Stress is a common part of farming life, and it can come from various sources – the weather, seasonal tasks, day-to-day work, relationships, finances, health, and more. A little stress is great to prompt you to get things done, but when it starts to take a toll on your mental and physical wellbeing, it’s essential to take proactive steps to manage it effectively. One useful strategy is to identify the sources of stress in your life and then prioritise them based on their importance and urgency. This approach allows you to focus on what truly matters and let go of the worries that don’t.
The first step in managing stress is recognising the things that are causing it. These stressors can vary greatly from person to person. It could be looming farming deadlines, relationship conflicts, financial struggles, health concerns, or a combination of these and more. The key is to pinpoint the specific areas of your life that are generating stress.
Breaking Down Stressors
Once you’ve identified your stressors, it’s time to break them down into manageable chunks. This process involves categorising them based on two critical factors:
Importance: Determine which stressors are genuinely significant in the grand scheme of your life. Some things will be more critical than others. For example, a family emergency might be more important than putting a new gate latch on in the sheep yards. .
Urgency: Assess the timeline associated with each stressor. Some issues require immediate attention, while others can be addressed over time. Getting the fungicide spray on your bean crop within the treatment window might be urgent, whereas replacing the internal fences on your out-block can have a more extended timeline.
With your stressors categorised by importance and urgency, you can now prioritise them effectively:
High-Importance, High-Urgency: These are the top priorities that need immediate attention. They demand your immediate focus and action. They might be stressors like a veterinary emergency with your stud bull, a job interview to employ a new cropping overseer before harvest starts, or drenching a mob of fat lambs that have come back with a high worm count.
High-Importance, Low-Urgency: These stressors are essential but don’t require an immediate response. You can plan and execute a strategy to address them in the near future, such as booking in the mechanic to service the tractor before sowing starts, or planning out the new cropping rotation with the agronomist for next season.
Low-Importance, High-Urgency: These stressors may seem urgent but aren’t vital. They can often be delegated or tackled with minimal effort. These might include minor tasks at work such as moving a mob of wethers onto a fresh pasture which can be delegated to the station hand or cleaning up the shearing shed kitchen ready for the shearers tomorrow. .
Low-Importance, Low-Urgency: These are the stressors that you can deprioritise or even eliminate from your list. They’re neither critical nor time-sensitive. Examples might include the heated words that were exchanged over the two-way when you were busy or washing out the chemical drums and taking them to the drum muster – it would be nice to get them tidied up but drenching the mob of fat lambs takes priority. .
Once you’ve prioritised your stressors, it’s time to take action. Focus on the high-importance, high-urgency stressors first, as they require your immediate attention. Break these tasks down into smaller, manageable steps, creating a plan to address them effectively.
For high-importance, low-urgency stressors, schedule dedicated time to work on them. Setting aside specific time slots in your calendar can ensure that you give them the attention they deserve.
For low-importance stressors, consider whether they can be delegated to others or if they can be postponed or eliminated altogether. Streamlining your to-do list can free up valuable mental space.
Managing stress is a crucial aspect of maintaining your overall wellbeing. By identifying, categorising, and prioritising your stressors, you can gain a sense of control and focus on what truly matters. This approach not only helps you reduce stress but also allows you to lead a more balanced and fulfilling life. Feel free to print out these guidelines or create your own template to break down your stressors into manageable chunks. Remember, taking control of your stress is a significant step towards a happier and healthier you.