Harvest on our farm finished October 7 which is a whole lot better than December 18 of 2019 for last year’s harvest. I can only imagine what you might be feeling as you read this, sitting down for a break wondering when the mental chatter in your brain is going to calm down.
I’m a student of the Do More Ag Talk Ask Listen Mental Health workshop where we learned 75 per cent of farmers are highly stressed, and when that is chronic, your life becomes overwhelming.
Zoom fatigue, eye strain, brain fog, huge workload, family dynamic irritations… are those part of your Great Pause story this fall?
In August I invested in special glasses to reduce eye strain in front of my computer where I spend heaps of time coaching families, writing, and business planning. I am not getting on a plane any time soon, so my stress comes from digital overload. I would encourage you to take 90 minutes after supper to watch the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” featuring Tristan Harris along with many other smart Center for Humane Technology folks. People are not getting good rest because they have been sucked into the vortex of social media’s digital persuasion. There is much food for thought in this film when we consider how much our brains need mental rest.
I’m encouraged by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith’s work on rest. She has a free personal rest deficit assessment tool at www.restquiz.com to discover what kinds of rest you have been missing.
In her book, Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, Dalton-Smith shares seven types of rest she found lacking in many patients and how rest impacts every part of our lives:
- Physical: The chance to use the body in restorative ways to decrease muscle tension, reduce headaches, and promote higher-quality sleep. The Do More Ag workshop suggests that sleep deprivation leads to impairment. Where is it written that it is a badge of honour to work with little sleep before freeze-up?
- Mental: The ability to quiet cerebral chatter and focus on things that matter.
- Spiritual: The capacity to experience God in all things and recline in the knowledge of the Holy. I take great comfort during this chaotic time knowing that God is in control.
- Emotional: The freedom to authentically express feelings and eliminate people-pleasing behaviours.
- Social: The wisdom to recognize relationships which revive from ones that exhaust and how to limit exposure to toxic people.
- Sensory: The opportunity to downgrade the endless onslaught of sensory input received from electronics, fragrances, and background noise.
- Creative: The experience of allowing beauty to inspire awe and liberate wonder.
I’ve bolded Dalton-Smith’s definition of mental rest. As a farmer who might be mourning the inability to go to Arizona this winter, what are your options for creating deeper rest at home or in Victoria?
I find playing with my grandchildren a great emotional boost, and we get creative on the swing sets , sandbox, and digging carrots in the garden. I wonder if you are taking stock of simple pleasures on your farm with horses, walks, or puttering in the shop that help rest your brain.
Mental chatter for farmers needs to be addressed. What we think becomes an action and actions drive behaviour. Many coaching clients have a family member who is dealing with anxiety, depression and sometimes substance abuse. I don’t just attract complex dynamics as a coach. I want families to find harmony through understanding what they can take hold of to make changes, and what they need to let go of. We all get to choose to have a “learner mindset or a judger mindset driving others into the pit,” says Marilee Adams, author of Change your questions, change your life.
Succession articles keep telling us that we are not doing a great job of getting plans in place due to a sense of overwhelm, procrastination, and the fear of family fights. My thesis is farmers are not paying attention to self-care, their physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being. What if you dealt with the emotional factors affecting planning? Start with being rested and emotionally connected to yourself. When there is no family drama there is energy to direct to sound collaborative decision-making for transition and business legacy.
When we feel great, well connected to others, and rested, we can do amazing things. Television is not life giving to me; picking up my phone to have a real-time conversation with friends helps me socially and emotionally. What are you intentionally doing this fall and winter to have better social connections, even with physical distancing challenges in place? I enjoy biweekly learning time with a group of women in a church basement. I get energy connecting on Zoom and sharing family pictures with other women in agriculture.
In our online course, Get Farm Transition Unstuck we take an unconventional approach to transition plan activation. We want folks to look at the barriers they need to break to get unstuck:
1. Anxiety and overwhelm. (Sounds like some mental rest is called for!)
2. Fear. Which could be fear of conflict, failure, and lack of financial well-being.
3. No time to talk or plan. A function of what you make a priority in your life.
4. Procrastination, apathy or lack of motivation. This is a choice not to act.
5. Passivity, giving up your power. Everyone has a right to choose and a voice to speak in a way that can be respectful and heard.
I’m working with trusted advisers at BDO to help farm families get talking, resolve issues, and find harmony through understanding. Do you have a trusted adviser? Have you checked out your physical and mental health lately with your doctor who now can serve you by phone?
Here’s some quick tips to start decreasing overwhelm:
1. Write it out on index cards or Post-it notes. Do a brain dump and make a list of everything bothering you.
2. Sort the cards into priorities, only looking at one card at a time.
3. Chuck any cards you don’t have to do or should not do.
4. Write the first action step on each card or Post-it note.
5. Look at and deal with one card or note at a time.
6. Share your cards with your spouse. Keep taking the next step.