The Recovering Farmer

Monday, December 28, 2015

But Nothing Happened

I have been told that using the word “but” is a verbal eraser. When you discuss something with others you should avoid that word. At least that is what I have been taught. Here I am using it in a title and will use it just because. I think in this case it is okay to say “but”. Not just okay, important.

This winter, as in winters past, there has been a lot of public discourse on the use of winter tires. That same discussion has happened, again, in our house. My wife is a staunch believer in winter tires. She is a staunch believer in taking extra precautions in any and all winter driving. She has even suggested that she may get her tires studded. As for me? I haven’t bought into the whole winter tire thing. Yet. Knock on wood.

This last weekend as we ventured out on the highways and byways of Manitoba the snow began to fall. And as happens there was snow drifting across the road and some was accumulating on the sides of the asphalt. Normal winter driving. However, my wife being a worry wart about all things winter driving, was quite nervous. I tried. I really did. Drove somewhat slower than I usually drive. Was careful when meeting oncoming traffic. Didn’t pass people even when they were driving much slower than necessary. Just really thought I was being considerate, in fact more considerate than the people driving to slow. Just saying.

As luck would have it I ventured to far to the right and slipped off the pavement. No harm done other than the heart attack my wife was having. Also heard some strange noise coming out of her mouth. I suspect she was saying bad words about me. I asked what the problem was and she replied that she had been afraid of that, hitting the shoulder that is. So in all my wisdom I said “it happened but nothing happened”. I thought about that and repeated it and also suggested what a brilliant quote that was. I think she is still questioning that.

The more I thought about it the more I realized how important that quote is for life in general. How often have I, and do I, worry and ruminate about future events. Concerned over how things will turn out. Lose sleep thinking about all the worst things that will come of whatever it is that I am worrying about. And it seems that the more stress I have the more I worry and stew. Based on many conversations with others that in itself is normal.

But, there is that verbal eraser again, most times when I rethink an event that has happened and I was concerned about I realize that nothing happened. I survived and things turned out better than expected. It happened but nothing happened. Reminded again of a story told about Winston Churchill. A friend of his, lying on his death bed, said that he had had a lot of trouble in life, most of which never happened. There is a lesson here. But, that word again, a difficult one to learn.

So here I am virtually without winter tires on my car. Is it sheer stubbornness? Is it a matter of swallowing some pride? How dearly will I have to pay for not only avoiding winter tires but actually talking about it? Here is hoping that my next post does not involve a story of an accident that could have been avoided simply by investing in winter tires. I know enough that my wife normally gets the last word, and usually the last laugh as well. And for now I can say “but nothing happened”. Make it a good one.

“but, but, but, that is all folks”
Porky Pig

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Connected Christmas

When I look back at my latest posts I find a common theme. Connection. In fact 4 out of the last 6 reference connection. Connection with others is important. This particular time of year provides an opportunity for connection. Whether with family, friends, church or community, connection happens. I know of many situations where this time of year will be heart wrenching for many. A loved one passed on, relationships that have been broken, financial stress, ongoing health concerns. As much as that saddens me I get it. I recall in Christmas’ past an uncle who often times had tears in his eyes when carols were sung. Never knew why. I have come to an understanding of that. I have experienced the same. Through that I have come to the realization that Christmas is a time of reflection. What was and what might have been.

A poem I have used in the past still resonates with me. Seldom does that poem come to mind during the year but each Christmas it again comes to mind and I enjoy it all over again. So I am going to post it here, again, in hopes that it too can bring some thoughts of peace and comfort to you. Make it a good one.

Put your problems on probation
Run your troubles off the track,
Throw your worries out the window
Get the monkeys off your back.
Silence all your inner critics
With your conscience make amends,
And allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again!

Call a truce with those who bother you
Let all the fighting cease,
Give your differences a breather
And declare a time of peace,
Don't let angry feelings taint
The precious time you have to spend,
And allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again!

Like some cool refreshing water
Or a gentle summer breeze,
Like a fresh bouquet of flowers
Or the smell of autumn leaves,
It's a banquet for the spirit
Filled with family, food and friends,
So allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again!
Bob Lazzar-Atwood

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Cuddle Hormone

I know. A lot of you are wondering what the Recovering Farmer knows about cuddling never mind the cuddle hormone. I suspect if, and when, my wife reads this she will give me a puzzled look. Never mind. Read on.

I have a confession to make. For a number of years I have “preached” about the need to manage stress and the negative impact of stress particularly long term stress. I have pointed out the effects it has on us mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially. Perhaps to the point of coercing people into thinking that they need to fear stress, be able to recognize it and deal with it, like right now, or the chances are good that their lives will spiral out of control. Now I have come across some information that potentially shows that I have taken the wrong approach.

Okay. Truth be told most of what I have said about stress in the past remains accurate. However the information that I have found through research, actually someone else’s research, shows that perhaps we need to view stress and our response to stress somewhat differently. The research has shown that stress releases a certain hormone in us that has some significant and positive effects on our bodies.

I am talking about Oxytocin, often known as the cuddle hormone. It is also known as a trust hormone, love hormone, and God hormone. Oxytocin is released when we are stressed and think that this stress is very harmful. In essence it is not the stress that releases the hormone but rather our negative thoughts about stress. How we think about stress matters. In fact a study involving 30,000 participants over 8 years showed that there was a 43% increase in the risk of dying for those that experienced a lot of stress AND believed that stress was harmful to their health. People that experienced lots of stress BUT did not view it as harmful had no greater risk of dying than those that experienced low stress. (Kelly McGonigal; How to make stress your friend)

Oxytocin is a hormone that induces feelings of optimism, increases self-esteem, and helps us build trust. It is released when you hug someone, when you shake someone’s hand, when you think about someone, and even when you just gaze at a person across the room. It is used to treat shyness, social anxiety, mood disorders, PTSD, physical wounds, pain, and clinical depression. It helps in reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. It makes us crave physical contact. It makes us want to talk to others. In fact it is enhanced by social supports and contact. It increases empathy, compassion, and caring.

Stress is a normal part of life. Long term stress can have a debilitating impact on us, physically and emotionally. However, based on the aforementioned information, there are some simple ways to deal with this. Obviously we need to change our way of thinking about stress. Understand better that stress is a normal part of life. However the most important information and help I gleaned out of all this research is the importance of connection. The connection with self, with family, friends, and community. The importance of talking to others. The importance of helping others. The importance of relationships. All of this important to maintaining a balanced life in this seemingly unbalanced world we live in.

On a final note Oxytocin also increases generosity. So when you hug someone or shake someone’s hand remember that this small act also releases the hormone in them as well. So now you are not just helping yourself you are also helping others. That increase in generosity might lead to a potential payoff, particularly at this time of year. Just saying. Make it a good one.

“Relationships provide us with identity, purpose and direction. In essence, relationships and therefore community is a life giving, life defining, life nurturing process”

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Would I Have?

I find it interesting that I am not experiencing many of the feelings I normally have at this time of year. Usually I count down the days till December 21 when we experience the fewest hours of daylight because I know it is downhill from there on in. I have normally struggled with the concept of Christmas. It always seemed to be such a superficial time. I have always disliked the cold and snow that comes with our winter. This year is different. And like I said I don’t know what the difference is. Not complaining though.

Some time ago I was asked to do a presentation at Agdays this coming January. At the time January seemed a long way away. So it is easy to say yes because you really don’t need to do anything for a while. In fact, if memory serves me right, I was headed out to the golf course when I got the call. What they needed though was a title and a short synopsis of what I would talk about. Oh, and by the way, here is what we want you to talk about. Sounds simple enough.

I spent some time reflecting on challenges many farmers faced this year. From drought in some areas to excessive moisture in others. Volatile commodity prices. Early spring followed by a killing frost. Lower revenues. Tightening credit. Communication challenges between generations. Onslaught of decisions to be made. The list is endless. The stressors are significant.

And now as we approach the end of another year many producers look back and question many of the decisions they made. That is normal. We all do that. However what often happens is we start kicking ourselves about how we could make better decisions. If only I would have utilized risk management programs. If only I would have waited with selling. If only I could have bought that new equipment. I should have retired a year ago. I should not have bought that land. I could have grown a different crop. I should have, I could have, I would have. That list is endless as well. Again the stressors are significant.

Thus the title to my presentation is Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda. We all know that our decisions will never all turn out to be the right ones. There are far too many factors out of our control. So we make decisions to the best of our ability. Then we learn from those decisions. Sometimes the consequences are painful. But they are experiences and as the quote says; “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” We live in a fast paced world where things are always changing. It is tough to get what you want. It is tough to keep up. At times it is simply a matter of survival. Often times we are caught up in looking in our rear view mirror rather than looking ahead at the future and all the possibilities it holds for us.

So questions arise. Would I have? Was I wrong? Would I have changed the decisions I made? Would I have changed the way I did things? Would I have, could I have, should I have? For the most part we make our decisions, our plans on the best available information at the time. We must live with that and learn from that. To dwell on the past, to “kick” ourselves for things that went wrong is self-defeating.

In my synopsis of the presentation I suggested that through personal stories, humour and research I would help the participants find a sense of sanity to the crazy world we live in. Someone has already questioned, sarcastically I might add, the research component of my presentation. I confess. Other experts have done the research. So if you want the full meal deal on woulda, coulda, shoulda, come see me at Agdays. Make it a good one.

"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew." Saint Francis de Sales (1567 - 1622)