Just recently I had a dream that I was back on the farm. I was checking pigs in a bio-tech. Not sure they are still called that but in essence are a straw based shelter to house pigs. The manure pack was so deep that pigs were able to escape their confines. The shelter needed fresh bedding in the worst way. And the pigs were not heavy enough to sell which created a problem because of cash flow issues.
I often dream but seldom do I remember what dreams were about when I get up. These dreams about the farm happen quite regularly but I can normally identify the trigger. The morning after the dream, I just mentioned, I was puzzled about why I had that dream. I had been preparing for presentations on stress management, which includes anecdotal examples of my journey, but that does not usually trigger those dreams. And then I remembered, the day before I had met the banker that was involved with our farm through much of our financial struggles. It actually made me smile. You have to understand that in spite of the job he needed to do he was also a tremendous support. Takes a great deal of skill to be able to do what he did.
When I think back I know there were other service providers to my farm that were probably the first ones that I unloaded on. Whether the aforementioned banker, or feed salesmen, or truck drivers, they probably knew more about my story initially than my wife and kids. Some of my venting was probably disguised as voicing frustration about interest rates or feed prices or other issues I was dealing with that were outside of my control. Some of the more seasoned ones recognized the symptoms and if nothing else at least listened, normalized and validated my concerns.
Just recently I facilitated a workshop for service providers. The participants were working with grain producers in Alberta, in an area that has seen three years of challenges due to weather issues. The workshop is designed to help these service providers in identifying stress in their clients and to be able to respond when these clients start “dumping” on them. The stories that were shared that day spoke to the difficult situations they often found themselves in.
There is another side to this story. A number of years ago I met with a psychologist as my mental health seemed to be deteriorating. He was well aware that my work at the time was primarily dealing with farmers struggling through financial issues. He told me it was obvious that my emotional gas tank was empty. We talked about the effect my work was having on my own mental health. He suggested that the negative energy I dealt with in my work was impacting my own resilience, whether I was aware of it or not.
Obviously when dealing with these stressful situations in our clients we need the tools to be able to deal with that and still be able to do our job. Potentially that often puts us into a very difficult position. These may be clients we have grown to know over time, they may be part of our community, or they may be clients who are being put in untenable situations by the very organizations that we work for. That creates unpleasant scenarios for us.
It then also becomes imperative that we understand what this does to our own emotions. How it creates stress on ourselves, our lives, and our relationships. If we have that awareness we can be proactive in taking care of our own health, to maintain a work/life balance and to make sure we live life as best possible. What do you do to look after yourself? Think about it. Make it a good one.
“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another and ourselves.” Jack Kornfield