These past 12 months have been a struggle for many of us. We’ve found ourselves increasingly needing to rely on our own selves to lift our spirits, as our previously-relied-upon methods (meeting with friends, a few pints in the local, a bit of GAA) have been off limits.
We’re all beginning to feel the strain of such enforced isolation – it can be exhausting both emotionally and mentally.
Having said all that, the resilience displayed by those who work the land and with livestock has been remarkable. This, I believe, is in part because farming families are firmly rooted in the realisation that there will always be times when things go wrong, when no matter what you do things don’t work out as planned.
Farming families are in no way removed from the fact that struggle is an ever-present part of life. I think the nature of modern life for many outside of farming demonstrates there can be a tendency to be a little more insulated from the true fact that struggle is a part of life.
It’s so easy to be misled by the images portrayed to us in social media, depicting how everyone else is #LivingMyBestLife. So when we find ourselves having a bad day, week or month, we feel: “There must be something wrong with me.”
Unfortunately, that often makes our situation feel worse in the short term, so my suggestion to you – when you’re feeling the strain – is to speak to someone. Saying: “I’m struggling today” opens up the conversation about our emotional and mental wellbeing and normalises the fact that we all struggle from time to time – because, as sure as the sun sets in the west, it might be you struggling today but it will be somebody else struggling tomorrow. That’s why it is so important to normalise everyday struggles: it happens for everyone.
My suggestion to us all today is to pause and give ourselves a little respite from the strain and fatigue of these strange times by focusing on one simple, soothing fact for our mental wellbeing and resilience.
“My breath is always real.” Slowing down and noticing your breathing patterns will always soothe.
The science behind this simple affirmation is that when we slow down and notice our breathing, the body automatically switches itself into rest and digest mode.
This immediately decreases our heart rate, blood pressure and the production of the stress hormone cortisol.
I use this practice to bookend my day – every single day – as we never know how things will unfold in our lives on any given day. I like to be as prepared as I can be for whatever the day has in store.
Perhaps everything will go great on the farm, the sun will shine just enough and the rain will fall just enough, or perhaps we’ll have one of those days where everything that could go wrong, does go wrong.
One thing is certain though – both on farm and off farm – life is unpredictable, but it can be made more manageable with a little forward planning. As part of your plan to mind your mind, it’s important to prioritise the daily investment of a little time on your mental wellbeing (like this little practice outlined above), especially on those days when you’re feeling great.
This deliberate action is what sustains us through those days when we’re not feeling great; it’s like putting aside a little soothing balm for use on those days when you need it most – a bit like saving the hay.
When everything else around us seems to be so uncertain, daunting and downright lonely, it is always true and soothing to remind yourself with certainty: “Breathing in and I know I’m breathing in, breathing out and I know I’m breathing out.”