One of Australia’s largest rural charities, Rural Aid, has compiled a five-day wellbeing challenge for primary producers during National Farm Safety Week. CEO John Warlters has told Dave about the week the organization.
The organisation says that neglecting to prioritise the wellbeing and welfare of primary producers is just as hazardousas the many on-farm risks.
“Farming is already a high-risk job. You’re working from heights, with complex machinery, handling livestock, and thesingle vehicle incident rate is huge. On top of that, stress caused by long working hours, drought, bushfires, financial worries, price uncertainty, and high input costs is ever present,” CEO John Warlters says.
“There is a correlation between people suffering stress or overwhelm and accidents occurring.”
Toowoomba-based counsellor Jane McCollum recently ran a webinar for primary producers on how to deal with the sense of overwhelm that is prevalent in the agricultural community.
“It’s very common for farmers to get overwhelmed, it’s just the nature of the uncertainty and demands of what they do and the external pressures coupled with personal pressures, or challenges at home,” Ms McCollum said.
“As a counsellor, I meet with plenty of primary producers whose state of overwhelm is quite chronic in nature, to the point that we do actually need some assistance in coming out of that state. This is why it’s so important to educate that simple regular activities can keep overwhelm in check.
“I liken it to being struck by a dust storm; you’re not able to breathe, you’re not able to see ahead of you. In that
moment, in that absolute moment, you can tend to be a little bit panicked and even freeze. That’s the feeling of being overwhelmed.
“For example, you might want to go into town from the property to fuel up, go to the bank, the post office and you
have the shopping list with you. But you find yourself heading into town and you realize that you don’t even know why you’re there. This is often a good sign you’re overwhelmed.”
“You might be unwell and fatigued, but there’s no discernable reason to feel that way. That’s another common sign.
Or you’re having trouble focusing and completing simple tasks like washing clothes and folding them up, cooking a meal, weeding, spraying your weeds and cleaning up the shed, things that you would have usually been able to do okay but, for some reason, you’re just not being able to carry out those tasks.”
During National Farm Safety Week, Jane McCollum is asking farmers to do one simple task every day.

Monday task: Make time to relax
“The best of engines needs a cooling off period, and your prize stock horse still needs a rest period. Lock in time out for yourself today to relax and to stop for at least 20 mins. This looks different for everybody: watching their favorite TV series, playing Candy Crush, reading a book, getting out into the garden or doing some photography. Somepeople love to just go and sit on the fence with a cup of tea and look at the view.”

Tuesday task: Enjoyable exercise“There’s a difference between physical activity and exercise. Physical activity is great
in its own sense, but it’s all about work. When your work is stressing you, there’s going
to still be issues of stress around that physical activity. This is where exercise is
different. It’s intentional and it’s a period of time that you can just be doing it for
yourself. Maybe leave the quad bike and walk to the mailbox today. Try doing even a
walk for 10 minutes three times today if a whole 30 minutes is untenable.”

Wednesday task: Talk about what’s up
“Talk over an issue that’s troubling you with a professional, friend, or family member. One of the exacerbating factors in rural Australia is our propensity to keep it all in, which has long been viewed as very admirable, but it’s actually dangerous.”
Thursday task: Pros and cons list
“Whether personally and professionally, when you’re trying to make a big decision, do a pros and cons list. When you put things down on paper and you see what’s good about that decision and what’s not so good about that decision, you start to see the big picture.”
Friday task: Break it down
“Breaking big jobs or big challenges down into smaller parts is really important when it comes to dealing with
overwhelm because we tend to try to tackle the bigness of the issue which isn’t helpful. Break it down and deal with it bit by bit or step by step. Some other words here that you can see are streamline, disentangle, clarify, clean it up, order, unscramble, facilitate, get down to basics, reduce, and make clear. I use a big sheet of paper.”

You can watch the full webinar on overwhelm www.ruralaid.org.au/counselling/

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About Rural Aid
Rural Aid is one of Australia’s largest rural charities. Well known for the highly successful ‘Buy a Bale’ campaign, the charity also provides financial assistance, water and counselling to farmers in times of drought, flood or fire. Other initiatives support its vision that farming and rural communities are safeguarded to ensure their sustainability both during and after these natural disasters. Visit www.ruralaid.org.au for further information on these programs and other support for our rural communities.