Ag stress tough on body, mind

Stress in agriculture can be caused by several different sources, such as when historic flooding left some farmers unable to get to their cattle to feed them. In this case, a Nebraska farmer sat patiently waiting for a National Nebraska Guard helicopter to deliver donated hay to his cattle.

People working in agriculture manage a variety of stresses on a regular basis.

“In doing so, they demonstrate their resilience and ability to handle the ups and downs of agriculture,” North Dakota State University Extension family science specialist Sean Brotherson says. “However, higher levels of stress in recent times are requiring those working in agriculture to focus on key approaches to managing stress.

“To help with these stresses, one can learn to control events, attitudes and responses,” he adds.

Everyone handles everyday stress differently. Researchers have found three key factors that distinguish between successful and unsuccessful stress managers.

The first factor is that people vary in their ability to tolerate stress.

“Emergencies on the farm, delays, and other problems that a confident farmer or rancher takes in stride may be a stumbling block for one who feels inadequate,” Brotherson says. “While part of an individual’s stress tolerance is inborn, a crucial part depends on the quality of coping skills practiced.

“Learning to cope successfully with a stressor once increases your ability to handle it the next time,” he explains. “Also, learning from others who have been there (a fellow farmer, a sibling, a pastor, a counselor, etc.) can help you in your farm or ranch operation.”

The second factor is feeling in control. Successful stress managers know how to accept things that are out of their control and how to focus on and manage things they can control.

“You may not be able to control weather, but you can definitely focus on getting regular exercise, a healthful diet, a good sleep schedule, and sharing with others,” Brotherson says. “All of these things help you feel more in control and help with your stresses.”

The third factor is the mindset and responses that people adopt in handling stressful events. That determines a big part of their stress levels. For example, if you perceive yourself as alone in handling a stressful situation, then you will experience greater stress.

“Farm or ranch family members can manage their stress well, even during planting and harvesting,” Brotherson says. “The key is to be flexible, maintain a balanced lifestyle and share their concerns with others.

“Make time daily to take care of yourself, for your work is vital to all,” he adds. — North Dakota State University Extension

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