Taking Time To “Refuel”

Oh boy, summer has come and gone and fall is in the air.  The kids are back at school, holidays are over, activities have begun and for our beloved farmers, harvest is well underway.  This fall has been wonderful for bringing in the crops (the sunny, dry weather, light winds and minimal dew), but maybe not so great for your health!  Yes that’s right, your health could be at risk during this busy, busy time.  If you are a farmer, are married to or related to a farmer, you know exactly what I’m talking about!  We live in such a fast-paced world and although farm-life has always been viewed as the “easy, quiet, laid-back” life, I can tell you first hand, it’s anything but!  Waking up before dawn to fix machinery so that it’s ready to go, running to the nearest tractor dealership at all hours of the day for parts, eating supper at midnight and getting minimal sleep during peak times like spring and fall.  The early mornings, late nights, sitting sometimes for 12-16 hours or more (ok, if you are sitting for that long chances are you aren’t repairing anything so there’s a plus to this one), inhaling crop dust and possibly chemicals, and not taking the time to “refuel” can result in adrenal glands (stress glands) going full tilt.  For many farmers, they are on a “high” as the year comes to an end and they see all their hard work pile into the grain trucks.  But although there are smiles on their faces, their body could be displaying something completely different.

When our bodies are subjected to continual stress, whether it’s psychological, emotional, physical or physiological, our adrenal glands have to go into overdrive.  And although you may not feel stressed because everything seems to be running smoothly in the field, your body feels it.  Our adrenal glands are responsible for so many functions, including blood sugar stabilization, regulating blood pressure,  secreting cortisol (stress hormones), and making sex hormones.  When these glands aren’t nourished properly through diet and lifestyle choices, “burnout” can occur.  I also know first-hand what this feels like and I do not wish it upon ANYONE!  Feeling “wired but tired”, irritable, very low tolerance to stress, heart palpitations, skin discolouration, headaches, waking up at 3am and not being able to go back to sleep, digestive issues, cold sweats, neck tension and so on.  These are just a few of the symptoms that can occur when we aren’t taking care of ourselves.  Luckily there is a way to prevent this from happening.

Adrenal imbalance occurs not only when we are subjected to continual stress, but also when we don’t eat nourishing foods or eat regularly enough to maintain stable blood sugar.  As well, when we overconsume stimulants like coffee, sugar and nicotine, when we don’t breath deeply, and when we are sitting around too much (our bodies are meant to move!) our adrenal health begins to suffer.  The long days and nights in the grain truck or combine can sometimes make it difficult to stay balanced.  Unfortunately, many of the farmers I know are extremely stubborn and their answer to everything is “I’m ok.”  They are probably not OK!

Here are a few tips to help you or someone you love stay healthy this busy harvest season:

1-Eat regularly-By eating every 3-4 hours your blood sugar will remain more stable, allowing you to have more energy, clearer thoughts, better moods and the ability to handle stress more.  As well you will have less desires to reach for the cigarettes, coffee or snuff.  Have balanced meals and snacks consisting of protein, fats and carbs.  This will help you stay focused and energized.

2-Get out to stretch and breathe-Sitting in the machinery for long periods of time is hard on the body.  Back, neck and shoulder pain, headaches and leg cramps are all too common.  Every hour or two get out and walk around for 10 minutes.  Take this time to stretch as well, really reaching far and wide.  Breathe in that fresh air!  Breathing slowly is a sure way to clear the cobwebs, give you more mental clarity, energize you and calm you down if you are stressed.  Use the 4-7-8 rule!  Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds and release slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds.

3-Drink plenty of water-The grain dust, the exhaust fumes, the air conditioner, the coffee-these are all very dehydrating.  When we are dehydrated, headaches and brain fog are common, chapped lips and skin are likely and constipation and kidney stones can occur.  Drinking half your body weight in pounds, in ounces is a sure way you will stay well hydrated.

4-Take time with your family-After all, isn’t that what this lifestyle is all about?  It may seem crazy to incorporate a family night at the movies or a day at the lake during this busy time, but eating some meals together, going for short walks or quad rides, face-timing before bed or reading a story together can all have a positive impact on the stress levels of the family as a whole.

A healthy person has a thousand dreams but a sick person only has one-to be healthy.  By taking care of yourself, you are taking care of your family.

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