The Daily Dirt

Winter Blues: Managing Stress on the Farm

Farming is one of the most stressful jobs in the country. Here are a few tips to manage stress, long-term and short-term. Crisis hotlines can be helpful to some. [] Talking to someone about stress can also be helpful.

Control events

To reduce the pile-up of too many stressful events at one time, farmers/ranchers can control some situations.

  • Plan ahead. Don’t procrastinate. Replace worn machinery parts during the off season.
  • Before the harvest discuss who can be available to run for parts, care for livestock, etc.
  • Set priorities about what has to be done today and what can wait until tomorrow. Plan your time.
  • Say no to extra commitments that you do not have time to do.
  • Simplify your life. If possible, reduce your financial dependence on others.
  • Schedule stressful events within your control, such as elective surgery.

Control attitudes

How farm/ranch family members view situations is a key factor in creating or eliminating unwanted stress.

  • See the big picture: “I’m glad that tire blew out here rather than on that next hill.”
  • List all the stresses you now have. Identify those you can change; accept the ones you cannot change.
  • Shift your focus from worrying to problem solving.
  • Think about how to turn your challenges into opportunity.
  • Notice what you have accomplished rather than what you failed to do.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations daily. Give up trying to be perfect.

Control responses

  • Focus on relaxing your body and mind. Whether you are walking, driving or phoning, do it slowly and relax. Keep only that muscle tension necessary to accomplish the task.
  • Tune in to your body. Notice any early signs of stress and let them go.
  • Take care of your body. Exercise regularly and eat well-balanced meals. Limit your intake of stimulants such as coffee, sodas and tea.
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes, using alcohol or other drugs, or using tranquilizers or sleeping pills.
  • If your health allows, tense and then relax each part of your body from toes to head, one part at a time.
  • Shake away tension as you work by vigorously shaking each of your limbs.
  • Take a break. Climb down from your tractor and do a favorite exercise.
  • Take three deep breaths – slowly, easily. Let go of unnecessary stress.
  • Stop to reflect or daydream for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and take a short mental vacation to a place you really enjoy. See the sights; hear the sounds; smell the smells. Enjoy. Then go back to work feeling refreshed.
  • Think positive thoughts: “I can and will succeed.”
  • Look for the humor in things that you do.
  • Balance your work and your play. Do both well.
  • Find someone with whom you can talk about your worries and frustrations.
  • Seek help when you need it. There are times when all of us can benefit from professional help or support.
  • Unwind before bedtime. Do stretching exercises, listen to soothing music, practice rewinding deeply, and be thankful for any blessings received today. Then sleep well.

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