Progressive Relaxation

If you were able to attend the Cultivating Your way to Burnout? webinar in June, it was interesting to find the audience perceived themselves to be quite fatigued when asked to rate themselves on a scale of 0-11.  When they completed the fatigue calculator, it was surprising to note that the perceived fatigue was higher than the calculated fatigue.

As we learned, fatigue can be caused from lack of sleep but can also be caused by medical conditions or stress.  With the onset of COVID-19, it is reasonable that even though we are getting 7-9 hours of sleep, that the stress related to this pandemic can cause us to feel more fatigued.  Stress can create tension and physical pain in our bodies as well.  Dr. Bill Howatt of Howatt HR says one of the ways we can release the tension and stress is through progressive relaxation.  It was interesting to note that Dr. Howatt says that 29% of adults attribute neck and back pain to stress.

What is Progressive Relaxation?

It is a process where you intentionally relax specific muscles one at a time.   This will release the stress that is being held in that particular area of your body.  This will have an impact on your daily stress load, lessen anxiety and release muscle and joint tension and pain.  This creates a state of mindfulness as you intentionally focus on the movement and allow your brain to get rid of the “noise.”



Below is a chart on how to focus on each muscle groups:

Progressive relaxation is another great tool to add to your toolbox for Tactics in Maintaining Mental Fitness in the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Visit the Farm Safety Nova Scotia Website to view the tools highlighted this far or visit the Maintaining Mental Fitness website to view the full webinar series.


Fueling Up with Nutrition

Another tool to add to our toolbox for Maintaining Mental Fitness during the COVID-19 pandemic is to ensure we are eating correctly which includes fueling ourselves with nutritious food.   Dr. Bill Howatt from Howatt HR says the basics of nutrition is  to monitor your day to day caloric intake and meal habits, identify the food you eat that helps in fueling your body to take on the day, and knowing nutrition is the biggest contributor to weight management –  so watching caloric intake to maintain physical fitness.

What influences our food choices?

The social determinants of health are the biggest factor influencing overall nutritional risk

Food Addiction is the number one addiction in Canada!  Be aware of mindless eating.  At this point, the focus is on your emotions not nutrition and when feeling stressed be aware of what you are eating.

When you started to need a PHD to eat well?

  • The modern Fad Diet was introduced in the 1930’s.
  • There have been over 100 know “fad diets” since.
  • 1500 books classified as “fad diets” are published each year in the US.
  • The diet industry is worth over $35 Billon each year in the US.

The basic rule of thumb, if a food or supplement is telling you it is healthy it is most likely not.  Characteristics of a Fad Diets can include:

  • Focuses on appearance
  • Promoted by a celebrity
  • Provides no health warning
  • Feels complicated
  • Based on testimonials not research
  • Requires purchase of specific product
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Focus on one food
  • Promoted as the secret

The areas of nutrition that will have the biggest impact on mental fitness include getting back to the basics by eating food with nutritional value to include fruits and vegetables as well as drinking water.  Evaluate eating behaviours by controlling portion size and how fast you eat.  Note the types of sugars consumed such as refined vs natural sugar and high fructose corn syrup.  Consume nutrients that will improve performance such as macro-nutrients, pre/post biotics, and omega 3 and 6.

Four micro-skills to help with good nutritional habits are monitoring food habits, add one fruit or vegetable to each meal, be your own chef as you know what is going into your food, and don’t eat after 7pm.  The after 7 pm rule is only if eating something not for nutrition.  If you are having your final meal of the day from working a long day on farm, this is ok.

Four micro-skills to help if you are caught in an eating loop to feel better include limiting alcohol intake, leverage support groups, and buy only what you need.

Check for Ticks

Dr. Strang, the Chief Medical Officer of Health recommends anyone who works or plays outdoors should check for ticks and make the tick check a part of your daily routine just like barn chores, crop checks, and livestock checks on the farm.

According to Kelly Cunningham, recreation coordinator with the Town of Lunenburg, the majority of Nova Scotia has ticks.  In 2017, Cunningham, spent four months working on her practicum with the Public Healths’ health protection team in Bridgewater where it focused on Lyme disease and noted that all Nova Scotian’s need to learn how to prevent Lyme disease.

Above: Blacklegged Tick, Groundhog tick and Dog tick (Picture from:

247 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Nova Scotia in 2015, and 326 cases in 2016.  There is still more work to do to educate Nova Scotian’s on how to prevent infection, how to recognize Lyme disease carrying ticks, how to remove a tick, and recognize signs and symptoms of Lyme disease.


Apply insect repellent with DEET before working or playing outdoors, cover up exposed skin with light colored clothing, wear long sleeve shirts with cuffs and long pant legs that can be tucked into socks.  If possible, avoid wooded and grassy areas when playing outdoors.

How to remove a Tick:

If the tick hasn’t attached itself onto the skin brush, it off the skin.

If the tick has begun to bite:

  1. Use tweezers to grasp the tick by the head as close to the skin as possible.
  2. Pull upward without twisting until the tick releases its hold. If you cannot remove the tick or if its mouthparts stay in the skin, the person should seek medical attention.
  3. Once the tick is removed, wash the area with clean water. Put the tick in a sealable bag or empty pill bottle, and take it with you to the doctor.  Ticks can be tested for Lyme disease.
  4. If the area becomes infected or the person develops a fever or rash, the person should seek medical attention.

Check for Ticks:

Check yourself, your partner, kids, and pets when coming indoors from playing or working in wooded or grassy areas.  Check your clothes and your skin.  Ticks can get into the smallest crevices of the body so be sure to check your belly button, between toes, and ears.  They can also hide in your hair or attach to your scalp.  Also check your waist, groin, back of knees, neck, and arm pit areas.  If possible, take a shower within a couple of hours of coming inside as it is easier to wash away ticks that may not have attached to your body yet.

Recognizing Lyme Disease Carrying Ticks:

See the photo at the beginning of this article to compare the different ticks found in Nova Scotia.  The blacklegged tick is also known as the deer tick.   Blacklegged ticks are smaller than dog ticks. There are no specific markings on the large part of their body. Dog ticks usually have white marks or silver spots on their body.  Even though it is called the blacklegged tick, they don’t always have black legs. Blacklegged ticks in the nymphal stage and adult female blacklegged ticks can transmit Lyme disease. Compared to the adult blacklegged ticks, the nymphal tick is very small (1 to 3 mm).

Signs & Symptoms of Lyme Disease:

There are early and later signs of Lyme disease.  Early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease can include a bull’s eye like rash near the tick bite that can show up between 7 and 10 days after the bite.  Later symptoms can include flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headaches, tiredness, stiff neck, pain and swelling in the joints, and aches and pains all over your body, and memory loss.

For more information about tick safety and protecting yourself and your family whenever you enjoy the outdoors, including info on how to safely remove a tick, visit



Reading & Understanding Legislation

One of the most important things to do as a farm owner is to comply with all applicable legislation to protect human resources and property to become a sustainable farm.  The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act and Regulations outlines the standards required to reduce the risk of health and safety hazards on your farm.

Reading legislation can be an onerous task.  Here are some hints and tips to help with reading the information in the Act and Regulations to make it a little less onerous.

But if you are tight for time, it may be helpful to use the following hints and tips while you read and search for a specific topic.


To sign up for Farmers Safety Corner or to ask a question call 902-957-2785 or e-mail

Prioritizing Sleep

In this week’s webinar on Maintaining Mental Fitness During the COVID-19 Pandemic Dr Bill Howatt from Howatt HR talked about prioritizing sleep.  This is a topic dear to me in two ways.  The first, I prioritize sleep over all else and have done so for many years as I know I benefit from it a great deal.  I am mocked by many for my stringent sleep schedule but this is something I will not compromise.  The second, fatigue is one of the major risk factors for farming incidents and injuries.  The Cultivating Your Way to Burnout webinars on June 9 or 11th, focused on fatigue at risk management as well as the Mind the G.A.P. FARM-FARM-FARM campaign outlines fatigue at risk management (FARM) as one of the three methods to improve safety on the farm.

Why is sleep so important?

  • Sleep is one of the most vital processes for survival.
  • Comprised of four stages of REM and NREM Cycles.
  • The majority of people require 7-8 hours for optimal functioning.
  • Research is showing less than 1% of the world’s population sleeps less than 5 hours of.
  • However, research suggests that 1 in 3 people are not getting enough sleep.
  • Lack of sleep is comparable to being intoxicated.
    • 17 hours awake = 0.05 Blood Alcohol level
    • 21 hours awake = 0.08 Blood Alcohol Level

 What influences sleep?


How can sleep impact me?

Sleep can impact brain function and overall quality of life.


Here are four Micro-skills to help with your sleep hygiene:

  1. Limit caffeine and alcohol, especially before bed.
  2. Create a pre-bed routine.
  3. Disconnect from screens.
  4. Create a cozy but cool dark sleep space (15-18 degrees Celsius).

Watch your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions by writing down your thoughts, focus on your senses, practice deep breathing, and be patient and kind to yourself.

If you are concerned about your sleep, you are not alone.  Many people struggle to get a good night’s sleep and have difficulty managing their sleep.  See your doctor to rule out any physical health concerns that may be interfering with sleep and reach out for support.   Ask your doctor if there is a local sleep assessment and treatment programs, they can connect you with.  Most important, destigmatize treatment for sleep issues.

For more information or to watch the full webinar visit


Forklift Best Practice

Forklifts, like tractors, can be the workhorses of the farm.   Forklifts are a potential safety hazard as they move around workers, stacked materials, as well as on public roads while they move material from location to location.  A forklift incident can cause an injury to the operators as well as other workers or the public, below are a few hints and tips for forklift operation.

This is not a complete list of safe operational practice as there are many different types of forklifts used on farm across the province.

  • Read the owners manual to learn the safe best practices for the use of your particular forklift to prevent incident and injury on the farm.
  • Know the Occupational Health and Safety requirements for Lift Trucks in Nova Scotia in Part 7, Sections 81 & 82.
  • Develop a safe work practice for forklifts for the uses on your farm. Visit the Farm Safety Nova Scotia website to download and adapt a template.
  • Do not operate a forklift unless you are trained and certified as a forklift operator. Farm Safety Nova Scotia offers forklift training at discounted rates through Safety Services Nova Scotia.   Call 902-893-2293 or e-mail to book your training session today.
  • Evaluate the mechanical and structural condition of your forklift, before use and document it. Click here for a sample pre-use checklist you can download and adapt for your particular forklift.  Use the Forklift Operators Manual to help to adapt your checklist.
  • Ensure load is secure before operating the forklift. Are the pallets in good condition do you know the rated load capacity for your forklift? Is the load capacity posted on the forklift in a visible area?  A tipped load or a load too heavy for the forklift can injure other workers and the operator as well as can damage the forklift.
  • Ensure load is evenly distributed and cannot become unstable. Keep the forklift’s mast in a vertical position with a slight tilt backward and lift the load only to a height that will prevent the forks from dragging. If operating on uneven ground, lift the load slightly higher.
  • Post clearance heights for the operator to act as a reminder of areas which may be of particularly low clearance.
  • Consider walking the route to check for obstacles, obstructions, traffic, and overhead clearances that will pose a problem.
  • Communication is key when operating a forklift around workers and with other traffic. Ensure workers and other operators know agreed upon signals and post signs in areas the forklift is operated.
  • Report near misses or incidents immediately to implement corrective action to prevent future incidents.


Anchoring Your Why?

It is interesting to note, that the Farm Safety Nova Scotia Mind the G.A.P. FARM-FARM-FARM campaign aligns with Dr Bill Howatt’s  process in readying ourselves for change and how that change may be anchored to become a habit.  Dr Howatt from Howatt HR says we have two brain centers, the Administrator Brian and the Caveman Brain.  The Administrator Brain involves our conscious decisions and actions while the Caveman Brain is built for survival, and may not always give us good advice.  In Mind the G.A.P., we speak to the Fast Brain and the Slow Brain.  The Fast Brain which is our reactive automatic thinking and the Slow Brain being our thoughtful reflective side.  Fast Brain like Caveman Brain can result in frequent errors and Slow Brain like Administrator Brain when used, will result in fewer errors.

We need to engage the Slow Brain or Administrator Brain to affect change.   This allows us to assess our readiness for change.  Our readiness for change can be blocked into three categories:  Red, Yellow and Green.

In order to anchor your motivation for change you need to be clear on your purpose.  We work from the outside of “what” to the middle of “how” to the inside of “why”.

  • “What” is quite easy to establish as it is the outcome you are looking for.
  • “How” is a bit more challenging as you need to figure out what you are going to do and establish a process, plan or strategy to get it done.
  • “Why” is the most difficult as it is hard to explain the purpose, cause or belief for change but once it is established, it can increase the likelihood of maintaining or “resetting” our motivation.

Long Term Motivation

There are two ways to anchor long term motivation.  First by defining your personal values and second, by establishing goals.

Your personal values are things that are important to you and define who you are as a person.  You can link your change to these values.

Steps to setting your personal values:

  1. Review a list of common values and write down the words that resonate with you
  2. Group like words together into larger categories (keep it to a maximum of 5 categories).
  3. Pick one word from the category that resonates the most with you.
  4. Pick one behaviour you are currently doing that demonstrates each value.
  5. Pick one behaviour you would like to do that aligns to your values.
  6. Keep yourself accountable.
    • Provide a list of 10 values to three people
    • Ask them to pick the 5 they feel best resembles you.

When establishing goals, ensure they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely (SMART).

Barriers in Motivation to Change

There are two main barriers that can decrease your motivation for change and interfere with the change itself, negative self-talk and the expectation to fail.

Negative Self-Talk

Expectation to Fail

When facing failure with a negative perception it can make the same goal seem less attainable, distort your perception, increase feelings of helplessness, performance anxiety, and create an unconscious “fear of failure”  “It isn’t a question of if you will fall off the wagon, but how quickly can you get back on.”

How to Anchor Your Why?

Forming a new habit requires a trigger, motivation and reward to sustain overtime.

Success factors:

  • Be clear what you will do.
  • Ensure you have competencies.
  • What is realistic for you.
  • What supports are available to you.
  • Make a social contract tell, others about your plan.
  • Be mindful of your personal resources (time, money).
  • Using small changes, and wins to create larger change.
  • Journal/log process important keep a record. When it is written it will get done.

As we establish our new normal post COVID-19, what changes will you make?  Why will you make the change?  What personal values will you use to instill the change?

Visit to view the full webinar and available resources.


Protect Your Eyes from the Sun!

When preparing to work outdoors on the farm we consider the clothing to be worn and how to protect our skin through the use of sunscreen.  We often forget that we need to protect our eyes from the sun as well.   We know sunglasses can help with this but did you know that prescription eyewear should have UV light protection too?   If you do not protect your eyes against UV rays, lens and retina damage can harm your vision.

Reflected light from water, sand, pavement, snow and reflective building structures & equipment can cause eye burn.  Keep in mind that UV rays are not blocked by clouds. Protect your eyes against UV ray exposure even on cloudy days.

Water, Water, Water!

Are you drinking enough water? Males need approximately 3 liters and females need about 2.5 liters of water per day.  The amount is individually based on a person’s body weight and temperature, the amount of exercise, the physical environment, and many demographic variables.  If you are feeling thirsty, then you are already dehydrated.

Benefits of Hydration:


Mindful Hydration

Dr Bill Howatt of Howatt HR in the Tactics for Maintaining Mental Fitness during the COVID-19 Pandemic webinar series says mindful hydration is the act of being fully present and aware of the sensations while drinking water.  It requires you to slow down and intentionally focus on each sip of water.  It can be used multiple times throughout the day or in moments you need to pause.

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment.  You have an awareness of all of your senses through an open and supportive lens.  It is paying attention to our thoughts without judgment with the intention of kindness.

Are you drinking enough water? Males need approximately 3 liters and females need about 2.5 liters of water per day.  The amount is individually based on a person’s body weight and temperature, the amount of exercise, the physical environment and many demographic variables.  If you are feeling thirsty, then you are already dehydrated.

A good way to measure and monitor hydration levels is through the color of your urine.  The darker the urine the more dehydrated you are and the lighter the urine the more hydrated you are. Take a look at the scale below.

What is mindful hydration?

Mindful hydration is something that can be done in 90 seconds.  Take 30 seconds to review the steps and prepare yourself.  To mindfully drink water takes only 60 seconds.  The goal is to start with One Moment per day, and add one mindful drinking moment to your day for 10 days until you get to Ten Moments per day.

Benefits of Hydration: Improved gut health, sleep quality, decreased stress, reduce risk of migraines, mood and cognitive functioning, increase blood flow, energy level, concentration, and lower levels of depression.

Benefits of Mindfulness: Sleep quality, decreased stress, reduce risk of migraines, mood and cognitive functioning, reduced risk of mental health issues, increased innovation, increased compassion, reduced physical pain, and increase in internal locus of control.

There are several mindfulness tools available.  Look for tools supported by research.  Find one that fits best for you, it may not necessarily be the one that shows up first in Google, and any one tool isn’t the golden bullet that solves all your problems but a micro skill to help you pause and regroup.

Let’s try the mindful hydration tool below to get you started:

  1. Create Intention
    1. Find a safe place without distraction and you are 100% safe. This shouldn’t be done while driving or while performing a hazardous task.
    2. Grab a bottle or glass of water (this is your “anchor”), sit and be comfortable.
    3. Clear your mind.
    4. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly emptying your lungs. Do this three times.  For the last deep breath put your hand on your wat
      er bottle or glass (your “anchor”).
  2. Clear your Mind
    1. After your third breath, look at the water. What do you see?  Purity, clarity, calmness?
    2. If your focus shifts throughout the process that is ok, this takes a little practice.
  3. Continue to Practice
    1. Slowly bring the water to your mouth and take a mouthful.
    2. Focus on the water and the notice the space it fills in your mouth.
    3. Swallow the water slowly.
    4. Notice the slow, clear, peaceful water falling down your throat with each drink.
    5. Between each mouthful, take a deep breath and exhale.
    6. Focus on the water.
    7. When you mind jumps around, simply refocus on this simple activity and notice the water – nothing more.


For additional information, read Mindful Hydration Can Reduce Stress & Boost Productivity by Howatt HR Consulting.


  1. National Farm Safety & Health Week

    September 21 - September 25
  2. Forklift Operator Training

    October 15
  3. How to Access CSA Standards Referenced in OHS Legislation! Webinar

    October 15 @ 11:30 am - 12:30 pm
  4. Farmers Safety Corner

    October 21 @ 11:30 am - 12:00 pm

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