Pacing through the Overwhelm - Elaine Froese | Canada’s Farm Whisperer | Your go-to expert for farm families who want better communication and conflict resolution to secure a successful farm transition


Pacing through the Overwhelm

by | Mar 21, 2013 | Farm Family, Farm Family Coaching, Grainews Articles

Some of you who took the last column to heart may have attacked your farm offices to tidy them up, get organized, and now have a beautiful space to work in. January is typically the month when we are encouraged to pick new goals, write them down, and be transformed with new habits.

For 2011 my theme word is “pacing”.  I had help with this one this time as my farm coach friend Mandi McLeod from New Zealand was visiting our farm in November. She knows my work, my passion to serve farm families, and my tendencies to work too much.

Pacing to me means being really clear on what is important, and being able to leave the rest.  It is understanding that each new day is a gift, and sometimes you have to allow for divine interruption. There’s a soothing quote from a professor’s door that Tim Wiebe presents in his treasury, “Let us be firmly resolved to serve God with our whole heart and life, beyond that, let us have no care about tomorrow. Let us only think of living today as well as we can. Then, when tomorrow comes, it will also be today. And we can apply the same philosophy for another 24 hours.”

I’ve printed that encouragement out, and it sits in the front of my day timer as a constant reminder to pace myself, one day at a time.

When I speak to farmers they tell me that one of their greatest barriers to doing succession planning is the sense of being overwhelmed. My turning point technology clickers allow the farmers to answer privately what their deepest concerns are as they click answers that are compiled into bar graphs on the screen.

Overwhelm can mean: “1. overpower with emotions usually followed by a sense of; 2. being overpowered with an excess of work, responsibility; 3. bring to sudden ruin or destruction; crush; 4. bury or drown beneath a huge mass, submerge utterly.”(Canadian Oxford Dictionary)

“Emotions, excess work, sudden ruin, drowning.”  Are these the factors that are keeping you stuck in denial with a deep sense of overwhelm?  Pierrette Desrosiers, a clinical psychologist who works with farmers, suggests that 80% of farmers’ decisions are based on emotions. ( If you are feeling very negative about 2011 could it be that you are caving in to a sense of ruin, and haven’t had a talk with yourself about your emotional state? The weather issues of 2010 have left a legacy of financial stress that needs to be addressed head on. Now is not the time to crawl under a bale and hide from your lenders and creditors.

Communication is key. Talking with yourself, your spouse, and your creditors is highly important if you’re are going to prevent overwhelm from shutting you down.

The excess work factor also needs attention. Are you working at things that are causing you to go backwards financially? What tasks do you need to address to get your finances in order? Who needs to review your books, cash flow and balance sheet in order to gain a sense of control?

Farm men who are strong, independent entrepreneurs tend to pull back and isolate themselves when they sense they are drowning in stress. It is difficult to ask for help. There are people ready to throw you a life ring, if you call for help. It might be time to call the Farm Debt Mediation Service a 1-866-452-5556 to have some arrangements made with your creditors. Perhaps you need a visit to the doctor to check out if depression has set in, or a call to your farm stress line to vent your frustrations.

The sense of overwhelm is calmed when folks figure out that they can only deal with a few issues at a time. I encourage you to go to my website and download the key challenges audit which is found on the farm succession planning page. This is a starting point for figuring out what issues you need to be addressing on your farm.

If you are a workaholic you are likely working too much and wearing down your body physically. Tired bodies and brains don’t typically make great decisions. Could you find some time for renewal, a few days away from the farm, or spend time resting and relaxing rather than running to fix the next problem? Do you have a neighbour or family member who would be willing to help out for the short term, to give you a boost?

Finding out what your options are, and gleaning new information usually helps us take steps forward in our planning. Get a binder or folder where you can start collecting the ideas and questions that are keeping you awake at night. If you write things down, it is called a “brain dump”.  Once things are dumped on paper, your brain can relax a bit and focus on renewal. Saskatchewan farmers can work on the Taking Stock program with farm management specialists, while Manitobans can work on the Agri-Advisor program. Albertans can go to Reach out to extension programs that are put in place to help you deal with your business growth and planning.

Pat Katz, a specialist in helping folks deal with overwhelm says, “There’s no ease and there is no grace, when there is no rhythm to the pace.” (

She’s right. Go to Katz’s website and sign up for her Pause e-zine, a weekly reminder of practical tips to help you keep a better pace in your life, and decrease your sense of overwhelm.

It’s not fun to struggle. You don’t have to feel burdened alone. You can address your issues and avoid financial or relationship ruin. Take one day at a time. Don’t borrow worry for the future. Worry is a very useless emotion. Seek out advisors and options. Communicate with your family, farm team and creditors.  Shift your behaviour with pacing, and taking the next step, one step at a time.

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