In this article I am going to discuss the tools we use in life to do what we need to do to get the job done and provide an example of how investing in the maintenance of our tools we can help reduce the likelihood and, in some cases, even prevent ending up down the injured and ill end of the spectrum.
Over the course of my personal and professional life I have developed a belief.
Everyone is trying to live their best life with the tools they have, unfortunately many of us have either been given the wrong tools or those that we have are damaged or become dull.
So, what do I mean by tools?
In its most general sense of the word a tool is something that we use to get a job done or achieve a desired outcome. We all have a various set of tools in our tool belt or box. We have the physical tools that we utilise. For me in my profession, my tools are my mobile phone, my laptop computer, my car so I can visit all the wonderful farmers in my community and of course myself, my physical presence. To ensure that these tools are the right tool and are readily available and working for me to use them I must take care of them. Which could include charging the laptop and phone (a flat phone or laptop aren’t much good when I need to reach out and connect). I need to make sure my car is driveable, has adequate petrol and is regularly serviced to keep in optimum and safe running condition. I need to look after myself to ensure that when I am connecting with farmers and their communities, that I am healthy, and I can focus my attention and give my time to ensure that my connection is meaningful and valuable to those I connect with. For a farmer these physical tools might be a tractor, a quad bike, all the way down to a hammer and screwdriver.
Imagine if any of those tools you use weren’t job ready, were dull or broken down.
How would you get the job done?
That is why we take care of our tools and do the regular maintenance to ensure that they are working properly and are job ready.
Could you also imagine trying to plough your field with a screwdriver?
Yeah, sure you could probably do it, but could you imagine the amount of time it would take and how much energy you would have to expend to get it done.
I believe in the right tool for the right job at the right time.
However, in this article I am not referring to our physical tools, in this article I am referring to our psychological tools.
What are our psychological tools?
Psychological tools are the internal thoughts and strategies that we utilise to perform tasks, keep ourselves safe, look after our well-being and generally get the job done. These could range from our morning habits to ensure that we start the day right all the way through to our sleep habits. Habits are a good example of a psychological tool. Habits are routine activities that are developed through the repeated activities we utilise to meet our needs. We generally develop habits as a means of saving time and thought when trying to get something done. For example, we may develop the habit of always restringing a fence a certain way along a certain line. By doing the same way by habit, we know we can get the job done. While this can make the task quicker, it may mean that we overlook a new direction or line the fence may go in, or a new way of stringing the fence that in the long run could save you time and money while opening access to a new piece of land.
Let’s look at this example through the lens of trying to do your best with the wrong or damaged tool.
The habit of how you string the fence is the right tool, it gets the job done easier and quicker.
However, the fact that it may overlook a better way of stringing the fence or opening new land access is a good demonstration that this tool may be damaged or faulty.
It’s not the wrong tool for the job because you may be able to use the same principles of the habit but in a new or refined way. You are repairing or sharpening the tool.
Another example of a psychological tool could be an avoidance strategy that you may have developed for helping to keep you safe. Growing up you may have learnt to not enter the bull’s yard because he might get angry and charge you. While avoidance is a good tool to keep you safe, it can leak into other areas of your life where it is not so good, can hold you back and can in fact cause harm.
Avoiding a dangerous situation is a great survival tool, it can keep you away from real danger. But what if the danger wasn’t real, it was only perceived as dangerous in your mind. Like having to see you bank manager about a loan repayment. You may avoid talking to the bank manager, he then makes an application to reposes your assets. Not such a helpful tool anymore. This is an example of the wrong tool for the job.
Another example of avoidance – things have been tough on the farm, you’ve been struggling along trying to keep going. Because you are struggling, you might think that others might judge you for it, you may think that they think that you can’t cut it. To avoid these feelings and to avoid the possibility of judgement, you don’t ask for help and you don’t talk about your struggles. This leads to some growing anxiety and stress. This then becomes a cycle whereby the more anxious and stressed you get the more you fear being judged and the less likely you may be for turning to others for help. The longer the cycle continues the worse your mental health deteriorates until you end up down the unwell and ill end of the spectrum. Again, avoidance has turned out to be the wrong tool for the job.
Sounds dark and gloomy doesn’t it. Well, it doesn’t need to be.
Just as you picked up the other tools you can always pick up new ones.
Or if your current tools are damaged or in need of a service, there is always something that you can do.
The first step is always identifying that the tool isn’t getting the job done. This may be as obvious as what you are trying to achieve is not working. If you were trying to plough your field with a screwdriver and you’ve been at it all day but when you look back you have only moved a couple of feet, I think most people would agree, the screwdriver is not the right tool for that job. You then have a choice, you can either keep going for the next month with your screwdriver, or you could go get the tractor and plough.
In the case of avoiding your bank manager, you could continue to avoid him until he turns up with a repossession order, or you could go see him and try to sort it out. I know that even this might not work, so then you try another tool, you go speak to a friend or neighbour. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot they can do, but they do give you some advice (another tool), they suggest you speak to a financial counsellor. You pick up the new tool (the financial counsellor) who then sits down with you and between the two of you, you work out a payment plan (another tool) that is agreeable with the bank manager and your property is saved from repossession.
Identifying that the current tool isn’t working.
Some of the signs that you may be using the wrong tool could be, you are feeling more anxious, scared, stressed, or worried about things. You may find yourself getting more frustrated or angry than usual. You may find that you can’t sleep at night or that you are sleeping during the day when you never used to. You might be drinking more alcohol or taking drugs to help you cope (it’s a widely accepted fact that alcohol and drug misuse is a well-known avoidance tool that can help you to avoid remembering or thinking about a traumatic experience).
You may not notice these changes yourself, it may be your partner, your kids or someone else that notices. That’s ok, when things are not going so well and we become stressed or anxious, it’s easy for us to not see the forest through the trees.
Remember, identifying the problem is always the first step to fixing the problem and you don’t have to do it alone. If someone identifies an issue, they probably aren’t judging you. It’s more likely that they are worried about you and can see that you need some help.
Start looking for new tools or repairing your existing ones.
Once you have identified the problem, you can start looking for solutions, you can find new tools. This may be as simple as trying different strategies yourself or talking to friends. However sometimes that tractor needs to go to the mechanic and get a service or inspection. In the case of your psychological tools the equivalent of the mechanic is a trained and qualified counsellor, social worker, or psychologist. They can sit down with you and help you unpack your situation and help you explore other tools and repair existing tools. There are a lot of tools out there to explore, sometimes we need a specialist to help us find the right tool to get the job done.
You don’t have to do it alone, thinking that you do may be an old tool that needs some repair.
Some useful psychological tools that you can use at home.
When you notice that you are feeling stressed or anxious you can try some of these tools to help you settle. They don’t take long and can be done pretty much anywhere.
- Mindful Breathing
- Stop what you are doing.
- Focus on your breath.
- Breathe in for a count of 4.
- Hold for a count of 4.
- Then slowly release your breath for a count of 5.
- Repeat for a minute or two or until you feel more settled.
- Mindful Awareness
- Stop what you are doing.
- Notice something in your immediate area (may be the sky, the trees, your livestock).
- Start to focus in on what you are noticing.
- Take note of it the colours, shapes, sizes, it’s movement.
- Maintain your focus for a minute or two.
- Step Away
- It’s ok to take a break.
- Sometimes the more fixated on a problem you are the less likely you are to resolve it.
- If there is someone there with you, stop and have a chat.
- If there isn’t someone there, try reaching out on your mobile.
- Sometimes talking through a problem is all the help you need.
When all else fails, reach out. Rural Aid Counsellors are here to help 😊
Rural Aid Counselling Intake: 1300 17 55 94
Utilising counselling is a strength, and it doesn’t mean you have failed, Counselling is just another tool to help you get the job done!