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Take a break before you break

Take a break before you break

From the editor

I often see memes on social media that say things like, "What's a day off? I don't know, so we're farmers "or "Farmers don't just work until the sun goes down; they work until the job is done."

Every time I see these, I shake my head because they seem to highlight how we glamorise the industry's pressure and workload.

These memes perpetuate the myth that to be a successful farmer, you have to work yourself to the bone and that taking time out is somehow a sign of weakness.

That narrative is not only wrong, it's dangerous.

In 2022, the ACC reported 22,630 farm-related injuries. That equates to 60 farmers injured per day in New Zealand.

A study conducted by Farmstrong in 2019 showed that 58% of farmers with work-related injuries reported that stress contributed to their accident, and a quarter identified stress as a significant contributor to the injury.

Taking a break from the farm is vital. It can not only improve our wellbeing but also make us better farmers.

"Breaks off the farm are a necessity, not a luxury," counsellor Megan Hamilton of Heatherlea Counselling says.

"Coming from a farming background myself, I know first-hand the rewards time away from the farm afforded myself and my family. My husband would come home thinking more clearly, with a better perspective on things."

Taking a break can help with decision fatigue, restore motivation, relieve stress and prevent burnout.

Time off-farm can enhance relationships with our significant others, create memories, and cement bonds with our families.

Hamilton says that shorter breaks can be just as valuable if longer holidays are off the table due to time constraints.

"Holidays are an antidote to stress, promoting mental wellbeing.

"It may not be easy to find the time for an extended break, but this is where even a mini break can be a beneficial option."

While it may feel like there is never a 'right' time to plan a holiday, scheduling a break from the farm in the calendar planned around non-peak times gives us something to look forward to, even if it's only a short weekend getaway.

We need to schedule daily and weekly breaks too.

Short snippets of time-out improve our quality of life and focus.

A walk, some time with a book, kicking the rugby ball around with the kids or an at home-movie date with our partners all help our wellbeing.

Weekly activities like a round of golf, watching the kids sport, or taking up initiatives such as Surfing for Farmers or Rural Riders contribute to reducing stress levels, fostering  social connection and a level perspective.

Let's stop celebrating overwork and start prioritising wellbeing.