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All Black staying connected

Just like the rest of us, lockdown has brought big changes to Sam Whitelock’s life. After a hectic trip home from Japan, the family are now safely home in their bubble on Sam’s farm in the Hawke’s Bay.

This story was originally published by our friends at Farmstrong, a rural wellbeing programme that helps farmers and farming families live well to farm well.

Just like the rest of us, lockdown has brought big changes to Sam Whitelock’s life. After a hectic trip home from Japan, the family are now safely home in their bubble on Sam’s farm in the Hawke’s Bay. Sam says the Five Ways to Wellbeing are more important than ever to help farmers and their families get through these uncertain times.

He’s doing his best to stay connected with those outside his bubble, so he doesn’t feel isolated.

“It’s really easy to get caught up in your own little world or ‘bubble’ as it’s harder to stay connected because you’re stuck in your own space. Keeping connected is just keeping you sane really. Staying connected is about yarning with your mates. Often my mates and I are talking about nothing really but it’s still great to socialise and find out what they’ve been up to and what they’re doing to keep themselves busy.”

“I’m having lots of virtual group chats with my rugby teams. We’re lucky to have this technology. It’s great being able to catch up for work or socially via all the various apps out there and it’s amazing how much work can be done around the kitchen bench.”

Connecting isn’t just about sharing what’s on your mind, says Sam, it’s also about being a good listener, especially if you’re chatting with someone who’s doing it tough.

“It’s actually hard to be a good listener, you’ve got to sit there and absorb what someone is saying and wait for them to get it off their chest and share their experiences, whether they are good or bad.”

“The best piece of advice I’ve been given is that ’silence is gold’. Sometimes you need that silence. Just wait. Give five seconds or ten seconds. That gives people time to think, so they can answer how they want to and truthfully.

Sam agrees the most important part of being a good listener is to resist the temptation to try and solve the person’s problem.

“I’m probably a typical Kiwi bloke that wants to get in there and make a plan, ‘right let’s do this and sort it out’, but sometimes just listening is the best thing.”

“Often people know the answer but they just need someone to confirm that what they’re thinking is the right step. So if you are taking on that listening role. Just do that – listen.”

For those under the pump, Sam offered the following tips.

“This is a classic example of a time when things aren’t going according to plan. As rugby players for example, we’re waiting for the NZRU to clarify what will happen, so we’re facing that uncertainty with our jobs too. I think the biggest thing we can do is use our time wisely.”

Sam’s started his level 2 rugby coaching course online to keep busy. It means he’ll be able to coach and referee kids rugby.

“That’s the sort of thing you can do to make a positive out of a negative. Just choose something you’re interested in and go from there. Maybe study for your HT licence or something like that rather than twiddling your thumbs.”

He’s also improvising to keep himself fit. “When I got here to the farm, there was no gym or flat area to run on. I found a few things in the old shed and pretty much made my own home gym. It’s all a bit rickety but at least it gives me a chance to do the exercise I can so I’m ready to go when we do get back into the rugby season.”

Most of all Sam is relishing the chance to spend more time with his partner Hannah and his kids.

“In our bubble it’s just me, Hannah and the kids. The workers are here on the farm but we are making sure we keep the two metre distance to stay safe.”

“We’ve been able to spend a lot more time together as a family than normal which has been a great change. We’re enjoying parenting together as opposed to Hannah doing it because I’m not around. It’s been really good to team up.”

“I think it’s awesome that the rural community is working hard as always and are going to pull us out of this slump. We all know there’s change ahead of us. No one knows what it looks like. But I always like to look further ahead because these hard times will stop at some stage. We’re not just sitting around waiting for the lockdown to end, we’re trying to create some awesome memories for our family so we can look back in two and three years’ time and think we made the most of that time.”

To find out what else Sam has been up to in his bubble and what he is doing to look after himself follow the Farmstrong Facebook page or go to the Farmstrong website

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