Planting delays. Machinery breakdowns. Volatile markets. Tough financial decisions. Information overload. Family quarrels. The list of ag-related stressors can go on and on. Agriculture is a stressful occupation, so it is vital that farmers understand how to manage their stress level and reduce unwanted stress.
“Farmers are generally optimists and risk takers,” says Glennis McClure, University of Nebraska Extension farm and ranch management analyst. “But there are times when we're overwhelmed by all the variability. Having the right mindset can help us increase our personal productivity and resiliency.”
Stress affects our body, mind and actions, McClure explains. Stress symptoms can surface in the form of moodiness, anxiety or depression, chest pain, forgetfulness, sleeping too much or too little, eating too much or too little, increased use of alcohol or withdrawal from others.
While some stress can be beneficial, since it prepares us mentally and physically for an event, excessive stress can affect peoples’ health, adds Brandy VanDeWalle, University of Nebraska Extension educator.
“In many rural areas, a high percentage of visits to family physicians are due to stress-related illnesses,” she says.
Farming will always dish out challenges. So, VanDeWalle suggests farmers follow the following strategies to cope with stress.
Build in breaks. Ensure you have a gap or two in your day for a mental break. “By building gaps in your day, you can allow time to handle some unexpected interruptions that occur,” VanDeWalle says.
Be assertive. Define your priorities and learn when to say “yes” or “no” to opportunities and obligations.
Unplug. Set boundaries with your phone and email time. “We all get inundated with so much information, so practice on being in the moment,” she suggests. “Be present rather than perfect.”
Take time off. Find ways to unwind, relax and really be rejuvenated. This can be a really simple afternoon off, day trip or just a fun evening with friends and good conversation, she says.
Walk the walk. Physical activity is one of the best ways to remove your stressors, as what is good for the body is also good for the mind, VanDeWalle says. Plan on 30 minutes of daily activity. Those 30 minutes could even be three 10-minute blocks.
Take care of yourself. Be sure you are eating a well-balanced diet and taking time for breakfast. Also, make sure you are sleeping enough hours to meet the demands of your body
Talk the talk. Don’t ignore stressors. Find someone to talk to talk to, this could be a spouse, friend, counselor or pastor. Journaling about your feelings can also help you reflect and cope, she says.
McClure and VanDeWalle presented a webinar about the importance of wellness in tough farming times. View the recording and download related resources.
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