Stress in agriculture — Checking in on my friends

During high stress times, it’s important to focus on what we can control. Here are some tips for managing chronic stress on the ranch.

Amanda Radke

November 10, 2020

4 Min Read

As the U.S. presidential election continues to hang in a precarious balance between the projected winner and the pending litigation over alleged voter fraud, it also feels like our futures hang in the balance.

We can either prepare for more of what we have experienced in agriculture in the past four years or plan for a dramatic switch in policies and tax plans. Some argue the change would be for the better and others I’ve visited with are incredibly fearful about what the future holds.

No matter where you stand right now, I think it’s important to do a check on your mental health during these trying times. Because no matter how this election shakes loose, the reality is that 2020 has been tough for all of us.

From lockdowns to mandates to closed businesses to constant political advertisements, we have had to navigate through some very rocky waters while experiencing some unprecedented and radical changes in our everyday lives.

If it gets to be too much, it’s okay to pause and center ourselves on what is most important and what you can control.

Today’s blog will focus on some resources that are out there to help you walk through challenging times.

First, understand the signs of stress. Are you eating too much or too little? Are you sleeping more than normal or hardly at all? Are you procrastinating on your to-do list or neglecting your day-to-day responsibilities?

Related:Don’t let ranch stress negatively impact your marriage

Are you in a brain fog and find it hard to focus? Are you spending your time playing out doomsday scenarios and going through the what-ifs of the outcome of this election? Is the everyday farm stress, combined with things like the added stresses of virtual learning and balancing the needs of your family, the farm and your personal well-being, starting to add up?

Hey, you’re not alone. It’s tough out there right now, and we all go through seasons of life where things challenge us. Stress is normal, but when it becomes constant, it can become a health issue.

South Dakota State University helps folks recognize the signs of chronic farm stress in this video, which includes tips for identifying stressors and implementing coping strategies to help.

Watch the video here.

My friend, Jason Medows, host of the Ag State of Mind podcast, offers some wisdom on this topic in a recent episode. Medows interviews retired Air Force member and retired firefighter, Henry Roberts, and together they tackle the sometimes taboo topic of men and mental health.

Listen to that podcast here.

Michigan State University also offers some tips on managing farm stress in a resource titled, “Resilient Minds: Managing Stress on the Farm.” This resource looks at ways to talk to family members about stress, addressing anxiety in farm kids, how to cultivate a productive mindset, how to cope with loss, resources for dealing with opioid addictions and understanding how stress can impact your physical health.

Related:Mental health in ag: The elephant in the room

Check out that resource by clicking here.

Finally, I’ll leave you with some tips from North Dakota State University to focus on the things you can control and your attitude to events as they unfold.

Control events — To reduce the pile-up of too many stressful events at one time, farmers/ranchers can control some situations.

  • Plan ahead. Don’t procrastinate. Replace worn machinery parts during the off season.

  • Before the harvest discuss who can be available to run for parts, care for livestock, etc.

  • Set priorities about what has to be done today and what can wait until tomorrow.

  • Plan your time.

  • Say no to extra commitments that you do not have time to do.

  • Simplify your life. If possible, reduce your financial dependence on others.

  • Schedule stressful events within your control, such as elective surgery.

Control attitudes — How farm/ranch family members view situations is a key factor in creating or eliminating unwanted stress.

  • See the big picture: “I’m glad that tire blew out here rather than on that next hill.”

  • List all the stresses you now have. Identify those you can change; accept the ones you cannot change.

  • Shift your focus from worrying to problem solving.

  • Think about how to turn your challenges into opportunity.

  • Notice what you have accomplished rather than what you failed to do.

  • Set realistic goals and expectations daily. Give up trying to be perfect.

Read the complete article here.

Take an honest audit of how you’re doing and be proactive about managing stress before it becomes a chronic health issue. Then check on your friends and family to see how they are doing, as well.

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