Recognizing and managing farm stress

Farm Forum

Farmers are often toted as “living the good life” in the eyes of the rest of the world. However, those within the ag industry know the daily challenges and struggles. Recently many people have been on “overload” trying to deal with whatever life throws at them, especially given the extremes in the weather, high feed prices, variable milk prices and the impact that it has had on our farm families. We all will experience stress at one point or another in our life. Typically though people in the Midwest are independent, especially those involved in production agriculture and they often have the mentality that you should take care of problems yourself and that you don’t go seek help because that’s a sign of weakness. In addition, farm families are often not good at communicating. Unfortunately, children and spouses are often the symptom bearers of stressed-out families and we should take note when kids or spouses are not acting “normal” instead of just brushing it under the table.

However, each of us as individuals deal with the stresses of daily life at different levels. Thus, we need to recognize when the stress of daily life is affecting us as human beings.

What are those signals that we are on overload? They include the following:

· Feeling tense, irritable, and constantly pressured.

· Unable to get worries and problems off your mind.

· Difficulty falling asleep or waking at night.

· Difficulty thinking clearly or making decisions.

· Being upset by things that didn’t use to upset you.

Physical Symptoms Can Include:

· Stiffness across neck and shoulders.

· Knots in the stomach.

· Headaches.

· Shortness of breath.

· Numbness or trembling in hands, legs or arms.

· Feeling cold.

· Nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, upset stomach.

When stress is prolonged or very little is done to relieve negative physical or emotional problems, these signals can be valuable in recognizing the need to respond to stress in a different way.

So what can we do to combat the daily dealings that life throws at us?

· Sleep – Lack of sleep will reduce your ability to deal with stress.

· Eating – Eat the right types of food. Fruits, pasta, grains and cereals will give you energy.

· Don’t self-medicate – People sometimes use certain foods thinking they will help deal with stress, when in fact they actually reduce your ability to manage stress. Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can actually intensify stress.

· Talk out worries – It is important to have a friend or clergy member to talk to “so you can see a new side to your problems”.

· Work-off stress – Exercise and physical activity are excellent.

· Laugh – have a sense of humor. Go to a movie or whatever it takes to make you laugh.

· Accept what is unchangeable – Most people who are under a lot of stress contribute it to circumstances they cannot change. We tend to focus on things that we don’t have a lot of control over.

· Take one thing at a time – prioritize your tasks.

· Make yourself available to other people – Get away from your own problems and help other people.

· Give-in occasionally – Many people prone to stress tend to be stubborn. If stress has to do with another person don’t always strive to be right.

· Write about it – Write about your stresses, get them down on paper. It is amazing how much stress can be relieved when you get it out of your head and down on paper. In addition, for people who have a hard time talking about their problems, writing about them in a journal may be the way to deal with it.

Lastly, if you are unable to deal with the stresses of daily life on your own, you should not be afraid to seek professional help. Those around you will thank you and you will also thank yourself.


· Jim Volimer, Therapist and Case Manager at Charter Behavioral Health of Sioux Falls

· Lutheran Social Services Mental Health Counseling