Farmers and farm families are all feeling the mental toll brought about by one of the longest winters every experienced. High workload, depleting silage stocks, added costs and animals stuck indoors means farmers are facing low levels of profitability and production.

Tom Meade, beef farmer and counsellor, says that issues faced by farmers have really ramped up in the last couple of weeks.

“I think it was okay up until 15 March, but after that feed was starting to get scarce in places, the price of straw is going through the roof, with the weather forecast not looking good for April it’s causing more anxiety on top of everything else,” he says.

How do you cope with the uncertainty of not knowing where your next pay cheque is coming from or how to feed your stock if you remain delayed from getting animals out to graze? Tom says it isn’t an easy task to manage your mental state of mind when your livelihood and income source is uncertain. It can feel like the ground is falling from underneath your feet, but he says there are practical things you can do to help relieve stress and learn how to cope to help you get through the day.

Coping strategies

Meaningful solutions for farmers facing a weather crisis require a rational and holistic approach. A solution that acknowledges the practical realities of farming life, while at the same time addressing the psychological and emotional toll of the situation on the farmer and the farm family. As the weather is outside of our control, managing ourselves is the challenge.

Take each day as it comes: The further you look into the future, the more you will tie yourself up in knots, so deal with the day ahead of you. It is important to make some time for relaxation during the day. Also keep a notebook nearby and write down the positive things in your life today and the positive things around you to find a balance. It might not be something you’ve ever done before but you could be amazed by the big difference this small action can make

Find individual solutions: individual issues will vary from farm to farm. You need to identify the problem, seek advice and try to find a solution to relieve the pressure. For example, if you are facing silage and feed shortages, you need to talk to your adviser and accountant. Some farms might need to reduce stock numbers, while others might need to buy in more feed. Professional advice on feed management from the financial side is essential as you need to know how much you can afford to spend.

Create realistic goals: Prioritise farm operations during the weather crisis. What can be done? Are there jobs that can help you get ahead of yourself, that will give you a sense of purpose and achievement? Is there a machine that needs fixing or a fence to mend or possibly a shed to clean out? Break manageable tasks into achievements which may help to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed and help maintain a sense of control.

Focus on what’s within your control:identify aspects of the situation that you can control. This might be scraping the yard, maintaining milking times, continue lambing and for tillage farmers have your seed ready to plant when the weather brightens up. This will help self-empowerment. Letting go of things beyond your control can reduce feelings of helplessness and potential anxiety.

Reassess priorities: during a time of challenge you can foster personal growth and self-reflection. When you are confronted by challenges it is also an opportunity to reassess your priorities, goals, values, and personal aspirations for your farming activities. It could be an ongoing project you’re working on or perhaps creating a financial plan in the event of a crisis or emergency. It could even be a personal goal like starting a new hobby or setting more time aside for yourself.

Time management: this is essential. You need to decide how many hours a day you want to work and that must be sensible. It is important to prioritise your sleep and ensure you are getting a full night’s rest. At this time of the year many farmers are lambing and calving. Ask a neighbour, a family member or relief worker to take the night shift every now and then to give you a break.

Eat well: the importance of having nutritious food in your system can often be overlooked. Your health is your wealth, as they say, and you need to look after your body, especially when you’re going through an anxious time. Putting a lot of sugar and caffeine into your body will not do you any favours. Ensuring you have balanced meals throughout the day helps to reduce the level of anxiety.

Take a break: whether it is going down the road to a neighbour for a chat or taking a half hour to go to the local shop, it is important to take a break from the farm. Farming is an isolated occupation, so push yourself to have social interactions and chat to others. This might be lifting up the phone to a friend, going to the mart or even spending time with family.

Finola Colgan

Mental Health Ireland

Finola Colgan, development officer of Mental Health Ireland and its national lead for farming and mental health, speaks to us about how families can support farmers under stress.

“I think the whole household can be affected. Maybe it has to be a whole family approach – is the stress left in the field or does it come into the house naturally? During a particularly tough time stress can also start from the house. Nonetheless, family support can make a significant difference in the well-being and resilience of farmers. As they say ‘A problem shared is a problem solved.’

“Farm families can play a significant role in ensuring and promoting the importance of self-care by emphasising the importance of regular breaks, creating opportunities to socialise and ensuring regular sleeping patterns,” she adds.

Common warning signs of stress

Stress is usually a reaction to mental, physical or emotional pressure. The causes of stress can vary from person-to-person. However, some of the common warning signs can inlcude:

• Feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the future

• Finding it hard to get up in the morning

• Experiencing difficulties in sleeping

• Finding it hard to do work that needs doing

• Avoiding necessary paperwork to do with farming enterprise

• Feeling irritable, restless, worried, or angry

Support helplines

• Mental Health Ireland, or text 50808

• Shine, or phone 01 541 3715

• Make the Moove, or phone 0860840442

• Aware, or phone 1800 80 48 48

• Pieta, or phone 1800 247 247

•Text About It is a free, 24/7 service, providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support for your mental health and emotional wellbeing. Free-text HELLO to 50808 for an anonymous chat with a trained volunteer, any time or check out

• Self-help resources for stress,

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