Rugby has taught me heaps about how to look after yourself and handle stress. I reckon rugby and farming are similar that way – there’s always pressure to meet targets and achieve results and there’s always stuff you can’t control. For me it might be the ref, in farming it’s the weather.
Pressure is pressure, whether it’s work or sport. The good news is that there are ways to manage stress and control how your mind and body reacts to it.
Rest and recovery time - Even though rugby players practice heaps and play high intensity games, we still build plenty of recovery time into our schedule. This gives us a chance to recover physically and mentally so we can perform at our best next time. No-one can go ‘hard out’ all day, every day without breaks. That’s the stuff of burn out. So building proper breaks into your working day and week is key. Take an afternoon off every once in a while and get off the farm regularly to catch up with mates. Good recovery time makes you more energised and efficient when you are on the job. It’s absolutely essential.
Sleep - Sleep’s massive. Make sure your body is getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep so it has a chance to re-energise for the next day. Without the right amount of sleep, you won’t function at your best. If you’re having trouble sleeping because of worries, write them down on a bit of paper and save them for the next day. You’ll feel more in control and be asleep again before you know it.
Nutrition - Whether you’re farming or playing pro sport, you need the right ‘fuel in the tank’. Eat unprocessed, natural foods - they’ll give you heaps more nutrients and energy. Try not to skip meals and if needed snack in between meals for energy boosts. If you’re thirsty, have water handy. Poor hydration can really affect your decision-making and ability to perform.
Keep ‘farm fit’ - Whether you’re a farmer or a lock, warming up before you work will definitely extend your career and improve your mood. Do simple stretches before you hit the woolshed, the milking cups or drive the tractor. This keeps the body flexible and prevents you picking up unnecessary strains and niggles that really wear you down.
Stay Connected - When you’re under the pump it’s good to talk about things and share the load. Everyone’s been there and everyone needs support. So, catch up with your mates regularly. Small daily connections can really make a big difference to how you handle stress.
Keep Perspective - If a line out isn’t working, most people will stand really close to it because they are so keen to get involved and fix things. But actually, the best place to stand is 25 metres back. There you can see everything and analyse whether it’s the throw or the jump that hasn’t worked. It’s the same on the farm. If something isn’t working step back and get a ‘helicopter’ view. You’ll make better decisions as a result.
Keep Your Cool - When things aren’t going my way as captain, it’s tempting to get everyone in the huddle and vent. But that’s the worst thing to do. People won’t hear my message at all if they see me flustered. So when you’re under the pump, don’t lose your rag. Take a breath, walk to the gate and back and gather your thoughts. Then calmly deliver a clear message. This is the sign of someone who can perform under pressure.
Working on these habits help me cope with the ups and downs of sporting life. I know that they will also be incredibly useful when I am back farming. And that’s what Farmstrong’s all about, looking after the farm’s number one asset – you! Remember, investing in your wellbeing now means you will have something to draw on when you are under the pump.
Farmstrong is a rural wellbeing programme that aims to help farmers and farming families live well to farm well. To find out what works for you and “lock it in”, check out our farmer-to-farmer videos, stories and tips on www.farmstrong.co.nz.