Sauna event for farmers warms up discussion on wellbeing 

East Lothian farmer Stuart McNicol knows the importance of taking care of his wellbeing and appreciates taking time out of a busy farming day to spend some time contemplating nature around him.

East Lothian farmer Stuart McNicol knows the importance of taking care of his wellbeing and appreciates taking time out of a busy farming day to spend some time contemplating nature around him.

Since October, he has committed to jumping in a sauna two to three times per week to help relax his body and mind.

Located at Drift in North Berwick and built from an up-cycled shipping container, the sauna looks out to the sea, with its wood-fired stove providing calming flickering flames.

Following a newsletter from Farmstrong Scotland, where Mr McNicol read about Hazel Moss and her love for wild swimming in Orkney, he was inspired to pilot a new event.

He invited other farmers to together enjoy time in the sauna, learn more about the programme and the steps to improve their wellbeing.

Lonely sector  

Mr McNicol said: “Farmers and crofters need people to speak to, it can be a very lonely sector, and right now, we are all hacked off by the weather. Serious discussions about what we can realistically grow this season, following this continuous wet weather, are playing on everyone’s mind.  

“For a long-time we have all stayed behind our farm gates and not discussed the challenges that face us, but we are all experiencing the same ups and downs. People do want to come together and natter – whether it is about their business, something in their personal life or just to get that reassurance they are not the only ones feeling the way they do.”  

Stuart McNicol

Finding balance  

He thinks that by incorporating sauna, food and drink into the discussion, people feel more relaxed and can openly chat about what matters most to them.

“Everyone needs some ‘me-time’ and during Covid this was something people took more notice of, but recently everything has sped up again.

“People are rushing from one thing to the next, putting every hour into their work but forgetting about their own wellbeing. We need to find a better balance and follow the example of Scandinavian countries where they value time out.”

Quick decision  

A trip to the Royal Highland Show in 2023 played a big role in Mr McNicol’s idea and finally sealed the deal.

He said: “I have been looking at building a sauna for a few years as we get lots of visitors to Drift who value the benefits of exercise, from wild swimming in front of the café to walking to see us with their dog. What better way to warm up after a dip or cold walk than by sitting in a sauna with temperatures of 75 Celsius, all while enjoying the Scottish countryside.

“I was walking around the Royal Highland Show last year with my Dad and wife Jo, and noticed the sauna cube. Within 24 hours it was purchased, and plans were in motion.”

READ MORE: Kaleb Cooper releases exclusive music video to ‘I Can’t Stand Sheep!’ 

READ MORE: Farmers urged to seek mental health support on Blue Monday – and beyond  

Increasing demand  

While some farmers were quite sceptical at first, Mr McNicol is now often asked when the next sauna event will take place.

“Just this week I have received a message from a local farmer asking when the next session will take place.

“We want to ensure we keep the groups small, no more than eight to 12 people, and it’s important that the people attending determine how the session takes place. For example, with our pilot event, we split the group into two, so some sat and nattered over a drink, while others were in the sauna and then they swapped.

“Going forward, it might be we have one session for ladies and another for men, and then they both come together for food and drink after.

“Likewise, if everyone is comfortable, we could do a mixed gender session to bring in different perspectives and views. It doesn’t matter how it runs, the important thing is farmers and crofters need support and we want to bring people together,” he added.

Read more rural news.

© Farmers Guide 2024. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use Privacy Policy

Website Design by Unity Online

We have moved!

We’ve now moved to our new office in Stowmarket. If you wish to contact us please use our new address:

Unit 3-4 Boudicca Road, Suffolk Central Business Park, Stowmarket, IP14 1WF

Thank you,

The Farmers Guide Team