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Progressive Forage Editor Lynn Jaynes Published on 31 August 2017

I’ve been ruminating for awhile now on what is growing in my neighbor’s field. I’ve never seen plants like that before. I drive by it at least twice a day and it bugs me that I don’t know what it is. I tried an internet search with no results.

My husband and I stopped twice to pick a plant (once in bloom and once at seed harvest) and we can’t figure it out. It’s bringing a measure of stress to my life – not knowing. Radish seed is my guess but I could be wrong. I hate being wrong.

While ruminating might be good for cows, it’ll kill a human – mental rumination, that is.

“Pressure and stress are not the same thing. But the former is converted into the latter when you add one ingredient: rumination, the tendency to keep thinking about past or future events in a negative way. When you start ruminating (you’ll notice your attention gets caught in an unproductive loop, like a hamster on a wheel), redirect yourself toward areas in which you can take useful action.”

This was a post excerpt by Harvard Business Review. I found several enlightening takeaways in the post that you might find helpful (with my own interpretation added).

Understand, first, pressure can be a good thing; your appointment with the banker (pressure), while creating some anxiety, can motivate, force decision and clarify thinking.

Stress, however, is a different animal. Stress delays decision and paralyzes problem-solving. Stress involves rumination, which doesn’t bring any new information to the decision process. It’s running in circles – chasing your tail, as it were.

To break out of the rumination stress cycle, the article suggests a four-step process:

1. Wake up – Remember when you pulled into the field but couldn’t remember the drive over? The article says this is a state of “waking sleep.” In other words, rumination happened. So wake up. Force yourself back to the present.

Pick up a handful of dirt and smell it, snap off a stem of whatever is growing in front of you and, for just a minute, look at its details. Slap yourself in the face if you have to, but reconnect with the present.

2. Control your attention – The article suggests an exercise: Draw a circle on a page. Write down all of the things you can control or influence inside the circle and all of the things you cannot control outside it. Remind yourself you can care about externalities (crop prices, weaning weights, milk production, weather) without worrying about them.

Control the things you can (what to plant, when to change pastures, how much fertilizer to use, whether to purchase or rent) without letting externalities turn you in circles like a one-eyed cow looking for the gate.

3. Put things in perspective – We all know the farmer whose existence is a catastrophe; he flourishes as a victim of life. His equipment always breaks, the bugs always destroy his crops, the hailstorm always wipes him out – and he has a three-legged dog and a snarky wife.

His life is painful, and he’s a pain to listen to. What’s worse is: Sometimes I see that guy in the mirror. If you ever find yourself being “that guy,” ask yourself, “How much will this matter in three years’ time?”

By comparing current stress to a past one or even a future possibility (what’s the worst that could happen?), it brings the challenge into perspective. You can also re-frame the challenge by asking what opportunity it might open up. And don’t forget humor (e.g., I should start a blog about “things a farmer never wants to hear”).

4. Let it go – I saved the best for last – the very hardest for last. But if you’ve worked through the other steps, you should be ready for this one. Whether you like a situation or not is irrelevant; I’m not asking you to like it.

But hating the circumstances and allowing indulgence in that victim mentality drains an incredible amount of energy that could be put toward other things. Let it go. You can still care – but let go of the worry.

I get it. You’re wondering what condition the cows are in coming off the range and whether they bred back. You’re wondering what the calves will weigh. You’re wondering whether hay prices will ever come back or if the milk market will improve.

You’re wondering whether you can pay off the operating loan at the bank and make term loan payments. It all has to be evaluated. But we’re not ruminants, so quit ruminating. Your molars will last longer.

And please tell me, if you can, what my neighbor is growing. It’s stressing me out.  end mark

Lynn Jaynes
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