University of Vermont

The Women's Agricultural Network

WAgN Newsletter: From the Director

It's A Good Thing You Can Juggle

August 2014

It’s official. We have arrived at that time of year when you think you can’t possibly do one more thing

You’re exhausted. Your back hurts (not just in the morning now but all the time), the weeds are out of control, something is trying to eat the chickens, and the beef cows seem able to find the smallest weakness in the fence. All those great ideas for keeping the kids entertained during summer break have turned into “has anyone seen the kids this week?” …but then the tractor breaks, or your apprentice runs off with your field manager, or your very pregnant sister-in-law trips over the dog, breaks her wrist and now needs “a little help” around the house.

Yes, it’s a very good thing you can juggle. Multi-tasking may not be a recommended skill but it is one that women farmers must embrace if they are going to survive “the season”. So, it’s good to know that nature has given us an edge in this arena. Women’s brains are a little better designed for keeping multiple items “on the front burner”. But the ability to do something does not mean the activity is not taking a toll on you. Stress builds up over the summer and many of the women farmers we work with begin to feel overwhelmed at this time of year. It’s important to interrupt the cycle of stress before it starts doing lasting damage to your health. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by life take a few minutes each week to build in a few of these stress-busters.

Meditate. Ever hear someone to tell you to just “take deep breaths” when you’re stressed? They’re not far off. Meditation is an incredibly beneficial way to calm down, improve focus, and get rid of distractions in your mind. It doesn’t take a lot, either—all you really need to do is sit comfortably and breathe deeply and slowly, focusing your attention on your breath and away from all that stuff that’s stressing you out.
Stretch out. Yes, you are probably getting plenty of ‘exercise’ but you may not be stretching out your muscles in ways that allow you to release tension. You don’t need a full blown yoga routine but some simple stretches for your back, shoulders, hips, and neck can do wonders for relieving stress.

Eat. It seems silly to say this to you but I’ve met more than one farmer who forgets to eat during these long days of never-ending work. And, I don’t mean you should go stress-eat that whole bag of chocolate, but sometimes, stress can be seriously intensified by certain mundane things—like taking care of your physical needs. If your blood sugar level is low, eating can seriously turn your bad mood around after just a few bites. Fatty acids and spicy foods might even help a little extra.

Sleep. It may seem impossible but you need to get enough sleep in order to be fully functional during this marathon season. Sometimes you just need to say “This will have to wait till tomorrow, I’m going to bed."

Ask for help. We are sometimes our own worst enemies. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help and be willing to accept it when it arrives (in whatever form it arrives). Let go of perfection and shoot for survival until things quiet down a bit.

Laugh. Along with the ability to juggle a hundred priorities most of the women farmers I know are gifted with a mighty sense of humor. So go ahead and laugh…it does a body good.

We’d love to hear your suggestions for beating the stress during the growing season. Let us know what works for you!

Mary Peabody

Director, Women's Agricultural Network

Last modified August 26 2014 09:43 AM

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