SUNDAY, AUGUST 25, 2019

How to get better at handling change

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

by Jess Campbell

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.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 11, 2019

Actionable Self-Care Tips for Farmers

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

by Jess Campbell

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.

 

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

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