Community and Lifestyle

Why farmers are amateurs at looking after themselves

James Nason, 10/07/2014

Primary producers are typically professionals when it comes to running their business but amateurs at looking after themselves.

Leading organisational consultant Dennis Hoiberg told the recent AgForce 360 conference at Roma that everyone needs to proactively build emotional resilience to deal with every day life.

However that message was even more important for farmers because they dealt with so many factors that were beyond their control.

Mr Hoiberg said many farmers had not developed the behavioural flexibility or life skills they needed to deal with a knockout blow when it came.

“And can I tell you something folks? The stuff that is going to make you blow isn’t the big stuff, it is the minor stuff,” he said.

“Floods and drought don’t worry you people do they, that is part of the game.

“It is when something else happens that knocks you around, that is what is going to happen, that is why this resilience stuff is so important to you.”

Mr Hoiberg, who has helped people and communities to recover from disasters all over Australia and other countries over the past 30 years, says it is important to understand that strategies to build emotional resilience can and do work.

He said everyone needed to release pressure, to recalibrate, refocus and recharge, and to work on developing the skills required to help them not only bounce back from setbacks, but to “bounce forward” as well.

Some important questions to ask to identify how people are travelling included “Are you well? Are you happy? Are you productive?”.

Sleep patterns also provided important insights.

“If you are ever worried about anyone in your life there are five questions I want you to ask: how long have you been sleeping, how long have you had disturbed sleep for, how do you feel about yourself, your circumstances and your future?“

“If you don’t feel good about those things folks you have some level of depression.”

While it was usual for people to experience disrupted sleep patterns at times as they processed concerns on their minds, he advised that if people went through a period where their sleep was disturbed for 14 days, they should seek assistance.

“We will face tough times and what this stuff about resilience is all about is what choice are you going to make when it happens.

“And a lot of the people I work with don’t have the life skill to know how to handle a bad time in their life. It is not if you’re going to go through a bad time, it is when. And what choice are you going to make.

One simple message that Mr Hoiberg emphasised to the farmers at Roma was this: “You have to be learn to be happy.

“For example a famer might say, when we get this crop off this year I’ll be happy. But something happens, expectations aren’t met and it goes to your core.

“You folk have to learn to be happy.  And regardless of what happens, if you’re happy you’re going to be able to deal with it.  I spend so much time in my life dealing with people on a one on one basis telling them how to be happy.”

A simple rule, he said, was that positive people attract positive people and achieve positive outcomes, and, equally, negative people attract negative people and achieve negative outcomes.

“Here is the mystery solved, here is the answer to all of your problems,” Mr Hoiberg said.

“It is about how you think and feel about yourself, the words you use, the behavior that you display is what you are going to get back from the universe, it is true.

“If you think well about yourself and talk positively about yourself and have a positive attitude, if you feel that you are going to talk that, you are going to display that, and you are going to interact with people and that is what you are going to get back.

“If however you are always talking about yourself in negative terms and feeling negative about yourself, and we all do at some time in our lives, we will start to interact on negative terms, and guess what we get back from the universe? Negativity.”

Dovetailing with this was the need to remain aware of the “ongoing radio station” in people’s minds, the constant ‘self-talk’ that was always going on.

“We can’t turn it off and through our dreams our mind continues to talk to us.

“I just say make sure that talk is not set to ‘channel 3F’ – Failure, folly and fear – they are the three things that are going to knock you around psychologically.”

In order to build and maintain emotional resilience Mr Hoiberg advised producers to:

  •  Maintain healthy habits and healthy rituals
  • Try to associate with positive instead of negative people
  • Give themselves and their brains a break of at least four days at a time: “We know it takes at least that long for our brains to relax”
  • Speak positively about themselves and the world around them
  • Get good quality sleep
  • Stay involved with your community
  • Remember the need for emotional intimacy

For more information contact Dennis Hoiberg at Lessons Learnt Consulting here



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