The holidays are almost here. And along with it, another seemingly endless list which demands that it, and you, are checking twice. Regardless of the chores, breeding, feed, finances, calvings, frozen pipes, storm damage …. And the fifteenth bull calf in a row … you are definitely feeling that you’re on thin ice.
The gifts, the tree, the perfect pies and turkey …. Christmas at the Farm … in some in one month. No wonder we’re stressed exhausted and in some cases, dairy depressed.
We may catch ourselves envying the non-farm neighbours who head to warmer climates for their winter break. After all, how hard is it to care for a cat (and maybe a dog)? They can even choose to sleep in while they get time off from that barely stressful 9-5 job that pays their bills so effortlessly.
Oops! Want a little cheese with that whine?
Try to remember that not everything about Christmas on a dairy farm is bad! And everything OFF the farm isn’t perfect either. Almost everyone has to deal with debt loads, decision making and lack of control over the weather. While they may not be as isolated as the typical farmer, they also don’t have nearly as much hands-on control of their daily living.
Long days and late nights may make Christmas parties, concerts, sleigh rides and ski hills seem out of reach. Don’t get your Christmas stockings in a knot yet. Put a wreath on the barn door. Remind yourself where the Christmas season started. Have you got a Santa Claus hat? Put it on your favorite cow. After all, she never tires of giving her best to you every day. Now that your workplace and staff are in a holiday moo-ed, take fifteen minutes to invite your family — or a neighbour to enjoy a hot chocolate. Find a place where the view of your farm, cattle, or pastures will recharge your energy.
Here Comes Christmas Stress! Right down Dairy Farm Lane!
Christmas is a time of waiting … and hurrying and worrying. The very fact that it is seen as a time to celebrate sets us up for the measuring, comparing and competing that can add huge stress to an already busy time. Unfortunately, just when there are all these added challenges, we seem determined to respond to them in ways that aren’t usual either.
- Don’t cut off your usual support groups. While bemoaning what you’re missing don’t cut yourself off from church, 4-H or coffee at the local diner or Timmy’s. That hour isn’t going to make your list any shorter, but you will confirm that you’re not the only one coping with Christmas.
- Make a Happy Christmas in the Stable. Don’t take your anxiety out on your cows. Remember Christmas started in a stable. But regardless of your faith beliefs, taking care of animals (and friends) takes the focus off ourselves.
- Take Care of YOU: Seasonal stress can show itself through coughs, colds, flu, aches and pains. If you have annual visits from these ailments, try to anticipate the trigger situations and take steps to prevent getting worn out.
- Make the Job a Game: If you’re missing family activities. Bring Christmas fun to your farm. Surprise your staff by wearing antlers or hanging mistletoe. It’s surprising how the sound of laughter can change drudgery to fun
- Ask for what YOU Need: Never mind your list for Santa. If you’re feeling low, share that with those closest to you. There may not be an easy solution, but it’s important not to carry the whole load by yourself! Every little hug helps!
Make Someone Else Happy!
We all know how our outlook can change in an instant, when someone shines the light of appreciation on what we are doing. Make sure you light up someone else’s day with a sincere, “Thank you!” Everyone struggles. Don’t add to their stress with criticism or shared anxiety about all the troubles of the world. Find a piece of happiness to share with someone else!
A written thank you note to family who give up some of their time for the farm could make a big difference. A note to staff shows that you appreciate them beyond the daily dairy grind. The very effort of putting your thoughts of gratitude on paper will make a difference in your own outlook too!
Put Some Fun in Your Own Life!
Every year I have fun performing in Christmas Musicals and Concerts. This year, various issues tempted me to give up this frivolous behavior. However, fate stepped in, and just as I was about to give up my ladies’ performance choir – our new leader asked me if I would assist her with the stage managing. Well, there’s nothing like being needed to make you forget your troubles. Believe – herding cows or even cats — is less work than getting forty-five women on and off stage three times in one show!
Having recently turned 65, it seemed like this, finally, should be the year that I stopped putting on costumes and doing home groan comedy routines. But – like clockwork— I woke up one morning giggling at an idea that occurred to me for my church Altar-Ego “Sister Page Turner” to deliver. Our church is struggling through a somewhat dark period, and I thought the topic should be “Light!” Thus- “Batteries Not Included!” will, hopefully, send a message of hopefulness. As usual, trying to see the humour in an awkward situation actually does help.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Learning to deal with stress takes time but, in the end, we develop coping strategies that help in many areas of life — not just in the barn. So friends, give yourselves a well-deserved pat on the back. The work you do goes far beyond your own farm gate. Chin up! Here at The Bullvine we’re glad to share our issues, concerns and joys with you. We’re proud of you. Have yourself a very – merry – dairy Christmas.
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