August 20, 2019 - 8:48am -- ferencak.2

Here we are in late summer of what has been a challenging and stressful growing season.  Looking ahead various experts say we can expect market volatility, changing (more adverse?) weather patterns, and uncertainty in trade/international markets. All of this before the normal day to day unexpected breakdowns, interruptions, and adjustments that are part of farm life.  It’s no wonder farmers and farm families are under stress.  Take some time now before the fall season to do a stress management check in.  How are you doing with the stress?  How are your family members, friends and others in your farm community handling stress?  Do you need to practice/develop some stress management strategies?

The chronic or long-term stress that farms and farm families are undergoing is a concern.  The release of stress hormones causes higher level thinking to become more difficult and inhibits problem-solving skills.  Chronic, long-term stress can cause detrimental physical health effects, impede decision-making and memory, and negatively affect the parts of our brain responsible for learning, adaptation and resilience.

Bob Milligan, a human resource management consultant of Dairy Strategies, wrote recently about the need to reenergize and find balance in life.  While stress creates unbalance, research shows that people who live balanced lives are healthier and more productive.  Certainly, there are many ways to balance life, but Bob Milligan writes that “Mini-breaks are often the key to day-to-day life balance.  We all need to develop habits that relieve the stress of work and create quality time away from work and with family and friends.”  Some suggestions include:

  • Schedule time each day with family to talk about the day.  Ask each person to share one or two positives or something they are grateful for.
  • Go for a walk.  Scouting your fields for pest problems or walking to the shop to get a tool to repair equipment doesn’t count.  This is a walk to enjoy the beauty of creation and to quiet your mind.
  • Get away for a mini vacation.  Get off the farm for a while.  It could just be an overnight to visit friends or family, but even lunch away can help to relieve stress and reenergize you.

A Michigan State publication on managing farm stress lists some other ideas that, when practiced daily, can help lessen stress.  One is to think of a moment or experience that made you feel comforted and content.  Close your eyes and relive that moment/experience.  Practice deep breathing.  Breath in deeply, hold momentarily, and then release the air slowly.  Repeat 5 times.  Deep breathing creates a physiological response in our bodies that creates calm and rational thinking.  Another practice is positive self-talk.  Tell yourself you can get through this rough situation or experience.  You have gotten through difficult experiences in the past and your can do it again.  Other advice from stress management experts include; Take care of yourself. Be sure you are eating a well-balanced diet and taking time for breakfast.  Make sure you are sleeping enough hours to meet the demands of your body. 

There is a lot of stress in farming and agricultural occupations.  Take time to assess your stress level and develop practices that help you to manage the stress.  Take time to check in on family and neighbors.  Sometimes, despite best intentions and efforts, professional help is needed.  In Wayne and Holmes County contact the Mental Health and Recovery Board at330-264-2527 in Wayne County or 330-674-5772 in Holmes County.  In emergency dial 211 or call the crisis number at 330-264-9029.

Rory Lewandowski is an OSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.

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