Looking after wellbeing and mental fitness is essential for dealing with stress and running a strong business, but what is resilience and how do you build it? The next few pages are packed with experience, advice and resources.
Jude McCann, chief executive or Northern Irish farming charity Rural Support, says: “Resilience is not just the ability to bounce back to where we were after experiencing stress. It is the ability to bounce forward from it.”
We will all experience shocks and disruptions in our lives and everyone has different thresholds in mental health and what causes stress in one person might not in another, he explains.
“Farming is particularly prone to shocks. It could be a TB outbreak one year, low prices another, and then something else unforeseen.
“When that mounting pressure builds, depression can set in and it becomes very hard to deal with these issues.”
Taking steps to build and maintain resilience is not always about big things, he adds.
“It could be something as simple as inviting friends round every Friday for fish and chips so you surround yourself with positive people.”
He says: “It is about concentrating on things we can have an impact on, rather than those that are out of our control.”
For some people, taking time to put things into perspective could be as simple as having a cup of tea, going away for the weekend or an evening with family. Taking time to appreciate things around you, such as nature, is also important.
If things get too much, it is important people put their hands up and ask for help, says Mr McCann.
This could include employing a business consultant, accountant or seeing a therapist.
“Resilience is a life-long thing you have to work at; you don’t just reach it and that is it. Some people will be resilient in some parts of their life, but things can easily change with circumstances.”
This means we should make the most of the good times by building up financial and emotional cushions to help us through tougher moments.
Be alert to symptoms in yourself and others around you. To know what to look out for, farming mental health charity YANA has compiled the following list:
YANA can be contacted on its helpline 0300 323 0400, or for more information, go to yanahelp.org
MORE than a decade ago, farm business consultant, David (not his real name) was climbing the ladder as a successful farm manager, when a series of events tipped him over into mental ill-health.
The estate he worked for was turned over to contract farmers and he found himself under huge pressure looking after his staff, who were about to lose their jobs. He then faced a switch into self-employment and took on more work than he could cope with.
A few years later, he faced two serious operations due to physical ill-health, then in quick succession, a divorce and the loss of a parent.
It was too much for anyone to cope with, and he reached what medical professionals call a ‘tipping point’, an accumulation of stressful life events.
He says: “I do not think you go into depression quickly.
It comes from a build-up of things.
I lost enthusiasm for life and for a lot of things.
“I stopped exercising as much, partly because of my physical injury, even though I had been very fit and played sport at a high level.
“I started hiding away and I found it difficult to finish work. I couldn’t concentrate and I bingewatched TV. I procrastinated and started cancelling meetings, which was something I had never done before, but I couldn’t face people. My anxiety increased dramatically and work became overwhelming.”
With support, David sought help and found that talking therapy helped deal with a certain amount of emotion, but he says a strong network of friends, family and colleagues who will listen is critical.
Things have gradually improved, but he still gets depressive periods, so maintaining his wellbeing is paramount.
He was also supported by Focussed Farmers (focussedfarmers.com), which introduced him to meditation. He now uses an app, ‘Head Space’, to do 15 minutes of meditation every morning.
He says: “Meditation trains the mind to be present and not be flitting around all over the place.
“It relaxes and focuses me and stops me revisiting all the crap. It has a stabilising effect, particularly if I am feeling anxious or stressed.”
David tries to be kind to himself, as he says he is often his own worst critic. He knows he cannot avoid stress completely, such as dealing with busy Basic Payment Scheme periods, but instead believes ‘it is about recognising it is a busy period, and not careering onto the next thing straight after’.
He is also trying to take time off more regularly.
Having people around him who are supportive has been hugely important.
He says: “The people around us need to observe how we are behaving. Sometimes we need to be told we are not right.
“I think in the past I might have seen getting help as an affront to my manliness. I do not think that now. We all need to recognise episodes of life where things are getting overwhelming, and we need to ask for help.”
For David’s full story, including how he looks after his wellbeing, visit FGinsight.com/SYFF
Shape Your Farming Future is a series of informative and practical guides looking in-depth at issues pertinent to farmers when planning for the future.