* Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on identifying and managing stress on the farm.
Take positive steps to manage stress on the farm
A farm or ranch can be a stressful place, and when it reaches harmful levels, it can lead to harmful coping mechanisms that can yield more problems down the road.
But, there are healthy, constructive ways to battle excessive stress. Taking steps like cutting workload through delegating, increasing routine physical exercise, eating a healthy diet and making time for fun or relaxation can help cut stress.
These are all ways to cope with stress constructively, while overconsumption of alcohol is an example of a destructive coping mechanism. Using a destructive mechanism like this can in some cases worsen the stress and its physical and emotional tolls.
“Fatigue, health status, depression, social environment, excitement, elation and invigoration all influence how one experiences and copes with stress. Though people do deal with stress in many ways, it is important to recognize that not all coping strategies are positive or constructive,” Reynolds says. “Examples of destructive coping include over consumption of alcohol or constant worry. Effects of not dealing with stress constructively may include sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, or prolonged anger.”
Reynolds recommends the following steps to diagnosing stress and constructive coping mechanisms:
- ● Recognize the symptoms of stress
- ● Recognize any destructive behaviors that you may engage in to deal with stress
- ● Recognize what has worked for you in the past in terms of stress management, and try to use those strategies when needed
- ● Locate the source of stress, and address the source, in addition to the symptoms
- ● Know your limits
- ● Learn to accept what is realistically beyond your control.
Control is key
Working through and overcoming excessive stress on a farm or ranch can happen in several ways, though most strategies revolve around control. Controlling stress and potential stressors has both operational and emotional components; according to Thomas Bean and Julia Nolan from the Ohio State University Department of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering, planning ahead with things like farm machinery can help producers avoid stress triggers. They advise the following:
- ● Plan ahead. Replace worn machinery parts during the off season instead of at the last minute.
- ● Plan to use time efficiently by setting priorities for tasks to be accomplished.
- ● Prior to stressful seasons, such as planting or harvest, determine who will take care of everyday chores.
- ● Learn to say no to extra commitments.
- ● Set realistic goals and expectations daily.
- ● See the big picture: “It’s a good thing the tractor quit working in the driveway instead of in the middle of the highway.”
- ● Shift from worrying to problem solving.
“Successful stress management includes: Taking care of both your mental and physical health, knowing the warning signs of stress, and controlling your reaction to stressful events,” Bean and Nolan say in a university report.
Adds Reynolds: “Perhaps the most important parts of managing the many sources of stress inherent in agriculture today are to recognize them and to take active steps to control unnecessary stressors. Doing this will help cultivate balance both on the farm or ranch, and within one’s self, and is therefore critical not only to individual well-being, but to the overall sustainability of the farm or ranch.”