There is one topic that no one in society, but particularly agriculture, ever talks about enough. Often until things have progressed further than they needed too. That is mental health. I think part of the reason for this, is that as a society we look at mental health as something that we need to categorise. Is it depression? Is it anxiety? Is it ‘just’ stress?
I am certainly in no way downplaying the need for diagnosis if you are experiencing difficulty, that is a given. But like everything else that I tend to talk about within your farm business, I want you to be more proactive. All of us are guilty of spending so much time managing everything else, that we forget about managing ourselves.
Whether it is simply managing your time, managing the state of your workshop or office desk, your physical health or your mental health, it should be a priority for all of us. And I can talk about it from plenty of experience, because often I am very guilty of focussing on EVERYTHING else.
So, what are WE all going to do about it? How can we manage ourselves better?
First thing first is to get away from the day to day. We simply cannot spend every minute of every day immersed in our business. It is not healthy, and while it sometimes sneaks up on us, being aware of it happening and actively working to release ourselves from it is critical.
We all get busy, and sometimes it becomes overwhelming. You have to free yourself. Maybe it used to be footy or netball training, and retirement has taken that away. Remember when you used to go fishing? When you used to play golf with your mates? Or even just have a quiet drink with a couple of friends (not for a special occasion, but because you just wanted to catch up).
We all, but blokes in particularly, are notorious for never ever organising anything socially. We are socially lazy, and that results in spending all of our time working or at least thinking about work. We can even be guilty of using family as an excuse. Life is too busy. It isn’t!
It’s like working weekends… Sometimes you actually need to, and sometimes you just do it out of habit. Don’t! If you don’t need to, don’t! Give yourself and your mind some clear air. Some freedom from what consumes you the rest of the week.
And how many holidays do you have a year? Real ones, where you free yourself from the day to day and allow yourself to stop thinking about work? In my opinion, it should be at least two. Forget the bullshit you hear from others about “always being on holidays” or “do you ever do any work”. Holidays are literally good for your health. Particularly your mental health.
Sure, there are different challenges. Day 1 with little kids is an eye opener when you aren’t used to 24/7 exposure to the whinging, fighting, and your overuse of the words “no” and “stop it”. But I have just made it through day two and it definitely gets better. I don’t know if it is them, or me, or general compromise, but there is no doubt that it improves towards the end of day two.
There is research that shows that some of our most innovative and productive thinking happens when we aren’t “trying” to do work. That is the reason that Google introduced their version of “free time” where workers can do whatever they like. It is where some of their best product development has happened, when staff aren’t actually “working”.
When was the last time you simply had a day where no one was expecting anything of you? Not your family, not the farm, not any type of work? Give yourself a mental health day every now and then. And while you are at it, give your partner one too if they are a stay at home mum or dad (they don’t get days off unless you give them one). Give yourselves days where you can do whatever the hell you like without the expectations of others.
So, do yourself and your business a favour, and add managing yourself to your list of things to do each week, and strategically throughout the year. Don’t feel guilty about doing things just for you. You are important. Actually, you are the most important part of your job or business. Don’t stuff it up unnecessarily.
If you are under the pump, tell someone. If you are stressed tell someone. If it feels like everything is getting on top of you, tell someone. Simply uttering the words to someone else is often the circuit breaker required to reset your thinking and allow you to put some perspective around your current mindset.
And if at any stage you feel things are getting beyond your control, then immediately seek professional help. What is the worst that can happen? You speak to a professional and come to the realisation that you were too proactive? Perfect.
Have some fun. Have a holiday with the family. Add mental health days to your annual plan. And finally, but most importantly, talk about it.
Right now, I am practising what I preach. One of our two holidays we have each year. With every hour of not working, my mind becomes clearer, and the fog of the last 6 months starts to lift. A few more days of this, and I will be ready to take on another 6 months.