I’m coming to you from my first day back into the real world following our vacation to Estes Park, Colorado. What a beautiful place! I highly recommend it as a vacation destination if you and your family enjoy the outdoors and nature. We soaked up our time there hiking, kayaking, spending time with some old friends, eating some great food (Elk Chops @ Hunter’s are to die for), running on trails with beautiful scenery, and just enjoying some time away from home to recharge. We returned home last night and I can just feel the difference from when I left.
I believe vacation and time away from our everyday lives is a must. To our family, it is a key to us being a strong, happy family. I’m thankful that Keri has felt so strongly about the importance of time away, because this was not always the case for me. Growing up in a farm/ranch family, vacations can seem like a fantasy that is unattainable. I want to explore why we feel like we as farm families feel guilty about taking time off and what we can do to change the norm.
What Is The Norm
For farmers/ranchers, the norm is to say that we are too busy to take time away from our operation. We feel like there are intricacies of our operations that if we step away from it, all Hell will break loose. We have heifers calving, we need to move the herd to new paddocks, the fields need cultivated, etc. We even go as far to wear this as a badge of honor. “Must be nice to not farm and get to go on vacation.”-Me 5 years ago, probably. We take pride that our lives are so different from everyone else that we can’t enjoy the everyday pleasures that “normal” people can.
Why is this flawed?
We think societal norms do not apply to us in agriculture. We scoff at the idea of taking 2 weeks vacation and that kind of life is for “city folks.” But why are we so pretentious as ag producers? Why do we feel like our work is anymore pressing than anyone else’s? It is true that certain tasks must be completed at certain times of year. It is also true that there is always something to do on a farm. But there is no reason why we cant take time away from our normal lives to experience what the world outside of our acres has to offer.
What Can Vacation Do For Your Mental Health?
In an article from the July 2017 Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse Newsletter, Andrea Robinson, PhD., outlines four specific areas where taking a vacation can positively impact your mental health.
Life Satisfaction. Taking a holiday can result in many physical and mental health benefits. In fact, some of these benefits have been shown to persist months after we have returned to work..
Physical Improvements. One of the most compelling reasons to take a vacation is that they can improve our physical health. A Framingham Heart Study found that vacations actually reduce the risk of heart disease..
Mental Health Benefits. Vacations can also improve our mental health by reducing depression and anxiety. Vacations can improve mood and reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments that they associate with stress and anxiety.
Improve productivity. Finally, studies show taking time off from work can actually make you more productive. When you’re more productive, you’re happier, and when you’re happier, you’re a better worker.
So according to the data and conclusions found by Dr. Robinson, we cannot afford NOT to take a vacation. All of the four areas where vacation showed improvements are crucial to the sustainability of a farming/ranching operation.
But I Don’t Have Time
I call BS. God granted each and everyone of us an equal amount of time in each day. We all get 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week. It’s up to us how we choose to spend this time. I’ll admit, it’s not easy to fit a vacation in with a town job, cow-calf operation, and 4 kids in numerous activities. But we make it a priority and plan it months in advance. We mark it in blood in our calender that we are taking a few days the first week of August to go on a trip. We choose August because it’s really the only time during the summer where we have some days to spare. Baseball, hay season, county fair are all over. Football, soccer, fall calving/weaning/processing have not yet started. Its really the only open window we have. But we take full advantage each year and make sure we take time away.
I understand that this is not the same for everyone. But chances are, your family and operation have a window of time where your obligations are just a tad lighter where you can take some time away. If you don’t have a time where obligations are lighter, then maybe it’s time to reexamine your priorities and see if there is something you can give up to ensure you and your family has time away.
A little bit about our vacation. We left Thursday, August 1 and stopped over in Salina, KS. We woke up early in Salina and headed out to Estes Park. We arrived in town around 2 PM MDT. We couldn’t check into our cabin until 4 so we decided to drive around a bit. We found a trail that we thought would be pretty easy for us in our regular clothes. Gem Lake Trail @1.7 miles. What we didn’t pay attention to was the altitude climb of close to 1000 feet!! That was a little difficult in blue jeans. We spent Saturday with some friends who live in the area. Sunday, we did a 10 mile family hike from Beaver Meadows trail head to Cub Lake. This was a really cool experience as a family. We had lunch when we reached Cub Lake and then we got just a little bit lost on our descent back to the car. Keri is now recommending we take a map reading course at REI. Monday, we spent time kayaking and paddleboating on Lake Estes. That evening, we again spent time with our old friends we hadn’t seen in several years. We headed home on Tuesday and drove to Topeka, then finished our drive on Wednesday, arriving home at around 330 PM CDT.
The entire family will tell you that this was our favorite family vacation yet. There is just something special about the mountains that nowhere else can duplicate. We all also agreed that our favorite thing was spending time with our friends who we hadn’t seen in a while. Again, I highly recommend Estes Park as a great family vacation destination.
Thanks for taking the time to hear my take on the importance of vacation. If you’re enjoying my blog, please don’t forget to subscribe. If you know of anyone who enjoys the topics of mental health and agriculture, please share this with them.
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