During particularly chaotic periods on-farm, such as seeding, shearing or harvest, personal wellbeing often takes a back seat - but it doesn't have to, nor should it.

Self-care is a buzzword in today's media, emphasised to the point that it can stir up visions of lengthy yoga routines, acai bowls washed down with green smoothies, and ultra-hydrating facemasks. However, none of these are prerequisites for good self-care, and when it comes to prioritising wellbeing on-farm when the heat is on, looking after yourself can be a whole lot simpler than you might think.

Steph Schmidt and Louise O'Neill are wellbeing experts who know that self-care often goes down the gurgler when the pedal is to the metal on-farm. Both running their own rural wellbeing businesses alongside being farmers - Steph in South Australia and Louise in Western Australia - these women know how hard it can be to prioritise mental and physical health when it's all systems go. But they also know that looking after yourself is all about the small steps, mindset shifts, and bite-sized actions, which is achievable and realistic even for those who feel like they are working round the clock.

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Steph's tips for mental/emotional wellbeing

Farm life psychologist Steph Schmidt says stress is part of the puzzle on farm, but how to deal with that stress is a choice.

Steph is a qualified psychologist, and her business Farm.Life.Psych exists to bring paddock-tested psychological tools to farmers and rural Australians. She has seen a huge increase in mental health awareness in the past decade but is dedicated to taking things one step further. She wants to help people build their mental health skills so they can look after themselves every day. Here are her tips for fostering good mental and emotional wellbeing, particularly during busy times.

1. Acknowledging the bad

When it comes to taking care of our mental and emotional wellbeing during busy times, Steph Schmidt says that trying to be an eternally optimistic Pollyanna isn't the answer. From her own experience on-farm, she knows all too well that it's normal to feel frustrated and stressed during busy times and that those feelings should be validated.

It's not about thinking a beautiful sunset means you shouldn't be frustrated that the tractor broke today

'The hard stuff is part of it because things don't always go to plan,' Steph says. 'It's not about thinking a beautiful sunset means you shouldn't be frustrated that the tractor broke today. When you're tired, it's okay to feel tired. When you're really frustrated or worried about how the season is going to go, those feelings are okay. They are valid, and you can give yourself space to feel them before choosing what to do next.'

2. 'This too shall pass'

Nine hours into a 12-hour day on the seeder, weeks into a routine of working round the clock and with many weeks to go, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel can be tricky. During these times, Steph says the simple mantra of 'this too shall pass' should be front of mind.

'Of course, take a breather if you can, but if you do need to keep charging and pushing through, remind yourself that this isn't a permanent state of affairs,' she says.

Steph recommends 'mental time travel' as a way to zoom out from the task at hand and to realise the particularly busy period is only temporary. To do this, she recommends projecting ahead to moments to look forward to, either after the busy period ends or in the almost immediate future. She says this could be as simple as thinking forward to envision hopping into bed at the end of a long day.

Reminiscing backwards is also a handy way of zooming out of the current moment and a pertinent reminder that one has made it through 100 per cent of their tough days previously.

'Remember that it's not your first harvest or shearing, and think about what got you through in the past. Sometimes those things that have helped in the past are things we've forgotten to put into action again for ourselves,' Steph says.

3. Deactivate problem-solving, activate circuit breakers

According to Steph, problem-solving and internalisation can be a risky mix during high-stress times. Constantly ruminating on and re-hashing thoughts has the potential to deliver nothing but heightened worry and stress. Rather than trying to think one's way out of a situation, Steph recommends doing something to act as a 'circuit breaker' to the stress cycle.

While the brain can easily recognise the end of an acute physical stress (like seeing a snake), when the stress is ongoing (such as stressing about dry seeding), the brain doesn't recognise that stress is ever over unless a conscious effort is made to actively break the cycle.

'You need to actually do something, and it's not always what you feel like doing,' Steph says. 'A big cry, a big belly laugh, singing your favourite song, or hugging your partner are all ways of giving that cue to the brain that you might be stressed, but you aren't being chased by a lion.'

4. Avoid the comparison trap

Relationships with a romantic partner are a common victim of high-stress times. To keep relationships on track, Steph recommends avoiding falling into a comparison trap. 'The more stressed we are, the more we take it out on our relationships, and the more we fall into a cycle of who is more tired, or who is working the hardest,' she says.

'Sometimes, you have to give yourself permission to pause. That can be hard if your partner is out working really long hours, and you're home thinking you should be working because they're working, when it's actually okay if someone in the partnership is getting some sleep. It's a better way of serving the team than staying up late because your partner is working.'

Steph says regularly checking in with each other during long days - which could be as simple as a text message sent at lunch time - is a simple yet effective way to nurture relationships in busy times.

Louise's tips for physical wellbeing

Louise is the founder of Farm Life Fitness, a fitness business that balances the provision of accessible and evidence-based fitness routines with first-hand knowledge of the busyness that comes with farm life. Louise knows that most farmers don't have a gym on their doorstep and that eight hours of sleep a night during busy periods just isn't realistic. Despite this, she firmly believes physical wellbeing can still be prioritised in stressful times. Here are Louise's top tips for taking care of one's physical health even when the heat is on.

1. Slot exercise into non-negotiable activities

Louise O'Neill says snippets of exercise - even incidental exercise - are better than no exercise at at all.

When farmers are particularly time-poor, Louise recommends doing exercise alongside other compulsory tasks, such as refuelling machinery. A mini workout as brief as 10 push-ups, 10 lunges and 10 star jumps is significantly better than nothing at all. Calf raises or squats while brushing teeth is also an option.

'If you stack that tiny exercise routine with something you can't not do, there won't be a time barrier,' Louise says.

Any opportunity to add a few extra steps in the day can be beneficial, such as parking a bit further away from a water trough and walking the last bit to get to it. Any incidental exercise - no matter how small it seems at the time - makes a difference.

You don't have to get a sweat up to make a difference to your body and your mind.

'Movement does not have to be high intensity to be beneficial - you don't have to get a sweat up to make a difference to your body and your mind,' Louise says.

2. Sleep - quality over quantity

In terms of shut-eye, Louise says taking the pressure off is key. She says sleep hygiene goes far further than focusing on quantity of sleep, and focusing wholly and solely on that sacred eight hours can often be unrealistic and cause stress.

'On the long days, we often get fixated on the fact we might only have time for five hours of sleep,' Louise says. 'But if we're doing things that help prop that - like eating well, drinking well and taking rests when we can - that's good enough in those busy times.'

To maximise sleep quality, Louise recommends having a shower in the evening to relax, winding down before attempting to go to sleep and not taking the phone to bed.

3. Forward planning is vital to healthy eating

If time is a barrier to eating healthy food, Louise says preparation is your best friend. She recommends meal prepping on a Sunday night for the week or working in some sort of routine to ensure healthy eating becomes a non-negotiable.

'I am a big believer in enjoying food,' Louise says. 'The more we enjoy it, the more we appreciate it and the more we want the good stuff. Farmers provide such good food for people, but sometimes we don't take that food for ourselves as well.'

Prioritising prevention

National Centre For Farmer Health director Alison Kennedy says farmers are the number one asset in their own businesses.

National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH) director Alison Kennedy says that when it comes to wellbeing, looking after ourselves rather than waiting until crisis point is vital. NCFH offers a wide range of services, mostly centred around prioritising prevention.

'We often see farmers won't seek help or do something about a small issue until it has a big impact on them,' Alison says. 'We're starting to shift the conversation to help farmers recognise that they are the number one asset in their farming business, and they need to protect that asset in order for their business to be profitable.'