SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2019

Putting the Happy in ‘Happy Holidays’

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.

by Jess Campbell

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.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2019

Are you an emotional robot?

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

by Jess Campbell

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.

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

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

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

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

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