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Trading overwhelm for mental rest when you can’t go south for the winter

Elaine Froese for Progressive Dairy Published on 31 December 2020

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.

Dairy farmers are exhausted.

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I’m a student of the Do More Ag Talk, Ask, Listen mental health workshop, where we learned 75% 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?

I’ve 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 anytime soon, so my stress comes from digital overload. I would encourage you to take 90 minutes after supper to watch the Netflix documentary-drama The Social Dilemma featuring Tristan Harris along with many other Center for Humane Technology experts. 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:

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  • 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 freezing 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, those that revive to those 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’d like to focus on the 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?

I find playing with my grandchildren a great emotional boost, and we get creative on the swing, slide and walking down the lane. 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 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 winter to have better social connections, even with physical distancing challenges in place? I enjoy bi-weekly learning time with a group of women digitally. I get energy connecting online 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 people to look at the barriers they need to break to get unstuck:

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  • Anxiety and overwhelm. (Sounds like some mental rest is called for.)

  • Fear. Which could be fear of conflict, failure and lack of financial well-being.

  • No time to talk or plan. A function of what you make a priority in your life.

  • Procrastination, apathy or lack of motivation. This is a choice not to act.

  • 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 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 an exercise 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.  end mark

Elaine Froese, author, speaker, coach, grandma. Watch new videos at YouTube by searching “Elaine Froese Farm Family Coach.” Encourage your team with her resources at Elaine Froese. Call her at (204) 534-7466.

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