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Maintaining positive wellbeing during this challenging spring weather

Maintaining positive wellbeing during this challenging spring weather

Finola Colgan, Development Officer at Mental Health Ireland, and Francis Bligh, Health and Safety Specialist at Teagasc, give advice on maintaining positive wellbeing during this challenging spring weather.

The ongoing wet weather and poor forecast is creating many additional challenges for farmers. Ground conditions for cultivation of spring crops continues to be very difficult. Housed animals are putting increasing pressure on slurry storage, fodder and bedding. Cows and sheep with young offspring are forced to stay indoors for longer, which can increase disease risk. These challenges also have a direct compounding impact on workload.

Talk to your advisor

Teagasc advisors are working with farmers across the country to identify farm-specific options to help mitigate the current challenges. Discussing the current challenges on your farm with your advisor will help you to identify strategies that may help to limit their impact. Talking to other professionals like your accountant or veterinary surgeon can also be very helpful if specific financial or animal health challenges exist. Teagasc has a large amount of information available focused on tips for dealing with this challenging spring.

Mental wellbeing and health

When things get tough, sometimes we can become so focused on the current challenges that we neglect ourselves and our own health - both physical and mental. We must not forget that our family, our community and our farm want us to keep mentally and physically healthy.

Meaningful actions that farmers facing a weather crisis can adopt are not simple and require a rational and holistic approach. Such an approach must acknowledge the practical realities of farming life while at the same time focus on the psychological and emotional toll of the situation.

Everyday habits that are important to maintain

Avoid skipping meals, rushing meals and low-quality foods. It is very important to start the day with a cup of tea,  or coffee, a slice of toast and if at all possible a boiled egg

Try to make up for disrupted sleep by seeking out and taking any opportunity you have to get in some rest. Farming, as you know, is a physically demanding job.

Try to maintain a routine that includes time for exercise. Your physical and mental wellbeing will thank you for the time you devote to it. 

Focus on what is within your control
Focus on what you can do. Try to let go of things beyond your control, as this can help reduce feelings of helplessness and potential anxiety and stress.

Create realistic goals
Prioritise farm operations and break work down into manageable tasks. This can help to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed and help maintain a sense of control.

The Positive
A weather crisis can foster personal growth and self-reflection. When a farmer is confronted by challenges, it is also an opportunity to reassess priorities, goals, values, and personal aspirations for their farming activities.

How can farmers increase their resilience?

'A problem shared is a problem solved.'

Problem-solving strategies

Aside from assessing the impact of the weather crisis on crops or livestock and implementing practical solutions to mitigate losses, it is also recommended to reach out for emotional support when needed as it will promote wellbeing and resilience (see list of supports provided below).

Close family and friends can provide emotional support during difficult times. Having a cup of tea or coffee with someone who understands and cares is very beneficial for managing stress and coping with challenges. Engaging in conversation over a cup of tea can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Farm family support

Farm families can play a significant role in promoting the importance of self-care by emphasising the importance of getting help, taking regular breaks, creating opportunities to socialise and ensuring regular sleeping patterns.

Avoid isolation and stay connected

Try not to let the current challenges take you away from social activities. Always remember that you can have a very positive impact on a fellow farmer or member of your community if you take the time to stop and talk and say hello, get the conversation going.

Farmers are at a high risk of isolation due to a combination of factors, including geographical isolation, demanding workloads, financial pressures, paperwork, stigma, and self-reliance. These can collectively contribute to farmers becoming isolated. Challenges associated with weather can be an additional compounding factor.

Isolation can be minimised when people pay individual attention to their personal circumstances and take action. Being aware of relevant help and support can be very helpful. If you feel stress, take action quickly as 'the early bird catches the worm'.

Remember: 'The storm is an artist; the rainbow is its masterpiece.' After every storm, there is calm and by looking after ourselves during turbulence we will be able to pick up the pieces that had to be left down with great energy and enthusiasm.

Additional Supports

Mental Health Ireland

Positive mental health in farming

A range of both Local and National Support Groups are available

  • The Samaritans can be contacted at 1850 60 90 90. Its website gives a list of support agencies.
  • St Patrick’s University Hospital, Dublin provides a Support & Information Service staffed by experienced mental health nurses 9-5 Monday to Friday, with an answering and call-back facility outside hours. You can contact the Support & Information service by calling 01 249 3333
  • A person’s GP should be consulted regularly and when needed.

Also read: Supporting farmers through this difficult period