'Often farmers overlook the most important element to good farming - themselves'

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Eamonn Dempsey, Teagasc Advisor

Farmers are very good at looking after their machinery and livestock.

If something isn't right they tend to deal with it straight away; this attention to detail is important for the productivity and profitability of their farm.

However, very often farmers overlook the most important element to good farming - themselves.

Aches and pains can be pushed aside during the busy calving or lambing season, or farmers who are physically or emotionally unwell don't want to talk to anyone about how they're feeling.

Farmers act fast when livestock are unwell or the tractor won't start; this same instinctive attitude should be adopted when they feel unwell themselves. 

Farmers must realise how important they are to their farms, their family and their local communities and seek to make changes to stay in good health and ultimately get the most out of their enterprise.

For the farm to be managed well, prioritise activities on the farm into different categories e.g. daily tasks,  such as milking or feeding cattle; seasonal tasks such as calving or spraying; or other projects such as maintenance work.

Ensure that you attend to the most important jobs first and that you spread your workload out over time to avoid too many jobs piling up at once. 

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When planning to do jobs always consider if you need help with the work.

This will help you to pace yourself and avoid rushing through jobs. When a farmer prioritises, plans and paces him/herself, it reduces stress as you know in advance that important tasks will be completed.

A key approach to managing stress is recognising the signs and responding to them.

The signs of stress can be physical signs such as high blood pressure, disturbed sleep pattern or weight change; or mental signs such as negative attitude, feeling uncertain, feeling overwhelmed, reduced concentration, and behavioural signs such as loss of interest and enjoyment, irritability and mood swing, or withdrawal from friends and family. 

2018 is a particularly stressful year with the cold spring and a summer drought creating a fodder crisis for many farmers. The fodder crisis along with other demands such as work, family, financial etc can make us feel overwhelmed and lose confidence in our ability to cope. 

When stressed, talking to someone and sharing your concerns can have an almost immediate benefit.  This is one of the advantages of farm discussion groups as you realise you're not alone and that possibly every member of the group is experiencing some level of stress. 

Sharing problems; focussing your attention and energy on the things that you can do; eating healthily; taking time to relax; getting enough sleep; doing exercises or joining a local club all helps to relieve stress and allows you to take back full control of yourself. If alcohol is interfering with your life or work in any way, you should immediately cut back on how much you drink.

Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to live longer, and it's never too late to stop, no matter what age you are or how long you have smoked.

Isolation is a common experience for many farmers living alone in rural areas. It is important to break the isolation trap by joining farm discussion groups, cycling/walking groups or going to events. Isolation is a problem but it can be overcome. 

You might feel very well both physically and mentally, but it is recommended to visit your doctor for an annual check-up, and never delay seeking a medical opinion if you have any health concerns.  If you put yourself first you put everything first.

Corkman


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