Livestock, farming and grazier communities are tackling greater levels of insecurity and increased situational stressors each year.
It’s not only drought, fire and floods that keep people awake at night, there are common stressors to contend with like the cost of living, relationships, debt, and finding a work-life balance. There’s added pressure of the threat of disease and infection, like FMD that has the potential to devastate an entire industry and cause a negative ripple effect beyond comprehension.
The unique stressors facing farmers doesn’t stop there; inflation, rising fuel prices, wage increases, supply shortage, labour shortages, stock price reviews, fluctuating market prices, trade policies, biosecurity, succession planning and the never-ending threat of weather events that affect crops. The pandemic has shaken farming communities, disrupting supply chains, and exacerbating the financial instability that already hovered over many farm families.
These factors, largely outside of a farmer’s control, result in increased pressures and are major stressors often taking a toll on overall mental health and well-being.
Below you’ll see an image representing a machine temperature gauge, with some colloquial terms underneath.
At Rural Alive & Well (RAW), we often use the analogy of a temperature gauge to explain the impact situational stressors have on our mental health and well-being.
The RAW Gauge© serves as a visual reminder to continually check where your ‘gauge’ might be sitting at. The colloquial phrases we’ve aligned to the temperature points provide a fun example of what words you may be using externally to indicate where you are at internally.
Farming isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and your gauge won’t always stay at 100°c. Each day you will have moments that send your gauge into the red. What matters though is where your default state is. Does your gauge sit at 300°c? Or is it more in the 150 – 200°c range?
I’d like to pose a question to you; “What happens when a machine runs in the red for too long? (whether it’s a car, tractor or another type of engine-based machine)”
Most of you will be saying, “It stops working”.
My next question is; “what do you do with the machine at this point?”
Over the years we’ve heard comments like, “refill the tank”, “chuck it out”, “fix it” – which are all viable options depending on the situation.
Regardless, of how much of an inconvenience it is, we accept that we have to give the machine a rest. It may be out of action for a week or so, but we ultimately know that when it comes back, it will be back in good running condition, ready to go again.
We also know that if we continue to run the machine in the red, it would cause even greater damage, with consequences of higher fix costs and longer turnaround time.
We also stop functioning properly. However, instead of easing back, and taking a momentary pause to get our gauge back in the green, we continue to push through.
We hide our stress, anxiety and fatigue around life’s stressors, which when left unmanaged, start to compound. Eventually the weight becomes too much, and we can literally no longer function or face another day.
I wonder what our lives would look like if we treated ourselves more like the way we do our machines.
No matter the season you are going through, one of the most important things you can do to build resilience and ensure your gauge default stays closer to the green is self-care.
When I say self-care, I don’t mean hibernating in the wilderness in an ‘eat, pray, love’ experience. By simply doing something each day that has a positive effective on your mind, mood, meaning, connection and body.
This might look like finishing 5 minutes earlier to kick the football with the kids, taking a hike on a weekend, fishing with mates, or going on a date night away from the farm with your partner.
We want to encourage you to use the RAW gauge to form a language around your mental health and wellbeing. Embed it into your team meetings and your conversations with those closest to you.
If you need help during one of life's harder seasons, or are concerned for someone you know, we encourage you to reach out on 1800 729 827, or use the call back request below.