Five-day wellbeing challenge for farmers

Five-day wellbeing challenge for farmers

Life & Style
Manage the stress: Farmers are being urged to take a five-day challenge to improve their wellbeing. Image: Shutterstock

Manage the stress: Farmers are being urged to take a five-day challenge to improve their wellbeing. Image: Shutterstock

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Australia's primary producers are being urged to take on a five-day wellbeing challenge as part of Farm Safety Week.

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Australia's primary producers are being urged to take on a five-day wellbeing challenge as part of Farm Safety Week.

The challenge has been developed by one of Australia's largest rural charities, Rural Aid, who wanted to highlight that many farmers failed to prioritise their own wellbeing - creating a hazard just as dangerous as the many physical risks they face on-farm.

Rural Aid CEO John Warlters said it was well known that farming was a high risk job but mental stresses were often overlooked.

"You're working from heights, with complex machinery, handling livestock and the single vehicle incident rate is huge," he said.

"On top of that, stress caused by long working hours, drought, bushfires, financial worries, price uncertainty, and high input costs is ever present.

"There is a correlation between people suffering stress or overwhelm and accidents occurring."

Jane McCollum, a counsellor based in regional Queensland, recently ran a webinar for primary producers on how to deal with the sense of overwhelm that is prevalent in the agricultural community.

"As a counsellor, I meet with plenty of primary producers whose state of overwhelm is quite chronic in nature, to the point that we do actually need some assistance in coming out of that state,' she said.

"This is why it's so important to educate that simple regular activities can keep overwhelm in check.

"I liken it to being struck by a dust storm; you're not able to breathe, you're not able to see ahead of you. In that moment, in that absolute moment, you can tend to be a little bit panicked and even freeze. That's the feeling of being overwhelmed.

"For example, you might want to go into town from the property to fuel up, go to the bank, the post office and you have the shopping list with you.

"But you find yourself heading into town and you realise that you don't even know why you're there. This is often a good sign you're overwhelmed.

"You might be unwell and fatigued, but there's no discernable reason to feel that way. That's another common sign.

"Or you're having trouble focusing and completing simple tasks...things that you would have usually been able to do okay but, for some reason, you're just not being able to carry out those tasks."

Ms McCollum said farmers just need to complete one simple task every day.

Day 1: Make time to relax

The best of engines needs a cooling off period, and your prize stock horse still needs a rest period. Lock in time out for yourself today to relax and to stop for at least 20 mins. This looks different for everybody: watching their favourite TV series, playing Candy Crush, reading a book, getting out into the garden or doing some photography. Some people love to just go and sit on the fence with a cup of tea and look at the view.

Day 2: Do some enjoyable exercise

There's a difference between physical activity and exercise. Physical activity is great in its own sense, but it's all about work. When your work is stressing you, there's going to still be issues of stress around that physical activity. This is where exercise is different. It's intentional and it's a period of time that you can just be doing it for yourself. Maybe leave the quad bike and walk to the mailbox today. Try doing even a walk for 10 minutes three times today if a whole 30 minutes is untenable.

Day 3: Talk about what's up

Talk over an issue that's troubling you with a professional, friend, or family member. One of the exacerbating factors in rural Australia is our propensity to keep it all in, which has long been viewed as very admirable, but it's actually dangerous.

Day 4: Pros and cons

Whether personally and professionally, when you're trying to make a big decision, do a pros and cons list. When you put things down on paper and you see what's good about that decision and what's not so good about that decision, you start to see the big picture.

Day 5: Break it down

Breaking big jobs or big challenges down into smaller parts is really important when it comes to dealing with overwhelm because we tend to try to tackle the bigness of the issue which isn't helpful. Break it down and deal with it bit by bit. Some other words here that you can see are streamline, disentangle, clarify, clean it up, order, unscramble, facilitate, get down to basics, reduce, and make clear. I use a big sheet of paper.


The story Five-day wellbeing challenge for farmers first appeared on Stock Journal.

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