February is on the top of my short list of least favorite times of the year. It’s right up there with surly first-calf heifers and middle-of-the-night diaper blowouts. The excitement of Christmas has worn off; the snow isn’t so pretty; and we’ve already proved ourselves several times over against the sub-zero temperatures.
The brightly colored gloves purchased at the beginning of the winter are dingy and mismatched. The kids’ toes are getting dangerously close to the end of their new boots and everyone (including the cows) is just done. Time and patience are short; tempers are high. It’s easy to get stressed out and overwhelmed.
If a week away at a tropical destination just isn’t in the cards, here are a few things you can do to relieve some of the stress that comes with frozen waterers, calving issues and another inch of snow.
1. Cuddle your babies
Take a break from all your different roles and just be. Baby smiles can fix anything.
Call, text, send a card or grab some coffee with an old friend or neighbor you haven’t seen in a while. Catch up on life outside the farm.
I think almost everyone’s social media feeds are in an upheaval right now. Try not to get caught up in the back-and-forth. Log off for a while and enjoy life in the real world. There are even apps like StayFocusd that help you unplug by allowing you to set a time limit for how long you can spend daily on social media and websites.
4. Find “your people”
Every mom needs a person whom she can call up when everything is going wrong. Dairy farming mamas need a whole team of those people. Put together a group of girlfriends who understand the ins and outs of farming – someone you trust to be there with an encouraging word when the baby won’t quit crying, or a cow has had a hard delivery at the end of a long day.
5. Take a couple of hours away from the farm
You don’t have to go to Cancun to reset and recharge. Go out for lunch. Go shopping. See a movie. Anything that can get your mind off work for just a couple hours can make a huge difference in your mood and mindset.
6. Make an effort to be positive
It seems like there is always something that goes wrong on the farm – cattle get out, calves die, equipment breaks down. But for everything that goes wrong, there’s twice as much that goes right. Enjoy the small victories and remember why you wanted to farm in the first place.
7. Seek professional help
Sometimes stress isn’t just stress. Sometimes life gives us too much to tackle on our own and we need help to tackle the messages that have been playing in our heads over and over again. Visiting a psychiatrist or psychologist isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a sign that you are dedicated to being the best version of yourself that you can be.
In these trying and unsure times, feeling stressed and overwhelmed isn’t uncommon. Always remember that you are loved, you are needed and you are wanted. When farmers every day are losing their livelihoods, some farmers are also losing their lives. Look out for your friends and neighbors. Remember, we’re all in this together.
Heather Moore is a dairy farming mama herself, raising three little boys with her husband, Brandon. The Moore family has a 50-cow dairy and custom feeds 800 head of beef cattle near Maquoketa, Iowa. When she is not chasing around cows and kids, you'll find her volunteering, cooking and very occasionally, sleeping.
PHOTO: To beat the mid-winter blues, Heather Moore says baby smiles are the best. Photo provided by Heather Moore.