowds (although it’s doubtful there are crowds to venture into at this point!). But don’t be afraid to call or visit a neighbour, friends or family. It’s especially important to check in on anyone you know who is of higher risk, such as elderly folks or those with existing respiratory diseases (i.e. asthma). Give them a call or have a video chat if you’re not comfortable visiting in person. Staying connected with the people we care about is a great way to not only pass the time but to also remember that even though it may feel like it, we are not alone in this.

Extra helpful: do some baking and/or cooking and send your extras to a person or family in need.

Although the future may seem entirely uncertain under the cloud of COVID-19, it’s important to remember that no matter what’s happening in the world, no one can ever predict the future. When you do want an update, make sure it’s from reputable sources, like the World Health Organization or the Public Health Agency of Canada. It’s okay to be worried but using strategies like the ones listed above will help your worry remain in check – and will help you remember that we’re all in this together.

SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2020

Stress is your friend.
Wait, What?

Results from a massive study indicate it’s not stress that’s so bad for you – but how you think about it.

by Jess Campbell

You’ve heard it all before.

Stress kills.

Less stress is best.

For a long and happy life, get rid of all your stress. (Except who can actually get rid of all their stress?!)

Considering all the people who’ve said stress is bad for you, it turns out they’re only kinda right.

Yes, living in a constant state of stress keeps your cortisol levels too high and puts undue physical stress on your body, especially your heart. No one will argue that’s good for you because it isn’t.

But according to a large study of over 30,000 people over eight years, it seems that how you perceive the effects of stress on your health matters a lot more than the stress itself.

WATCH WHAT YOU THINK

This incredible study was conducted in 2012 in the United States and the conclusion about what we think we know about how stress affects the body are fascinating:

  • There was an increased risk of premature death in those who were experiencing high stress and believed stress was bad for their health
  • Those who were experiencing a lot of stress and believed stress negatively impacted their health had a 43% increased chance of premature death
  • Those who experienced a lot of stress but didn’t believe it negatively affected their health had the lowest risk of dying, even compared to people who reported experiencing very little stress (but who still believed stress was bad for them)

If you believe the stress you experience is actually good for you, your body will hear that and react accordingly. So much so that you’re much more likely to live longer.

Like, whoa.

While all of this might seem a bit daunting (How am I supposed to believe stress is good??!!) there is an existing aspect of stress that is already good for us.

THE GOOD STRESS HORMONE

We’ve already mentioned cortisol, which is the fight/flight/freeze hormone that’s released under stressful circumstances. There’s another stress hormone that is also released when you’re stressed out – but its effects on your body are entirely different.

Oxytocin has gained the nickname of the Cuddle Hormone because it drives us to seek comfort and support from other people during times of stress. So, that feeling you get when you’re stressed out and wanting to call your best friend to vent or hang out? Yeah, that’s oxytocin talking.

The main role of oxytocin in your body is to protect your cardiovascular system, aka your heart, from the effects of stress. When you’re stressed out, your blood vessels actually constrict; this is why we associate heart attacks with high levels of stress. But oxytocin is actually an anti-inflammatory hormone, meaning it helps your blood vessels stay relaxed during stressful situations. As if that weren’t awesome enough, it also helps to heal heart cells that have been damaged from stress.

So when we’re in a stressful situation or generally feeling high amounts of stress, oxytocin is the built-in mechanism for stress resilience.

THE PROOF IS IN THE STRESS

Changing the way you think about it is the one thing you can control when it comes to the stress in your life. As it happens, it’s your own thoughts that will help change the way you view stressful events and, therefore, change the way your body is affected by them.

Stress has an emotional impact; to change that impact, you need to change the way you think about stress. Instead of seeing it as a threat, see stress as a challenge – one that your brain and body will overcome with the help of its physical response (i.e. a swiftly beating heart is pumping lots of blood to your brain to help you find a creative solution to the challenge in front of you).

As well, practicing mindfulness along with developing a changed perception work together to reduce the effects of stress on the body and mind.

Stressful, challenging times are an opportunity to learn and grow; they certainly don’t have to be entirely negative. The next time you find your stress levels raising the roof on your life, why not take a step back and see the situation for what it is: a challenge, not a threat.

You might just find yourself with a new friend.

You notice when you’re physically hurt or when you’re overly exhausted from a long, taxing day. But becoming more self-aware involves going a little deeper than the surface.

If you’re a fan of the 90s sitcom, Friends, you may remember one particular episode where Monica calls her soon-to-be husband, Chandler, an “emotional robot” because he had been unable to cry for several years. While that scene and episode were good for a laugh (as all Friends episodes are), Monica’s description of her emotionally stunted partner can also be applied to most of us when it comes to self-awareness.

Self-awareness means to be aware of not only your present self (what you’re doing, where you’re going, etc.) but also your thoughts, emotions, stresses and beliefs. Having self-awareness is about understanding ourselves better. The thing is, most of us walk around on auto-pilot and are completely unaware of the intricacies of our thoughts, emotions, stresses and beliefs as our minds drift to mundane things, like what the weather will be like tomorrow or what might be for dinner when you go to your mum’s next week. Hence, the applicability of the emotional robot title.

Except, who cares if you walk around on auto-pilot all the time? As long as things get done, why does it matter how we feel or what we think about it, let alone what we think or feel about ourselves?

As it happens – self-awareness matters greatly and cultivating more of it could drastically change your life.

YOU’RE NOT ARTIFICIALLY INTELLIGENT

Despite Monica’s rather blunt description of him, Chandler is not an emotional robot. His inability to cry stems from – among other things – an extreme lack of self-awareness. By the end of the episode (spoiler alert!), Chandler does cry. He’s able to tap into his true feelings about their upcoming wedding and marriage, share his fears with his fiancée and release those fears through crying. (And more crying. And then some more crying. And then even more crying. It really is a hilarious episode.)

The world we live in today is not exactly sympathetic to the emotional side of being human. Emotions are labeled as bad; people who show them are labeled as weak. This, unfortunately, is especially true in the agriculture industry. (Does the phrase, “Suck it up, buttercup!” mean anything to you?) It’s no wonder that most of us walk around like a robot, unable to adequately express how we feel, let alone be aware of what those feelings are throughout a normal day.

BECOME AWARE FOR SELF-CARE

The desire to more deeply understand ourselves and why we are the way we are is an admirable goal. But it’s also an important one, especially when you’re struggling in one or more areas of your life.

Say you’re having trouble maintaining positive relationships with the people you work with on the farm. For many young farmers, those relationships are with family, making things extra complicated. If you work on becoming more self-aware, you’ll be better able to recognize not only your emotions but also what triggers them. Being able to recognize how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way can help you improve your relationships because you’re much more in tune with who you are. You begin to notice where your boundaries are (or where they should be, anyway), how you want to be treated and where you want to go in life, and can then adequately and reasonably speak up for yourself about those things.

Getting to know yourself in this manner helps you to build steadier, healthier relationships with other people. Most importantly, though, it will drastically improve your relationship with yourself.

KNOW MORE TO LEARN MORE

So, how does one go about becoming more self-aware? Although this may be a bit overwhelming, a great first step is to ask those closest to you what your strengths are and what you need to work on.

Everyone has blindspots; things we do and say, and behaviour we exhibit, without even realizing we’re doing it. Luckily, those closest to us have a different perspective on us than we do, and so can offer that perspective in a constructive way. If you do ask about this, you need to be willing to truly listen to the perspective that’s offered and remember that, no matter what they report, you are asking for their help and you value their words.

Another way to foster more self-awareness is by journaling. Whether you write down a few bullet points about how you felt over the course of the day or talk into a recording app on your phone to remark on something that happened, moving your thoughts and feelings from inside your own head and out into the open, so to speak, can help you process them and, if they’re not serving you, let them go.

The topic of self-awareness is a complex one; it certainly didn’t come easy for Chandler! But if you want to move beyond being an emotional robot and understand yourself better to live your life in a more meaningful way, improving your self-awareness will help by leaps and bounds.

by Jess Campbell

Changing your life – truly – may not be as insurmountable as you think.

There are lots of things we could do more of in order to be and do better.

We could all drink more water. We could get a little more sleep. We could lift heavy things up and down a few times a week a little bit more (yes, flipping a tractor tire or carrying an animal in your arms counts!).

But the thing that will make the biggest difference in your life is something a little less tangible – and a lot more freeing.

We all know the song Let it Go from the wildly popular Disney movie, Frozen. And sure, letting go of things that aren’t good for you and don’t serve you sounds like a great idea in theory.

It’s the HOW of letting go that can trip people up. The good news is, letting go doesn’t have to be as hard as you might believe it to be. In fact, letting go of what isn’t serving you could be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.

So let’s take a look at how to get you started at letting go.

RECOGNIZE WHAT ISN’T HELPFUL

You probably are well aware of the things in your life that you could do without (or maybe you’re not, in which case – you’ve got some work to do). And it’s all well and fine to say you’ll change them or give them up. But in order to actually work toward ridding your life of the things that aren’t serving you, you must first acknowledge that there is another option and that you can choose differently. Only then can you begin to move toward the alternative and let go of unhelpful things in your life.

DON’T LIVE IN SHACKLES

… especially when you have the key. As Henry Ford (sorry, Chevy lovers) once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right.” Limiting beliefs are something everyone struggles with. If you truly believe them, though, you’ll never get to where you want to be. You are not your (especially negative) thoughts. Believing your negative thoughts is a choice, not an absolute. You choose what you believe which means you can make different choices going forward.

ACCEPT WHO YOU ARE, RIGHT NOW

This can be really hard, especially if there are things about yourself that you don’t particularly like or are desperate to change. However, it’s important to fully understand that nobody’s perfect. In fact, perfection is like the horizon: it recedes as you approach it so you never arrive there. You are a culmination of the behaviour and decisions you have chosen up until this point. If you want to make changes, embrace who you are right now – and then begin again, choosing differently.

ACCEPT WHAT YOU CANNOT CHANGE

Yes – more acceptance. #lesigh

The past is the past. What’s already happened and what’s already been said and done cannot be changed. So, why drag it around with you to weigh down the present moment? The present moment is where life happens. It’s much easier to choose well and make decisions that reflect who you want to become when who you used to be no longer holds you down. Accept where and who you are now. Your future self will thank you.

FORGIVE YOURSELF (AND EVERYONE ELSE)

This might be the most difficult aspect of letting go. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Continuing to choose resentment means you’re voluntarily locking yourself in your past. Forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made, for saying and doing things that aren’t about who you are now. If you can forgive yourself, you’ll find it easier to forgive others – even though forgiveness isn’t for others. It’s for you.

Some of these things could be easy for you to implement into your life going forward. Or they could be hard; they may even seem impossible right now. However you feel about letting go of things that aren’t serving you, it’s okay. The point is to recognize those things, make peace with them and put them down. Shouldering heavy burdens like poor self-worth, negative relationships or significant stress is not helping you. So, go ahead – sing the song.

And let it go.

by Jess Campbell

We know what we do and how we do it – but knowing why we do what we do can make all the difference.

As farmers, it seems there’s an obvious answer to the question of ‘why do you farm’?

To produce food. Duh.

But to consider that question on an individual level, thinking about it from your personal perspective – why do you choose to be a farmer?

The answer may not come to you so quickly, and that’s okay.

When people talk about their life’s passion – their purpose – it’s easy to see a noticeable difference in the way they explain themselves. Their eyes light up. Their voice becomes light and animated, or perhaps calm and assured. They may even start talking with their hands a bit more than usual. And this is all because they know their why.

WHO CARES ABOUT WHY?

There are numerous benefits to discovering why you choose to do what you do. Simon Sinek is the author of Start With Why. Sinek indicates in his book that when you understand your why, you’re able to live a more intentional life. You’re able to create a baseline of personal values and essentially live your life by them, making decisions easier, relationships richer and more meaningful, and inject integrity into your actions in order to work toward and achieve your goals.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

The thing is – who cares? Who cares why you do what you do? Aren’t we all just as self-absorbed as the next person?

Not exactly.

Human beings are biologically wired for connection, so much so that to be reclusive or separated from others for long periods is as dangerous to our overall health as physical disease. When we align ourselves emotionally with our why, it inherently connects us with others in a far more powerful, meaningful way. We are able to trust and love and support one another on a deeper level; we effectively see ourselves in other people. And what’s more connecting than seeing yourself in someone else?

HOW TO FIND YOUR WHY

Self-awareness is a good place to begin when it comes to finding out why you do what you do. But here are a few more things you can do to begin going down this path of self-discovery.

Think about things you do that cause you to lose track of time. If you find you’re keeping a constant eye on the clock, that doesn’t say much for your level of enjoyment for the task you’re doing. What makes you forget the clock altogether and gets you into the “flow” of life? It’s these things that typically are where your passion lies.

Next, think about what you loved to do as a child. Children choose to do things they love and don’t yet have the notion to think about what they “should” be doing. Perhaps you loved riding horses, tinkering with cars, skateboarding or drawing. Have you kept up these things you once loved or have you let them slide? Revisit these activities and take note of how they make you feel.

Then become aware of what people ask of you when they come to you for help. Are you the resident clown who people come to for a lighthearted laugh? Are you the person who people ask for advice? Are you a great listener who allows people to vent their frustrations without judgement? You may not be able to see your talents like others do, so see if there’s a theme the next time someone asks to sit down with you.

Finally, if you could teach people something, what would you teach them? Answering this question forces you to think honestly about your legacy and how you might want to be remembered. It’s never pleasant to think about death – but it makes it a bit easier knowing the people you left behind will be filled with gratitude and love in having known you and learned from you in the first place.

Understanding your why for the way you live your life is deep and meaningful work. It’ll help you nurture relationships with others and to build the relationship you have with yourself. Equally important, knowing your why will allow you to live with gratitude, purpose and intention – and to easily answer the question why do you farm.

by Jess Campbell

You are enough – but do you believe it? Here’s how to start.

It’s fair to say that we want to feel good about ourselves. Having a positive perspective about who you are and what you do makes it easier to overcome the challenges of life and contribute to the world in a positive way.

But we all know that feeling enough – that we don’t need to do or be better in order to be worthy and valued – is not easy. In fact, it can be downright fleeting.

Self-esteem can help in discovering this elusive feeling of enoughness, but can also be very problematic (contrary to what you may have heard up until now). It’s actually self-compassion that is better suited to developing a long-standing, genuine feeling of being enough, just as you are.

SHIFTING THE FOCUS

We often hear how important it is to have good self-esteem as well as the importance of being compassionate toward others. But here’s the thing: self-esteem is contingent on success and how we compare to others. It’s about judgement. It can also be (and very often is) about putting others down to lift yourself up. For example, if you don’t adhere to the standards placed on you by the farmers who preceded you or work with you now, it’s fair to assume you feel like a failure or that you otherwise don’t (and could never) measure up when, in reality, you’re a great farmer. Therein lies the issue of self-esteem.

Dr. Kristin Neff is a leading researcher on self-esteem and self-compassion, and helps people to develop and see the benefits of having more self-compassion. According to Neff, the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion involves treating ourselves with kindness and respect, and recognizing that you are awesome, just as you are, flaws and all.

Neff’s research has shown that self-compassion is more beneficial than self-esteem because it generates emotional resilience, more caring relationship behaviour and less narcissism and reactive anger. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

COMPASSION FOR ALL… INCLUDING YOU

So, how do you begin to cultivate more self-compassion? It can be difficult to know where to begin, especially if you happen to have a particularly harsh and loud self-critic. Neff’s research outlines three pillars of self-compassion: kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.

Let’s start with kindness. If you’re having the worst possible day, one where absolutely nothing is going your way – what do you say to yourself? Does your inner critic have a field day? Instead of letting that negative voice run wild in your mind, think of what you’d say to a friend who was having the exact same kind of day. Chances are, you wouldn’t tell them they’re an idiot and not worth anyone’s time.

Understanding the common humanity element of self-compassion means that no matter how it looks on social media, no one is perfect. You might feel like you’re the very worst farmer in the world – but there are also loads of other farmers who feel the exact same way as you do. Everything you feel – good and not so – is part of the experience of being human. You’re not alone and understanding that is key.

As we know, mindfulness is about recognizing the present circumstances and accepting them as they are. Mindfulness allows you to avoid ruminating on negative thoughts and emotions and, instead, begin to quiet the inner critic and recognize opportunities to learn and grow as a human being.

According to Neff, self-compassion is very strongly correlated with mental well-being based on the numerous studies that have been conducted over the past several years. Instead of trying to one-up your neighbour or feel better about yourself at someone else’s expense, make self-compassion the top priority so that you can finally believe that yes, you are enough.

by Jess Campbell

 

There’s lots of talk about “health and fitness” and “being healthy” this time of year. But what does that actually mean? The answer may surprise you.

We’re steps into a new decade and the talk of “getting healthy for 2020” is running rampant, as it normally does this time of year.

Have you ever considered what it actually means to be healthy?

While there is no universally accepted definition of the word health, the World Health Organization defines it in the first point of their Constitution: ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

Does this definition resonate with you? Why, or why not? The meaning of health is and will be different for each individual person. But if there’s one thing that does apply to everyone, it’s that the absence of health can make or break you. Let’s consider a few aspects that will help you look at your own health, and determine what ‘healthy’ looks like for you.

YOU DO YOU.

You may raise cattle on your farm but that absolutely does not mean you need to adopt the herd mentality. At this time of year, it’s very easy to jump on the newest, shiniest bandwagon because everyone else is doing it (hello, Keto!). But do you actually want to stop eating carbs? Do you even understand why that’s a thing?

Aside from the fact that carbohydrates are an integral and very necessary component of one’s food intake, everyone is entitled to their own individual choices when it comes to food, let alone health. Whether it’s eating or exercise or being social or work or life – do what works for you. You’re way more likely to stick to something that works for you than something that works for your neighbour or some influencer on The Gram.

PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION

Perfection is very much like the horizon: it recedes as you approach it and is never within one’s grasp. Simply put, perfection doesn’t exist. So why focus on something that isn’t real?

When it comes to your health, think about what you want and develop a way to get there. Our previous article talked about focusing on systems instead of goals. If you want to prioritize getting more and better sleep, think about what you’ll need to do to make that happen (i.e. going to bed earlier) and develop a system that helps you get there (i.e. heading into the bathroom to brush your teeth and get ready for bed at 9 PM instead of turning on your favourite streaming service).

Focusing on your progress also helps build resilience for when things don’t go as planned, as they inevitably will. Say you’ve had many nights of solid sleep because you’ve kept up your system of heading upstairs to bed at 9 each night. But then your neighbours drop in one night and you stay up socializing until well past midnight. That’s okay; go be social! You’re now able to trust your system – and yourself – and you’ll get back to your regularly scheduled bedtime the following night.

SMALL CHANGES = BIG RESULTS

This time of year also lends itself to encouraging people to completely overhaul their lives to achieve their goals. There are two main things wrong with this approach. First and most obviously, it is goal oriented instead of process oriented (and we already know that focusing on the goal instead of the process isn’t exactly helpful).

Secondly, in order to make big changes, you actually need to start small. Say you want to eat more vegetables. If you try to change every single meal to include more vegetables, the chances of you keeping that up are pretty much zero. What you want to do is focus on changing one meal instead, and focus on adding veggies just to that meal for at least 30 days, if not longer. You’re building a habit, a process of adding veggies to that meal and you need to give yourself time to solidify that habit. Once you’re feeling good about that habit (i.e. you don’t even have to think about adding half a plate of veggies to your dinner), that’s when you know you can move on to adding veggies to another meal.

Change one thing at a time, your chance of success is 80% or more. Change two things at a time, your chance of success drops to 35%. Change three or more things at once – aka, try to overhaul your life like all the gurus are telling you to do – and your chance of success drops to 0%. Moral of the change-your-life story? Take it one step at a time.

FOCUS ON THE FEELS

What does good health feel like for you? Consider for a moment how you want to feel each day when it comes to your physical, mental and social well-being. Do you feel lonely if you don’t socialize more than once a week, or are you energized by alone time? Have you been putting off travel plans because you can’t get away from the farm or because travelling is outside your comfort zone? Do the relationships in your life give you joy or make you feel guilty?

This is your life. No one else can tell you what’s healthy for you and what’s not healthy. Sure, there are the obvious things like smoking, drinking heavily, and unresolved anger that everyone could do without. But when it comes to your health, it’s totally up to you how you decide you want to feel each day when you wake up.

You already have everything you need to make the changes you want to make when it comes to your health. Define what that means for you and get after it if it’s not already happening for you. Always remember: you are worthy and deserving of strong, robust mental, physical and social health. No matter what time of year it is.

by Jess Campbell

The holiday season is in full swing, which doesn’t always translate to feeling holly and jolly. But this time of year doesn’t have to always feel Grinch-infused.

Baking. Cooking. Cleaning. Hosting. Shopping. Planning. Travelling.

Oh, and farming.

The holiday season is no joke. For many, it’s pretty stressful – maybe even depressing. Regular expectations of ourselves and others seem to fly out the side of Santa’s sleigh and we’re left feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated because of it.

Ah, but there’s a way to feel a little more even keel around the holidays, believe it or not.

FEEL

Are you shocked to read this? Acknowledging your feelings is the first step to finding peace during the holiday season. If this time of year causes you to feel grumpy and down, that’s okay. If it causes you to feel joyful and full of wonder, that’s okay. If your feelings are somewhere in the middle or they oscillate back and forth – also okay. Allow yourself to feel the way you feel about the holidays. It’s all okay, and it’s all going to BE okay.

BE PRESENT

We’re not talking presents under the tree, obviously. A lot of our stress comes from worrying about the future or the past. Spoiler alert: you can’t change either of them. So, why not stay in the here and now as much as possible? Try to feel grateful for what you have in front of you – even if it’s your crazy cousin asking you to save the neck of the turkey for him. (“She’s a beaut, Clark!”)

BE REALISTIC

Are you really able to pack in one more holiday gathering on a day when you already have five scheduled? Prioritize. And then ask yourself what you want to do. If you want to add another thing to your list and you feel good about it, do it! But understand that no one actually expects you to do and be All The Things. So, why put that kind of pressure on yourself? It’s a sure fire way to suck any chance of holiday joy right out of the season.

SAY NO

Tied in with the above point is saying no to things you either don’t want to do or can’t do. If you’re worried that your mother-in-law is going to be disappointed that you’re not hosting 37 people at your house on Christmas Eve because you have a new baby and the cows are calving – that’s okay. But understand that we are only responsible for ourselves; our own behaviour, words and actions. If hosting or baking or attending doesn’t fit into your life this time of year, it’s okay to politely decline the invitation. ‘That’s not going to work for me/us,’ ‘I’m sorry but I can’t,’ and ‘No, thank you’ work really well.

KEEP YOUR HEALTHY HABITS

Do you go for a walk every evening, meal prep a week’s worth of dinners or get to bed by 9 every night? There’s absolutely no reason to let your existing habits slide during the holidays. The biggest challenge for a lot of people, though, is food and eating. During the holidays, it becomes the norm to consume an entire day’s worth of calories in one meal – for six days straight. If you’re going to do that, make sure you keep up your other healthy habits to balance it out. Because that’s what you’re looking for during the holidays: balance.

BUDGET

With all the parties and dinners and family functions to attend throughout December, spending can get pretty wild, pretty fast. Keeping a holiday budget is simpler than ever these days because, of course, there’s an app for that. Download one to your phone to keep track of not only what you need to buy and who you need to buy for but also the budget you need to stick to for each event and person. Your future self – and your future bank account – will thank you.

REACH OUT

Despite the Christmas movie marathons which depict otherwise, the holidays aren’t always softly falling snow, twinkle lights and love. Perhaps you’re not in touch with your family. Maybe someone close to you has passed away and this is your first holiday season without them. Or maybe you’re just feeling depressed and can’t seem to pinpoint why. If you’re struggling with any of these – or none of them – please reach out to a professional. We live in a society that has the resources to help when we’re struggling with our mental health. You’re not weak for asking for help; you’re taking care of yourself. No matter your reason for reaching out, the point is that you do it in the first place.

Happy holidays, everybody.

by Jess Campbell

It’s no secret that we are our own worst critic. But figuring out where that criticism comes from can actually help you be a little easier on yourself.

I’m such an idiot!… Why did I say that?… Why did I DO that?… What the hell is WRONG with me?!?!

Judging ourselves.

We all do it.

And typically, it’s not helpful. But learning where the judgement is coming from in the first place can begin to help you not only understand what’s happening but also stop self-judgement in its tracks. And that is always helpful.

WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

When you’re in self-judgement – whether it’s a little whisper or a loud yell – that’s fear talking. To begin the process of understanding why we self-judge, we first need to understand what we’re so afraid of that’s causing us to self-judge in the first place.

For example, a common judgement that may run through your mind from time to time is that you’re not good enough. This concept of “good enough” could be in relation to anything: as a farmer, as a partner, as a family member, as someone trying to eat better/contribute to their community/be on time – the list goes on.

But what is the definition of “good enough” and who decides? The answer: YOU.

You decide what that definition is for yourself. And perhaps you have no idea what “good enough” means for you, so it subconsciously freaks you out every time you try to do literally anything. It’s why people are afraid of succeeding or doing more with their lives and stay stuck in jobs or relationships that make them unhappy. They’ve never taken the time to define what success means for them, so to try for something so undefined seems super scary.

EMBRACE YOUR ORPHANS

Another aspect that will often garner self-judgement is all the things we don’t like about ourselves. Maybe it’s the way you’re always impatient with your young livestock. Maybe it’s the way you speak to your kids when you’re tired. Maybe it’s your nose. The point is, we are quick to criticize what we’ve deemed to be our less desirable features and behaviours.

Instead, try embracing them. Yes, you read that right. Take a hard look at the behaviours and traits you don’t like, and give them a lot of love. In reality, the things you don’t like about yourself aren’t anything less than a facet of what makes you you. You are not made up of only good things; it is the light and the dark that makes you who you are. Try to consider embracing both sides equally a little more often.

HARNESS THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

The next time you catch your inner critic yammering on in your ear (or beginning another rampage in your mind), stop and forgive yourself. Say the words I forgive you, either out loud or inside your mind. Tell yourself that you are doing the best you can with what you know in the moment, and that you can choose differently – either right in the moment or the next time it happens. Because it’s true, isn’t it? Yes, you may wish you hadn’t done or said something that you now regret. But the act of self-forgiveness allows you the opportunity to learn and to make a different choice next time, one that’s more in line with how you aspire to behave as a person and how you’d like to live your life overall.

Recognize your fears, hold tight to your imperfections and forgive yourself. These are the beginnings of your path away from self-judgement and toward a more loving, authentic you.

by Jess Campbell

Healthy relationships that are a positive force in your life are possible if you decide to put up a few guide posts.

Setting and maintaining boundaries is vital to nurturing functional, healthy relationships. Healthy boundaries are also crucial to self-care. The thing is, not many of us understand what boundaries are, why we need them or how to set them with the people we choose to have in our lives. So, let’s change that.

BOUNDARY BASICS

Having personal boundaries means that you understand what your own limits are, and you create parameters around those limits to keep them safe. Boundaries can be physical or emotional: physical boundaries include your body, personal space and privacy, and emotional boundaries include separating your own feelings from another person’s feelings.

The key here is knowing what your own limits are, which isn’t always as simple as it seems. If you’re unsure of where you stand, think about what is tolerable, comfortable and acceptable when it comes to your physical and emotional self. For example, does it make you feel bad and physically hurt when your cousin punches you in the arm every time you see them? Getting punched in the arm is your limit. And you can say no to that.

Another example would be a salesperson who calls you “Sweetie” or another overly affectionate (read: inappropriate) nickname. If that makes you uncomfortable, it’s outside your limits and you can say no to that.

BUILDING BOUNDARIES

Raise your hand if you’ve ever said yes to something you really, really wanted to say no to – but saying no would mean having to endure passive aggressive comments from a family member or being shamed about “that time you were a jerk and refused to help me” for the rest of your days.

This is a very clear example of a boundary being disrespected. Even when you might feel guilty about trying to enforce that boundary, you have a right to say no to things you don’t want to do, regardless of how the person asking may feel about it.

Building healthy boundaries begins with understanding you are responsible for your own words, actions and behaviour, and that you are not responsible for the words, actions and behaviour of others. The next time you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do, say no, regardless of how you think the other person might react. Unless that person is falling down a well and really does need your help, you are not responsible for how they choose to feel about your decision. No matter what their reaction, they are choosing to react that way and it does not actually have to affect you.

BOUNDARIES = FREEDOM

You are your own individual person who chooses your own feelings and thoughts. This means you and your emotions are and can be separate from the emotions of others; how you feel doesn’t have to be tied to how someone else feels. If the person from the saying-no scenario above decided to react with anger or use guilt to attempt to sway your decision, it is key to understand they are choosing to react that way and their choice is not your responsibility.

If setting boundaries scares you, that’s okay; you can start by setting small, non-threatening boundaries. Commit to becoming more aware of your own emotions and putting your own needs first. It may be hard work at first but always remember – you’re worth the work.

by Jess Campbell

So, you wanna start self-care, eh? Come a little closer and we’ll tell you how…

If you’re reading this – you’re awesome.

Not because you’re reading this article (although, thank you!) but because you are, presumably, seeking out ways that you, as a farmer, can take a crack at this self-care thing.

Because you’ve come to realize that hey, maybe getting super angry and crying every day isn’t normal.

Because you’ve begun to understand that working 16 hours a day and feeling totally defeated because you “didn’t get anything done” isn’t a frame of mind that serves you.

Because you’ve finally had the realization that you’re worth caring for.

Read on for actionable tips on how to begin caring for yourself as well as – or maybe even better than! – you care for your land, livestock and machinery.

TIP #1: TALK TO ANOTHER FARMER

No one can deny it – farmers love to talk! But chatting with your farmer friends has more benefit than hearing what their yields are or how much their herd is milking.

Speaking to someone about what’s bothering you is good – but speaking to someone who can respond with genuine empathy is better. Farmers understand the ups and downs other farmers have because, chances are, they’ve been there. Talking to a farming friend can often help you feel better because you know they truly understand.

TIP #2: TAKE A BREAK

We’re not talking three weeks on a beach (we wish!). As any farmer knows, it’s easy for the To Do list to become so long, it becomes your To Do For The Rest Of Your Life list. And you have to keep hammering away at that list because if you don’t do it, it won’t get done, right? Well, reverse that logic: if you take 10 minutes to get out of the combine to stretch your legs; to jump in the truck to make a coffee run; or to just lie back on the lawn to stare at the clouds and do nothing – the work will still be there when those 10 minutes are up. The difference is, you’ve allowed yourself to break, to breathe and maybe even relax.

TIP #3: MAKE A PLAN

No matter who you are or what you spend your time doing, having something to look forward to makes the days fly by. So, plan something! A dinner at home with friends. A phone call with someone you care about (points for chatting on your Bluetooth while working if you can’t take an hour out of your day). A celebration or other gathering of friends, family or neighbours. A concert to hear your favourite entertainer. Farming may be a humongous part of your life – but it is not actually your whole life, even though it can feel that way a lot of the time. Plan to spend even a little bit of your time exploring the other parts of your life, whether outside agriculture or not. It doesn’t have to be fancy but it helps if it’s fun. (No dentists, please. Sorry, dentists!)

TIP #4: GET OFF THE FARM

This ties into tip #3 but takes it up a notch. When was the last time you got off the farm for more than a few hours? For something unrelated to farming or agriculture? That was fun and relaxing and that you might want to do again? Hopefully, those memories come easy to you. If they don’t – it’s time to make a plan to take an extended break from the farm. There are certainly different times during the year when this is easiest said and done. But there is always a point in the year when you can get away for a few days and do something that makes you feel good. And for those who insist they absolutely cannot leave the farm – please refer back to every single Self Care Sunday article and Tip that we’ve published so far. (Spoiler alert: you absolutely CAN leave the farm.)

TIP #5: CARE ABOUT YOURSELF

Self-care begins with, well, caring about yourself. Noticing that you’re not happy. That the things which used to bring you joy no longer do. That the relationships you’re in no longer serve you – including the relationship you’re in with yourself. Noticing all of these things and more, and understanding that you are worth the change. These changes don’t have to be huge; they can be small things, like making your bed every morning or putting the breakfast dishes IN the dishwasher or sink instead of next to it. Over time, small changes add up to big results. On the other hand, the changes you make can be big – that’s okay, too! The beautiful thing about caring for yourself is that it’s entirely up to you how you approach and accomplish that.

The point is that you know you’re worth caring for in the first place.

by Jess Campbell

We all know what stress is. But do you ever need more of it? The answer may surprise you….

Farmers are very familiar with stress.
What it is. 
What it feels like.
Why it happens.

We are, admittedly, a little less familiar with how to manage it effectively so it stays, well, manageable.

Would you believe it if you read that the answer to managing stress might be more stress?

Don’t click away just yet.

GOOD VS. BAD

Distress is the stress farmers can relate to. By definition, it’s the human response to any change that is perceived as a challenge or a threat. No matter what commodity you’re farming or type of livestock you’re caring for, distress happens daily; it’s part of the job.

A bearing on the tractor breaks off. 
Your cattle roll through a fence into a neighbour’s just-planted field.
Your entire family comes down with the same mystery illness that puts a rotating door on the bathroom.
That’s distress.

Eustress, on the other hand, is our body’s natural response to something exciting or anticipatory.

Yes, your beloved old pick-up may’ve died for good but shopping for a new one is pretty fun.
Your partner has gone into labour with your first born and your drive to the hospital is… atypically rapid.
You’ve finally booked an overnight stay at a cottage with some fellow farm friends.
All of these scenarios will likely cause you to feel some level of eustress, or “good” stress. You typically feel lighter, even happier; excited about what’s happening or what’s to come. Focusing comes easier so you’re able to accomplish a task at hand. Overall, eustress generally makes you feel pretty good.

A BALANCING ACT

Eustress invigorates you while distress can deplete you to the point of exhaustion.

So, how do you avoid arriving at the exhaustion stage?

Assuming you’re not already perpetually exhausted, try adding in some eustress so your day isn’t completely filled with distress.

If you’re unsure of what that might look like, consider this: eustress, by definition, has a beneficial effect on your health, motivation, performance and well-being.

What could you implement into your day that benefits you?

Going to bed earlier, even if it’s by 10 or 15 minutes.
Creating a playlist of your all-time favourite (i.e. nostalgic, face-splitting smile inducing) songs and listening while you work.
Shutting the tractor off, getting out of the cab and standing outside so you can breathe in five deep breaths of fresh air.
Calling a friend or your partner just to hear their voice. And your own.

You see, balancing the types of stress in your life doesn’t have to be hard. The key is to do what works and feels good for you. If you’re a night owl and find that you’re super-productive after the sun goes down, it might not actually benefit you to go to bed early (shocking, but not wrong).

The point is –

As a farmer, you already know all about what doesn’t feel good.

So, find what feels good and do more of it, even if it’s just a little more.

by Jess Campbell

What gratitude is and why it’s an absolute necessity in your life.

Let’s talk about gratitude.

Gratitude is something almost everyone has heard about, knows they “should” do but may not particularly understand the purpose of. Sometimes, you may even find that you’re sick of hearing about how grateful you should feel (because we’re all #soblessed, aren’t we?).

As it turns out, gratitude – understanding it, feeling it, cultivating that feeling in your daily life – is much more powerful and may have a much larger impact than you might think.

For example, it’s almost Thanksgiving in Canada which inadvertently may have you thinking about what you’re thankful for. If it’s been a rough year or even one with several unexpected turns of events, you may not be feeling particularly thankful at the moment. Know that’s okay and a completely normal way to feel if 2019 has been anything but stellar for you so far. But also know that learning to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” packs a powerful punch when it comes to the desire to live a happier life, despite the ups and downs.

WHAT IS GRATITUDE?

According to Robert Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading expert on gratitude and professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, gratitude has two components. In his article Why Gratitude is Good Emmons says, first, that gratitude is “an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good thing(s) in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received… gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.”

The second component of gratitude, according to Emmons, is recognizing “the sources of goodness as being outside ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. We acknowledge that other people – or higher powers – gave us many gifts, big and small.”

In a nutshell, gratitude occurs within us when something of value to you is freely given, like when we have a productive day (your value) in the field because of good weather (freely given); when you receive a clean bill of health from your doctor; or when someone you care about gives you hug, just because.

WHY PRACTICE GRATITUDE?

If you’re someone who prefers ideas backed by solid science, you’re in luck when it comes to practicing gratitude. There have been hundreds of studies conducted over the last several years indicating all kinds of reasons gratitude is good for our health, both mental and physical. You may want to think about cultivating an attitude of gratitude because doing so has been shown to, among other things:

  • Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Benefit our bodies by improving sleep, reducing blood pressure, strengthening the immune system and encouraging exercise
  • Improve resilience
  • Strengthen relationships
  • Bring us happiness

The research also suggests that you can benefit from cultivating gratitude in your life even when you’re facing adversity. Who wouldn’t want to learn how to feel better when the weather isn’t cooperating and harvest is delayed, several cows have mastitis AND your new tractor just broke down?

CHOOSING TO LIVE GRATEFULLY

We live in a culture that can, at times, make feeling grateful very difficult. When tragedy strikes, when someone you love passes away or when you lose faith in government or in humanity – gratitude can end up being the furthest emotion from your mind.

The benefits of intentionally living with gratitude are clear. Yet, gratitude is a choice. You choose to appreciate those things and experiences of value to you when they’re freely given – a warm bed on a cold night, the beautiful fall colours or, quite simply, your next breath. As we approach Thanksgiving, know that you have the power to feel grateful for even the smallest things in your life. You do not need a holiday to feel grateful for the everyday.

Our next article in our Self Care Sunday Series will focus on specific actions and tips for cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Until then, may you choose to experience moments of gratitude every day. Happy Thanksgiving!

by Jess Campbell

The inaugural Self Care Sunday post acknowledges those who may not be in a particularly celebratory mindset today.

In our busy lives on the farm, it can be easy to genuinely forget about days like Father’s Day.

Just in case you have forgotten – today is Father’s Day.

But maybe you didn’t forget.

Maybe Father’s Day is not a great day for you so you accidentally-on-purpose forgot.

If that’s you, that’s okay.

When these kinds of days are celebrated – they’re not holidays but not unspecial days – it’s important to remember that these not unspecial days can be really, really hard on a lot of people.

Maybe your father isn’t in your life because you’ve chosen for him not to be for the sake of your own wellbeing.

Maybe your father isn’t in your life because he passed away last year. Or 20 years ago.

Maybe you have a strained relationship with your dad and it’s difficult to pretend to celebrate something (aka a greeting-card worthy relationship) that you don’t have.

Maybe, for whatever reason, you never had the chance to get to know your father.

When you have a great father and you have great kids, Father’s Day is awesome and easy to celebrate, as it should be. But it can also be not awesome.

Not awesome because you and your wife have been trying to have a baby for three years and still have an empty nursery.

Not awesome because your child passed away last year. Or 20 years ago.

Not awesome because you have a strained relationship with your child and you’d rather not try to celebrate something that doesn’t feel worthy of celebrating.

Not awesome because, for whatever reason, you never had the chance to get to know your child.

So, on this day of fatherly celebration – what do you do if the party doesn’t include you?

First and foremost, know that however you feel about this day is okay. If you feel awesome or not awesome or something in between or outside of that spectrum – It. Is. Okay.

If you find yourself surrounded by Happy Father’s Day messages on social media – maybe log off of social media for awhile. Contrary to popular opinion, the world will continue to turn if one logs off Twitter.

If logging off isn’t your thing then get social. Shoot a text to someone you care about. Better yet, make a phone call or even make plans to meet in real life! The point is to let that person know how you’re feeling, no matter what medium you decide to use.

Sometimes, the best thing to do, though, also happens to be the hardest thing.

If you’re a child who wants to honour their father… or a father who wants to honour their child… figure out a way to do that.

Give them some time and space in your thoughts today. Don’t censor your feelings as those thoughts fill your mind. Whatever comes – just let it come. Even if it’s just for a minute or two. A minute or two is enough, especially if it hurts.

If today is a day to celebrate then absolutely celebrate it.

If it’s not – that’s okay, too.

by Jess Campbell

If you want to change your behaviour for good, there’s definitely a way to do it (and a way to not do it).

You would be hard-pressed to find a human on this planet who didn’t want to change something about themselves. Perhaps it’s a small change, like going to bed earlier. Or perhaps it’s a big change, like leaving a negative relationship.

There are many who despise change and so stay within the confines of their present situation (although it’s almost never that straightforward). Even if you don’t mind when things change, there’s no arguing that change can and usually is difficult – but it’s almost always worth the work. This is especially so when it comes to our behaviour.

Why can’t we seem to go to bed a little bit earlier? Why can’t we stay away from the chip bag at night? Why can’t we be more organized? Why can’t we be more outgoing?

When it comes to lasting behaviour change, there are three aspects to consider – and one to steer clear of.

THE BAD NEWS FIRST

This isn’t really bad news at all, to be honest. If you’re looking to make lasting change in your life, stay away from being motivated by fear. Although fear is a good motivator – some would argue it’s how our species has survived as long as it has! – there are two things wrong with using it as motivation.

First, fear-as-motivation causes you to become more resilient to the behaviour you’re trying to change. Say you’re a smoker. You know that smoking is very bad for you and it can kill you via diseases like cancer and emphysema. Knowing this is certainly scary – and yet, you continue to smoke. The thing is, fear makes us do one of two things, flee or freeze (most commonly; not very often does it make us fight, but it can and does). So, you’re a smoker – but your grandfather was also a smoker and he lived to be 93. You want your fear of smoking to go away so you use Grampa’s old age as a rationalization to continue smoking – ‘I have excellent genes and will be fine.

Second, fear as a motivator can and does cause us to become ignorant and keep our head in the sand about the changes we should be making. Fear makes us feel bad and we don’t like feeling bad. Quite simply, ignoring it is easier than feeling it and making a change. Except you’re still afraid and still in need of making that change. So, what do you do?

THE GOOD NEWS

In her TedXCambridge talk, cognitive neuroscience professor Tali Sharot outlines three pillars of meaningful behaviour change.

The first pillar is social incentives. People are more likely to change their behaviour if they can compare what they’re doing to what other people are doing. Humans are naturally both social and competitive. When you see someone who is doing what you want to be doing, there is an ingrained response within you that says, ‘I could do that too – and maybe better!’ It’s not about turning yourself into a narcissist but about observing the behaviour of others who are where you want to be, choosing to duplicate that behaviour and then, over time, making it work for you so it becomes your new normal.

The second pillar is immediate rewards. If you are rewarded for the new behaviour, you’re more likely to keep doing it. Let’s get back to our smoking example. Future You would obviously love for you to quit smoking so you don’t die of lung cancer at age 45. But Present You really loves to smoke: the feeling of the cigarette between your fingers, the social aspect of going outside with others, the calming effect of that first inhale. All of these things are rewards for the behaviour of smoking and they are almost all instantaneous. Hence, why you continue to smoke. If you can find a way to immediately reward yourself for not smoking, the chances of you becoming a non-smoker are a lot higher.

The third and final pillar of lasting behaviour change is progress monitoring. Being able to look back and observe your progress over time will motivate you to continue your changed behaviour. Say you use an app on your phone to keep track of how many days you’ve gone without a cigarette. It’s easy for you to see your progress, so you’re less likely to break your streak of consecutive non-smoking days than if you weren’t keeping track at all.

The next time you find yourself longing for change, try turning to the combination of social incentives, immediate rewards and progress monitoring – and not necessarily fear – as your motivation.

by Jess Campbell

Learn how your breath can make all the difference in stressful situations.

Have you ever watched a child sleep?

If you have, you’ve likely noticed their belly is the part of their body that rises and falls with each breath; it’s the first thing to rise on the inhale and the last thing to fall on the exhale. This is the normal human breathing cycle at its best – but it’s not actually something many adults do consistently.

Adult humans walk around holding a lot of tension in their bodies, tension that’s often (unconsciously) held in the chest. This makes it physically more difficult to inhale a normal amount of oxygen into our lungs and, therefore, causes most of us to be breathing in a shallow manner.

Why does this matter? Isn’t the fact that you’re still breathing at all your top priority every day? Certainly, yes. But what if how you breathe could progress into something that not only keeps you alive but also lowers stress levels, decreases blood pressure and heart rate, and helps to manage stress and anxiety?

It is possible – with a deep breath.

BREATH HAPPENS.

Let’s have a little science lesson about breathing. Excess carbon dioxide – rather than low oxygen levels – is what triggers breathing to happen in our bodies. Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of the energy your cells are creating as you continue to live and function. An excess of carbon dioxide triggers a message to be sent to your brain to increase your breathing rate and get rid of that excess. (Specifically, it’s the brainstem and the autonomic nervous system that regulate and dictate breathing, respectively.) This makes complete sense if you think about how quickly you breathe when you’re physically stressed, like when you’re running or doing intense manual work, or when you’re emotionally stressed, like when you’re arguing with someone or worrying about something.

Faster breathing can and does happen without your conscious permission; it’s your body’s way of managing perceived threats, better known as the fight-or-flight response.  Out of all our automatic functions and the incredible things our bodies can do, breathing is the only autonomic system we can consciously influence. Yet it can be overridden by unconscious signals caused by things like how much you’re worrying about the upcoming planting season or how you’re going to get through another succession planning meeting without your temper flaring.

Learning to control your breathing and to deepen your breath can significantly improve your mental and physical wellbeing. Let’s take a look at how to do it.

GOING DEEP

Deep breathing can both wrangle your autonomic nervous system while simultaneously affecting other systems in the body. That’s what makes deep breathing – or belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing – so powerful.

So, how do you do it? Luckily, it’s a simple enhancement of what you’re already doing around 30,000 times a day (that’s an at-rest breathing rate, by the way; chances are, it’s higher for young farmers who are constantly moving).

While there isn’t a scientifically proven best number of breaths-per-minute, you want to aim to have about 10 breath cycles in one minute to begin reaping the benefits of deep breathing. Read over the following instructions and give it a try:

  • Find somewhere comfortable to sit
  • Breathe in through your nose to a count of three; pause/hold your breath for a count of two; breathe out through your mouth for a count of three; pause for a count of two.
  • Repeat

As you go through each breath cycle, you’ll likely find it easy to focus on what you’re doing (the counting helps with that). Something else to focus on is where you feel each breath in your body as you breathe. Remember, a normal human breath should raise the belly first instead of the chest. If you notice your chest is still the first thing to rise when you inhale, focus on breathing “down” into your belly and let it rise first; as you continue to inhale, your chest and then your collar bones will naturally rise as the mid- and top part of your lungs fill with oxygen. Then as you exhale, picture that process happening in reverse: your collarbones sinking down, then your chest and, finally, your belly. Allow your stomach muscles to push the last bits of air out of your lungs to ensure a full exhale of carbon dioxide.

Deep breathing is often associated with yoga and meditation – but it is still highly beneficial when practiced on its own. If you want to take up yoga or start a meditation practice along with deep breathing – fantastic! But if none of that appeals to you, think about practicing deep breathing as improving on what you’re already doing but with vast and incredible effects.

by Jess Campbell

Learning to ask for what you want is not really about asking at all.

All of us have desires; wants and needs that fuel our decisions and the way we decide to live our lives. The funny (not funny) thing about it is, not many of us know how to ask for what we want or need in a way that, y’know, gets us what we want or need.

Rather than just blurting something out and hoping for the best – or worse, not asking at all – here are some ways to get help you get what you want and avoid becoming a doormat.

KNOW WHAT YOU ACTUALLY WANT

It might seem a bit strange to start with this one – but actually knowing what you want is the best place to start. If you know your position and why you want what you want, it’s a lot harder for people to respond by giving you something you don’t. For example, if you want to get to bed in good time but a friend has asked you out for dinner, you can either say no outright or say yes with the caveat that you will be heading home at a specific time to make sure you’re in bed on time. It’s a win-win.

COMMUNICATE

You’d think you could just ask someone for what you want, right? Not exactly. When you ask someone for what you want, you are handing over your power and asking them to make you happy. But if you simply tell them what you want, you’re retaining your power and your ability to make yourself happy. It goes like this: “Honey, could you maybe check the barn later?” vs. “Honey, it would be really helpful if you checked the barn later. Thanks!” See the difference? The former is an open-ended question that leaves room for refusal (and lack of happiness on your part). The latter is a direction, posed kindly and sincerely. Cue all the happiness.

KNOW YOU’RE WORTH IT

Much of the time, people avoid asking for what they want because, deep down, they don’t feel they’re worthy of getting it. This is People Pleasing 101: you put the wants, needs and happiness of others before your own wants, needs and happiness. You feel the act of putting someone else/other people first is what makes you worthy of love and belonging. Well, spoiler alert: You’re already worthy. This concept is especially difficult for women to embrace because, well, take a look at history for that explanation. The point is, know that you are just as deserving as the next person. You are worthy of having what you want, right now, no matter what.

SING THAT ROLLING STONES SONG

Despite our best efforts to ask and communicate and know that we’re worthy – we can’t always get what we want. If and when what you’re asking for isn’t possible, understand that you’re still worthy of what you want and that perhaps what you requested just isn’t feasible right now – or the person you’re asking simply may not be in a position to make it happen. While disappointing, you can still celebrate the small wins: asking/telling in the first place and knowing you’re worthy no matter what.

Communicating your wants and needs can be scary – but it can result in you actually getting what you want. Conversely, you’ll never get it if you never ask. If it makes you really uncomfortable to communicate your needs, start small and remember – you’re worthy, no matter what.

by Jess Campbell

It’s much less about making a Pro/Con list and much more about knowing the kind of person you want to be.

As farmers, we are constantly faced with hard choices. They come in big scenarios, like whether to continue treating a sick animal or ending their suffering, or small scenarios, like whether to have a balanced breakfast or a donut with your coffee.

Coming to a decision between different options isn’t necessarily fun or easy, and yet we are all forced to do it. But that decision point will often plague us with the inevitable question: Did I do the right thing???

Some have an easier time making hard choices than others, and that’s okay. If you’re in the camp of wanting to make hard choices a bit easier (or at least, have an answer to that plaguing question), it’s time to take a closer look at who you are as a human being than making yet another Pro/Con list.

WHY HARD CHOICES ARE HARD

Hard choices are hard in the first place because there isn’t a clear choice between the options in front of you.

Say you’re trying to decide whether to stay in the family farm business or strike out on your own. Staying in the family business is what you know; you grew up on the farm, you work with your family but there is little room for you to grow and you aren’t often given the chance to voice your opinion on how the farm moves forward. Leaving and starting your own farm seems like an uphill battle entirely – but it would be yours entirely.

Neither choice sticks out as being clearly better than the other and, ultimately, is why people stay where they are in life instead of moving forward. Then again, you don’t really want all your life choices to be equal and easy. If choices were like that, all you’d ever need to do would be to play Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock and be done with it. How boring would that be?!

So, if each option of a difficult choice isn’t better than the other and you can’t/don’t want to just flip a coin – how do you actually go about making hard choices?

IT’S ACTUALLY ALL ABOUT YOU

Easy decisions are easy because there’s an option that exists which is clearly better than the alternatives. Hard decisions don’t have that, hence what makes them so hard. When faced with a hard decision, you can’t actually choose one or the other because you’re basing your decision on which choice is The Best – and that doesn’t exist.

It’s important to remember that each option isn’t better, worse or equal to each other but that they exist within the same neighbourhood. There are factors of each option that differentiate them, but not enough to determine one being better than the rest. Also, it still matters very much whether you decide, for example, to stay on the farm or strike out on your own. But again, it’s why hard decisions are so hard; there’s no clear winner.

To make a hard decision, you must turn to your intrinsic human ability to create reasons. Reasons allow you to look at hard choices, understand there’s no clear right or wrong answer and choose the option that truly reflects what you stand for and who you are.

Making a hard choice means recognizing that there is no best option; that the choice you make is based on reasons created BY you, not dictated TO you. You’re putting agency and purpose behind the decision.

The alternative to making hard decisions is to not make them at all. Those who choose not to put agency behind their decisions often drift along, allowing reward and punishment to determine how they decide things and what they do. They make choices based out of fear and acknowledgment, not based on what they actually want for themselves or what they stand for.

There’s no denying that hard decisions are, well – hard. But instead of focusing on how hard they are, perhaps recognize hard decisions as a chance to exert your human power of reason. There is a clear opportunity that exists in making hard choices: the chance to reflect on who you are, what you stand for and the type of person you want to become, and then to actually become that person.

by Jess Campbell

Having goals is cool. But there’s another, much more satisfying way of achieving what you want in life.

Happy (almost) New Year!

As this article is published, we’re on the cusp of not only a new year but also a new century. This means, more than usual, you may feel the drive to set some pretty lofty – maybe even downright outrageous – goals for yourself and your farm business for 2020 and beyond.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with goal-setting, doing so may not be the most efficient, effective way for you to achieve the things you want to achieve. So, if you’re looking to do amazing things in 2020, think not of setting goals but of fine-tuning your systems to achieve those goals.

FOCUS ON THE PROCESS, NOT THE OUTCOME

Say you have a goal of cleaning your shop over the course of the somewhat slower winter months. It’s always a disaster and to find anything is a huge pain. So, you set aside a few days and get it all clean and organized. You’re super proud of yourself for accomplishing that goal, and rightfully so.

Except a few weeks later, the shop is a giant mess again.

What gives?!

When it comes to goals, you want to focus your energy on the systems that support it instead of on the goal itself. The goal gives you something to aim for (a tidy, organized shop) but the system provides you with a way to fix the existing issue, and keep it fixed. The next time you use something from the shop, put it back where it goes instead of throwing it on the workbench. Ask anyone else with access to the shop to do the same. At the end of the day, zip around and tidy anything that’s still out of place. Pretty soon, you won’t need to set aside three whole days to clean your shop because it will already be neat and tidy from the system you set up to support having an organized shop.

AVOIDING THE DREADED NOW-WHAT

If you’ve ever reached a goal, large or small, you know exactly what it feels like: fantastic.

… for about a minute, or a day (depending on the size of the goal, i.e. cleaning your shop versus running a marathon).

Achieving a goal changes your life for a moment or, put another way, it solves a problem temporarily. The idea behind focusing on systems instead of outcomes is that you’re never left with the dreaded question of what to do after you’ve reached your desired outcome.

You’ve cleaned your shop (cool!) and have also implemented a system for keeping it clean. There’s no need to look around and wonder what to do once it’s clean – or how to keep it clean – as long as you continue to focus on the process of putting tools away after use. Plus, there’s the added bonus of being able to find things when you need them, every time you need them, which is basically continuous happiness.

GOALS RESTRICT HAPPINESS

We just talked about how happiness is fleeting upon reaching a goal. The other thing that happens to happiness when you focus on the goal instead of the process is that your ability to be happy right now is restricted.

‘I’ll be happy when I lose 20 pounds.’

‘I’ll be happy when the succession plan is finished.’

‘I’ll be happy when I get that new truck.’

In the famous words of Jimmy Fallon as Sara: “Ew!”

When you’re able to enjoy the process, you aren’t required to wait to be happy. Because really, who wants to wait to be happy? No one, that’s who.

If there’s anything you decide to do at this turn of the decade, let it be to focus on the systems you have in place – or are putting in place – that will help you achieve your goals, whether small and satisfying or downright outrageous.

Wishing you all a process-driven 2020.

by Jess Campbell

Ignoring your emotions is flat out bad for you. Here’s what to do instead.

You can’t control your emotions.

There. It’s been said.

Except what do you do when you become so angry, you yell and scream… or so sad, you can’t get out of bed?

As we head into the full swing of the holiday season, emotions can easily be running a little higher than they might normally. The holidays are fantastic for some and downright miserable for others (both are okay, by the way). But the common ground they share is that the holidays are emotional.

The trouble is, most people are painfully unaware of their emotions, so much so that when they begin to feel emotional, they get scared and push away whatever feelings are bubbling up to the surface – that is, until they can’t.

Cue the emotional explosion. In the middle of dinner. On Christmas Day.

While we cannot consciously control our emotions, the good news is we can learn how to work with them to avoid blowing our emotional top, both throughout the holidays and the rest of the year, too.

IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU

It’s important to understand, on a very basic level, how emotions are triggered before we can begin to work with them effectively.

Emotions are triggered in the midbrain – a part of the brain not under our conscious control. Science tells us that an emotional reaction has different parts, including a response in your mind and in your body. For example, if you’re feeling angry, you might have racing thoughts and a racing heartbeat.

Sometimes though, the mind triggers unconscious emotional response, meaning you may feel angry or sad and have no idea why. This is your brain noticing something in your immediate situation and triggering a response without you noticing an obvious reason why. It’s one of the ways our brain keeps us safe and its been working this way for centuries.

Where we run into emotional trouble is how we’re taught to handle emotions. When you’re feeling a certain way, it’s typical for someone to say, “Just get over it” or even “Calm down.” That advice is not at all helpful because you literally cannot change the way your brain responds to certain situations, nor does it help you figure out why you feel the way you do. Instead of following that terrible advice, what you can do is work with your emotions.

START PAYING ATTENTION TO YOURSELF

It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But intentionally noticing your feelings with the goal of responding differently is a skill hardly anyone has. However, it is absolutely a skill that can be learned.

Humans are a complex species – but we’re also kind of dumb when it comes to our emotions. To increase your intelligence around your emotions, start by paying attention to how you feel when faced with certain situations. Maybe you feel anxious when you’re heading to a bank meeting, or angry when you see a person you have a rocky history with. Making note of these feelings is a good thing.

Take it a step further and try to name how you’re feeling. For example: ‘I feel anxious when I go into the bank.’ Or ‘I feel angry when I see that person.’ Naming the emotions you’re feeling will help you begin to process them in what feels like a whole new way.

FEEL ALL THE FEELS

How do you process feelings? You feel them!

Practically from birth, we are told to push through or ignore our feelings. Unprocessed emotions are stored in the body via things like tense muscles and breath holding. And we all know how pent up emotion affects our mental health.

Pushing emotions down or locking them up results in being afraid to feel. Instead of feeling, we do things like eat our feelings or work our feelings or numb our feelings with drugs and/or alcohol or even mindless phone scrolling or binge-watching.

So, know this: it’s okay to feel your feelings. Allow yourself to feel them. Doing so may be scary and really hard, but it is the only way to release everything you have locked inside. If it’s too scary to feel your feelings alone, enlist the help of a trusted friend or a mental health professional. There is absolutely no shame in getting help.

Know that while we can’t consciously control our emotions, we can work with them to process how we’re feeling and gain a much better understanding of ourselves. Feeling your feelings doesn’t make you less-than or weak. It makes you human.

by Jess Campbell

Knowing the difference between guilt and shame is vital to understanding your own behaviour.

Take a minute and think about how you feel when you make a mistake.

Do you feel frustrated and annoyed with yourself? Maybe a bit embarrassed – but ready to apologize, make amends and move on?

Or like you’re the biggest idiot on the planet and should never do anything, ever, because you’re a terrible person for having made the mistake in the first place?

Guilt and shame, terms that are often used interchangeably, are two very different emotions. Knowing the difference between them will not only help you improve your communication and relationships with others but also your communication and relationship with yourself. How? It helps you to understand both your behaviour and how you truly feel about yourself – and how to change.

DEFINING GUILT & SHAME

When we feel guilty about something, we are focusing on a certain behaviour. You eat too many cookies each night after the kids are asleep, you are consistently late, or you can’t seem to get yourself to bed at a decent hour knowing full well you have chores to do at 5 AM – and you feel bad about it. But these are all things you can change about yourself if you choose.

Shame, on the other hand, focuses on how you feel about yourself. For instance, you genuinely feel you are a terrible person because you eat cookies at night or because you’re consistently late or because you don’t go to bed at a decent hour. You feel these behaviours make you a bad person on a fundamental level; you feel you are flawed and that those flaws make you unworthy of love, belonging and connection with others.

THE DIFFERENCE

According to the world’s leading researcher on shame, Dr. Brené Brown, guilt can actually be helpful. It allows us to hold up our behaviour against what we truly value and get uncomfortable about it, which then instigates change. Shame, though, is not at all helpful, according to Brown. In her TED Talk, Listening to Shame, Brown explains that shame is directly and highly correlated with things like addiction, depression, suicide, eating disorders, aggression and bullying – but that guilt is inversely correlated with those same things. That means if you’re depressed, suffer from addiction or aggressive, you feel that it’s who you are instead of feeling it’s something you can change about yourself.

HOW GUILT CAN HELP

Essentially, it’s much more productive to feel guilt than to feel shame. Again, feeling guilty focuses on a certain behaviour. You are entirely capable of changing your behaviours – overeating, being late, sleeping in – and you know that you can change. Yes, it might take awhile to recognize that you can change and then take some work, but you can do it. Setting your alarm to ring a bit earlier and then NOT going back to bed once it goes off is entirely within your control.

What guilt allows us to do is adapt. We recognize our behaviour as undesirable by feeling guilty and so we have two choices: either continue feeling guilty every time the behaviour occurs, or change the guilt-inducing behaviour.

But we can’t get rid of shame altogether; it’s a natural human emotion and we’re all going to feel it from time to time. The antidote to shame, according to Brown, is vulnerability. If you can allow yourself to be vulnerable – to admit to someone how you’re feeling and what’s happening, with the goal of feeling and getting better – then shame loses its power, and you can begin to move forward.

Remember: we all make mistakes and fail at things – but that doesn’t make us a bad person.

by Jess Campbell

Knowing you “should” feel gratitude is all well and fine. But how do you begin when you have a million other things to do?

We know that gratitude is a good thing and that it’s good for us. Presumably, you are interested in pursuing things you know to be good for you so that you can, y’know, live your best life and all that.

As much as you may think you know gratitude, there is always room for improvement. And while improving or increasing your level of gratitude is a great thing, it’s also good to recognize that everyone is different. (Duh.)

Except – maybe you find yourself considering this whole gratitude thing and not really knowing what it might look like for you. And that’s okay.

Here are some ways to begin cultivating gratitude. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned gratitude practitioner, these tips will help you explore what gratitude is and feels like for you as well as how to experience it in your life.

COMMIT

Decide. Accomplish. Carry out. Perpetuate. Put a ring on it and marry it because your gratitude practice is only as deep and meaningful as your commitment to it. No matter what you do or do not believe in, practicing gratitude is of a spiritual nature. It asks that you look simultaneously within and outside of yourself, consider your values and decide to uphold them as your own truth. That’s spiritual, yes. But committing to practicing gratitude is also very powerful.

RECORD

Whether you write it down, record a video of yourself talking about it or record just your voice saying what you’re grateful for, the act of recording it in the first place is what counts here. Lots of people don’t feel comfortable writing; if that’s you, don’t do that. Find a medium you like and record what you’re grateful for that way. There are no Gratitude Practice Police waiting to sting you for using your phone to record a video instead of buying a beautiful notebook and writing it down with a fountain pen. (Although that is absolutely another great way to express your gratitude if that’s what you’re into.)

CHOOSE A TIME OF DAY

Preferably the same time of day, every day. Alternatively, if you’re new to this and freaking out a little (“I’ve gotta do this every flippin’ DAY?!”), start with one or two days. On those days, choose a time that works for you, like before you get into bed at night or as you’re drinking your morning cuppa. What you’re looking to do here is slide your gratitude practice next to something you’re already doing. It’s way less overwhelming this way, meaning you’re way more likely to stick with it.

FEEL STUFF

Uh oh. The F word.

People don’t like to feel things because a lot of the time, it hurts. Like, a lot. The funny thing about choosing not to feel things is that you end up hurting much worse than you would if you just sat in your feelings for a bit. Since we’re talking about gratitude, what you’re aiming to do is to allow that feeling to come up and let it do what it’s going to do. For example, consider the feeling you get when you witness a beautiful morning sunrise. It might make you grin like a fool; it might make you ugly cry. It might also make you do nothing and/or feel nothing. All of this is okay. The idea is to allow it to happen in the first place.

SHARE

If this whole idea of intentionally feeling gratitude has you panicked – grab a buddy. Ask if you can shoot them a text about what you’re grateful for and how that makes you feel. Then they can shoot one back telling you what they’re grateful for and how that makes them feel. We don’t need to get into the science of how things are easier and we stick with them longer when we have a buddy. Just know that cultivating more gratitude in your life is no different.

BE HUMAN

Learning new things can be hard. Choosing to feel grateful can be hard. Life can be hard. Allow yourself to be human. Practicing gratitude is not a game or a race or a competition of any sort. It is meant to bring you positive feelings and generally help you live a happier life. But we all have days where nothing goes the way we want it to go and the end result is grumpy instead of grateful. This is completely fine. Even just saying out loud, “I am grateful” five times when you’re feeling anything but can bring you back from whatever negative emotion your mind is trying to reel you into. Want to revel in the negative? Cool. Go do that. Just be sure to come back into gratitude as soon as you’re feeling up to it. Because as much as being human is complicated and messy – it is also incredibly beautiful. Gratitude can and will help you see that beauty, even when you aren’t looking for it. Gratitude allows you to see and feel the good in life. So, be good to yourself and cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

by Jess Campbell

We use our brains every day, all the time, without even thinking about it. But – what would happen if we did think about it?

Mindfulness.

Almost everyone has heard this term, but many are slightly confused about its meaning – and are definitely unaware of just how beneficial even a few minutes of mindfulness can be to one’s life.

If you’ve never heard of it, mindfulness is simply learning to become aware of the present moment. Most of the time, you’re likely thinking about what happened on the farm yesterday, what’s going to happen later today and probably what’s going to happen tomorrow or even next week. Especially during this time of year when many are either in the fields for harvest or eager for it to get underway, it’s not often you’re able to just be present in the moment.

Mindfulness can help with that.

Before you write mindfulness off as hippie dippie or a waste of time, consider this: studies have shown that participants practicing mindfulness meditation demonstrated “a change in grey matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotional regulation, self-referential processing and perspective-taking.”[1] Basically, mindfulness changes your brain for the better. Who doesn’t want that?

Outside of physical changes to the brain, mindfulness has also been linked to decreasing depression, anxiety, pain and a host of other emotional and physical ailments (think blood pressure, quality of sleep, concentration and focus, etc.). There is also evidence to suggest that “long-term meditation practice might help preserve brain structure and function from progressive age-related decline”[2] meaning it can help your brain slow down its own ageing process.

There are clearly benefits to cultivating mindfulness in your daily life. But how do you get started?

One of the more fantastic things about incorporating a mindfulness practice is that you can literally practice anywhere, at any time. You do not need to stop what you’re doing, drop into a criss-cross-applesauce seat in the middle of a field and hum ommmm to yourself for 20 minutes (although if you’re into that, go right ahead). We’ve already established that mindfulness is about becoming more aware of what’s happening right in front of you. To begin a mindfulness practice, then, means turning that concept into reality.

The next time you’re in the tractor, milking cows, driving to pick up parts or otherwise going about your work, deliberately bring your attention to what is going on around you. Instead of letting your mind wander into the potential of what might happen in an hour, focus on what’s happening right now by asking yourself the following:

  • What can I see, hear, smell and taste?
  • What does it feel like to be touching (this wrench, the steering wheel, this cow/chicken/pig/dog, my child’s hand)?
  • How does my body feel right now? Where do I feel tense? (Pro tip: many of us unconsciously hold tension in our jaw and throat. Try releasing that tension now by opening and closing your jaw a few times and relaxing your tongue inside your mouth.)

See if you can narrow your focus this way a couple of times throughout your day. Once you’re able to do that consistently, you can start to think about the next step in cultivating mindfulness: meditation.

Just like mindfulness, meditation does not have to be difficult or take a long time. Even practicing for one minute (yes, one minute!) can benefit you.

To begin, find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lay down (although if you’re prone to falling asleep quickly, it’s better to sit up). Set a timer on your phone for one minute, close your eyes and focus on your breath as it comes in and goes out of your body. If your mind wanders or you find yourself thinking of several other things, that is totally normal and very common when first beginning meditation. Gently bring your focus back to your breath. When your timer goes off, you’re done.

There are many different apps, like Insight TimerCalm and Headspace, that are free to download and will help guide you in learning to meditate and grow your mindfulness practice. Give it a try and see how you feel. If you find yourself getting frustrated, understand that mindfulness and meditation is a long game; the more you practice, the better you’ll get. And the better you’ll feel.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/

[2] https://alzres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13195-018-0388-5

 by Jess Campbell

It’s inevitable: with farming comes change. How you choose to handle that change – positively or negatively – can make a huge difference.

As a farmer and as a human being, you are going to go through seasons of change in your life – both literally and figuratively. How do you typically handle change? Is it with an open mind, or a closed one? Does change make you feel hopeful or hateful? These may seem like extremes but for as much as humans experience change, not many are great at handling it in a constructive way.

No matter how big or small, change doesn’t have to be something that adds to your stress level or derails you entirely. Here are a few ways to begin handling change in a way that serves you.

ACCEPT THAT CHANGE IS A GIVEN

As much as you may create habits, schedules and routines that feel as if they prove otherwise – change is inevitable. A neighbour you know well decides to move. Someone you care about passes away. You graduate from post-secondary education. You welcome a child into your family and can finally see the next generation of farmers for your operation – only to realize years later that child doesn’t want to be a farmer.

You cannot stop change from happening but you can learn to accept it as it comes. Part of that is understanding that feeling resistant to change is a completely natural and human way to feel.

PATIENCE AND PASSIVITY – KNOW THE DIFFERENCE

Change will happen, and it’s totally human for you to feel resistant to that change (at least, for a little while). But that doesn’t mean you need to lie down and let life walk all over you. Practicing patience when it comes to change means understanding it might take time for you to adjust to whatever “new normal” has been created – and that that’s okay.

GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO ADJUST

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to be 100% ON all the time, and especially not when change is afoot in your life. People will often vilify themselves when they don’t automatically adjust to a new normal. Why? Who says you have to soldier on like nothing has changed? Refusing to acknowledge the change and pushing past how it makes you feel helps no one, least of all yourself. As you give yourself grace, understand that there’s no finite amount of time to adjust; it’s okay to take as much time as you need.

BE PRESENT

Some changes will happen suddenly; others happen slowly over time. Regardless of how fast change happens in your life, focusing on what’s in front of you can help you in that overall adjustment to change. For example, if your pet dies, don’t keep asking yourself when you’re going to get over it (also, see above point on time to adjust). Instead, focus on the small steps in the larger process of adjusting to the bigger change, like putting away your dog’s collar, food and water dishes and sleeping mat – but only when you’re ready.

WELCOME THOSE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

AKA, failures, false starts, slip-ups or whatever else you’d like to call them. Part of adjusting to a new normal is learning what you can and can’t handle, how to behave and what feels good to you. Don’t be so quick to judge yourself if you try something and it doesn’t work out. Step back, reassess, try again and give yourself grace.

FIND THE HUMOUR

It’s not unusual to find yourself in a situation where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Oftentimes, accepting change generates some pretty laughable situations. If you find yourself there as part of adjusting to change, go ahead and laugh! Even if what you’re laughing at isn’t traditionally funny, allowing yourself to laugh is still helping you process the change. Finding the humour and laughing about it can take the pressure off, at least for a little while.

These are just a handful of ways to help you get better at handling change. The thing is, handling change can be easy as pie for one person and almost impossible for the next. If you feel completely overwhelmed and can’t seem to find a new normal for yourself, please seek out professional help in the form of your primary care provider or a mental health counselor.

by Jess Campbell

Why care about something so “trendy” when you have crops to grow and livestock to feed? You might be surprised at what a little focus on you can do.

Drawing a bubble bath.

Lighting a candle.

Getting a mani pedi.

Taking a nap.

Taking a day off work.

(Ha! That last one, am I right?)

These are some of the top activities that flood a Pinterest feed when you ask the search engine for self-care ideas. To a person who has a 9-to-5 type of job, some disposable income and extra time on their hands, any of those activities would be a fantastic way to show yourself some care.

But for farmers?

Not necessarily.

Self-care is not high on the priority list of many farmers yet the act of caring for yourself has been scientifically proven as highly beneficial – some even say it’s non-negotiable. The trick with self-care is understanding what it is and what it is not, and just how it can work in your favour. Even after you’ve spent 14 hours in a tractor and all you want to do is go to bed. (Spoiler Alert: going to bed when you’re tired – not when the clock says its time – is self-care!)

WHAT IS SELF-CARE, ANYWAY?

Let’s begin with a straightforward answer to the question of self-care and what it entails. Self-care means consistently engaging in activities or practices that enhance your well-being and reduce your stress.

Super.

But what does that actually mean?

Think of it as focusing on yourself and what you want. When was the last time you actually did that – focused on what you wanted and then followed through on that desire to the benefit of yourself? Chances are, it’s been awhile. A top deterrent for farmers to practice self-care is that they have too much to do and too many other people – or animals! Or acres! – to answer to. If that’s the case for you, that’s okay. But understand you are choosing to answer to all those other people before you answer to (or take care of) yourself.

Harsh reality, maybe. But that doesn’t make it wrong.

There are actually several types of self-care: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, financial, psychological, environmental and professional.

For example, consider the environment in your home, your vehicle, even your tractor. Is it messy and cluttered, with receipts and clothes lying around and yesterday’s dishes on the table? Is the floor of your tractor filled with old coffee cups and garbage – from last season? You may think you’re about to be told to tidy up (and you’d be correct). But before you start to load that dishwasher, consider how it feels to be sitting amongst all that clutter. Does walking into a dirty house or getting into a truck filled with take-out containers make you feel calm? Does it lower your stress level or add to it?

Farmers have enough stress in their lives due to the things they can’t control – here’s looking at you, Mother Nature. Perhaps consider the idea that taking control of the things you can may help you manage your stress around the things you can’t.

WHY SELF-CARE MATTERS.

If you could live longer, in a healthier body while genuinely enjoying all aspects of your life – would you? Hopefully, the answer is yes. Taking time for self-care can get you there, even when it’s in small doses. In the short term, taking time to focus on and care for yourself means you’ll be more productive and optimistic, have steadier moods and have better quality sleep.

In the long term, self-care will mean lowering your blood pressure (and other health markers like blood sugar and cholesterol), having a healthier heart and living a more balanced life.

What you do to take care of yourself doesn’t have to look like all those suggestions above. It can simply be about noticing how you feel throughout the day, and taking the steps to eliminate feelings like shame, guilt or obligation from your thoughts, even for just an hour. That might sound impossible but, with practice, you can do it.

Our next article will continue to explore this topic and suggest actionable ways farmers can begin to practice self-care. Until then, know that no matter what’s happening on the farm – there IS no farm without you, the farmer.

Taking care of yourself matters because you matter.

by Jess Campbell

Contrary to popular opinion, the fear of missing out can be both harmful and helpful.

Everybody has experienced FOMO, the fear of missing out, at some point in their lives. If you haven’t, here we are, in the middle of summer and the chance of developing FOMO is pretty high. The weather is (usually, depending on where you are in the country) pretty nice and there are bound to be people in your life who are doing things you’re not doing but wish you were, such as travelling, socializing (IRL!), learning something new or just generally having time to do what they want, when they want.

Farmers simply don’t always have that kind of time. There’s certainly no such thing as a long weekend. And the idea of taking an extended vacation away from the farm can seem nearly impossible. Not to mention, anxiety-inducing.

Of course, social media has heightened FOMO. We already know that scrolling through your social feeds and double-tapping on that “perfect” canoeing-at-sunset photo can make you feel bad and have a detrimental effect on your mental health. 

So, the straightforward thing to do would be to avoid all instances that may cause FOMO – right? Stay home, keep to yourself and never go anywhere.

Sounds great.

FOMO A GOGO?

There are some who say that the fear of missing out can actually motivate you to achieve the dreams and goals you want for yourself. You see others achieving similar things and instead of feeling down about it, you feel driven to succeed. 

The trick here, however, is knowing whether what you’re FOMO-ing about is something you actually want

Do you care about canoeing at sunset? 

Or learning to BBQ steak to perfection?

Or buying another 100 acres?

It’s a question of whether achieving those things will better your life in the moment or better your life overall.

If you feel it’s your mission in life to learn more about how to BBQ beef so it literally falls off the bone – go learn that. 

If you really want to take your farm business to the next level by pitching a purchase plan to your neighbour who might want to sell in the next five years – go do that. 

If you are certain your life will be incomplete unless you test your photography skills in a canoe in the middle of a lake at sunset – go for it. Whatever blows your hair back!

SLOW YOUR FOMO.

When you’re being driven by wanting to do something or say something or be something to keep up with the proverbial Jones’, this is where we run into issues. FOMO assumes (especially on social media) that what you’re seeing is the entire scenario – but that’s hardly ever the case.

Did your Twitter friend just buy another parcel of land to expand their farm? Awesome! What you don’t know is that their cash flow is barely flowing and things are going to be tight for a long time. 

Did your neighbour return from a two-week vacation to Europe, away from their farm? Wonderful! What you don’t know is that they needed to get away because they were on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

If you find yourself lusting after what somebody else appears to have, try taking a deep breath and looking around at your current situation. You have the power to control your own life and it’s a safe bet that there are awesome things happening which you’re choosing to stay blind to (even the little things, like a crock-pot supper ready and waiting for you after chores or a calm, cool summer night sky bursting with stars).

What FOMO comes down to is understanding why you feel like you’re missing out and taking the steps to alleviate that feeling. FOMO can help you follow your dream – but it can also help you realize that perhaps, all things considered, you’re already living it.

by Jess Campbell