Coping with the stress of the drought

A paddock with a blue sky above it

This can help if:

  • the stress of the drought is getting to you

  • you want to be there for your teenagers through the drought

  • you've been spending less time on yourself lately

Dealing with stress from the drought can be really tough – from worrying about your family, livestock, crops, money and feelings of loss.

It’s likely that you have less time to spend with your family at the moment, and when you do come together perhaps you’re stressed and your mind is elsewhere.

It might seem impossible right now to take time for yourself. Feelings of guilt and shame are common, and with so much happening on your farm, in your community and with your family it can seem selfish to focus on you. But it’s not.

Know that it’s okay to take time to check in on how you’re feeling and take steps to look after yourself. Doing this will put you in the best place to support your family and community. The best way for you to be there for those around you is to be there for yourself as well.

Here are some of the signs to look out for and practical ways to help you cope with stress and look after yourself.

Learn to recognise signs of stress

It might be obvious to you that you’re feeling stressed, but it’s also possible you’re not aware of how you’re feeling because you’re so busy trying to get things done.

By noticing any changes in your body, in how you’re feeling and what you’re doing, you can see when your stress is spiralling and then do some things to reduce it. Look out for these signs:

  • headaches, poor sleep, changes in eating habits

  • you’re always tired, or lack energy or motivation

  • you feel angry or irritable a lot

  • you’re worried or nervous

  • you often feel down or depressed

  • forgetfulness

  • increased alcohol or drug use.

How to cope with stress

Talk to someone you trust

Talking about your feelings can be tough, especially if you feel like you’re adding to other people’s stress. In reality the people around you can all be great at listening, and are probably experiencing some of the same worries as you. Think about your support network and who you feel really comfortable with. This might be:

  • your partner or friends

  • family members like parents, siblings or cousins

  • neighbours

  • parents at your kids’ school

  • faith-based leaders

  • your local rotary or lions club

  • community elders.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know, there are other options. Telephone helplines (such as Lifeline and Country Call Back) are available for confidential support and advice – see our links below.

Stay connected to your community

Your local community can be a really great source of support, and are probably sharing your concerns. Carve an afternoon out for your family to volunteer at or attend an event in town or have your neighbours over for afternoon tea. When you can, try to keep doing the things you normally do as a family like playing in or going to local sports matches, catching up with family friends or going to church.

If connecting with your local community isn’t an option right now, hop online and start connecting with people who get what you’re going through. Use the group search tool on Facebook to look for groups with interests or experiences similar to yours.

You could try the ‘Talkin’ About Drought’ group, where you can share your ideas and thoughts about the drought, or the ‘One Day Closer to Rain’ group, where you can talk about how the drought affects you.

Take care of yourself

It’s so important to look after yourself. Check in with the basics first and try to do the following:

  • Get to bed 15 minutes earlier than you’re used to.

  • Prepare meals in bulk. Things like casseroles, curries and pasta sauces can be prepared ahead of time and then defrosted on the night you need them.

  • Take regular breaks during your work day. This will give you a chance to have a bite to eat, rest and generally be more productive when you get back to it. Rest, revive, survive.

Think about when you’ve had a bit more time on your hands - what did you enjoy doing? It might be hard but aiming to make at least a little bit of time for these things can make a real impact. Self-care adds up like coins in a jar, every 5 or 10 minutes accumulates so don’t think of it as something you need heaps of time for.

Remember to limit your intake of alcohol and drugs, as they can make your problems worse.

Get professional support

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything that’s going on, it’s important to get professional support. Seeking or asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness and doesn’t make you any less resilient.

It can be hard to access these services when you’re living in a remote area, but there are several options for doing this, including telephone services and face-to-face or over-the-phone/Skype counselling. We have some links to services and directories below and you can check out our resource ‘Where to get support other than a GP’ here.

Directory of services

WayAhead – Directory of mental health services in New South Wales The Mental Health Association of NSW allows you to search for a mental health service in your local area.

Lifeline Service Finder The Lifeline Service Finder is a directory of free or low-cost health and community services available in Australia.

National Health Services Directory The National Health Services Directory is a national directory of health services and provider information.

Telephone services

Lifeline 13 11 14 (available 24/7) Chat online via (available 7 pm–12 am AEST) Check out Lifeline's drought toolkit here.

Country CallBack Service 1800 543354 (available 24/7)

Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467 (available 24/7) Chat online via (available 24/7)

Mensline 1300 789 978 (available 24/7) Chat online via (available 24/7)

SANE 1800 187 263 (available 10am - 10pm) Chat online via (available 10am - 10pm)

ReachOut Parents One-on-One Support Register online and book a phone appointment (available 8am - 8pm)

This article has been reviewed by the Centre for Regional and Rural Mental Health.

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