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Managing Farm Stress

Oct 30, 2020

Agronomy, Crop Management, Grain, Market Update, Soybean, Technology

One thing that never seems to be in short supply on the farm is stress. Whether it’s prices or weather, there’s always something to worry about. And that worry, stress and anxiety—knowing the difference and where to find resources for help when and where you need them—is the topic of this month’s blog post. Because, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ve all been there at one point or another.

Most of us use the words “worry,” “stress” and “anxiety” almost interchangeably. But they’re different, and the effects they have on our body are different, so to get started let’s talk about what each one means.

Worry is in your mind; stress is in your body. That’s the easiest definition we found, but it’s an important one. Stress is physical—you can feel it, it can make you sick. Worry, on the other hand, can be a motivational tool, but a little goes a long way. So, it stands to reason that worry + stress = anxiety, which is the culmination of both.

The definitions may seem trivial, but knowing how to identify “what” you’re feeling, and more importantly, when to seek help and where to look for resources, are some of the most important “trivia” you will ever store away.

And according to North Dakota State University (NDSU) Professor and Extension Family Science Specialist, Sean Brotherson, knowing what you are feeling when you are feeling it helps you to recognize alarms.

“When you attempt to screen out any unpleasant, uncomfortable stress alarms, you’re inviting other problems like hypertension, fatigue induced accidents, depression and even heart disease into your life,” he says.

To help farmers and ranchers learn to identify their triggers, and keeping in mind that not all anxiety on the farm is financially triggered, Brotherson has worked to develop videos, one-page information resources, “bootstrap cards” that can be carried in your wallet and, most recently, two podcasts.

“We’ve been addressing stress for several years,” Brotherson says. “We have organized a group in extension to provide resources and programing to farm and ranch populations across the state, and partnered with groups in North Dakota like the Bankers Assoc, Soybean Council, Beef Commission, Farmers Union and others to build resources.”

More than the identification of poor mental health, the team also provides resources — links, phone numbers and organizations – that farmers and ranchers can reach out to in times of need. The bundle of help is designed to meet every farmer where they are, when they need it.

Outside of North Dakota, NDSU is working with partners like Minnesota’s TransFARMation Podcast that features conversations with farmers and ranchers who have dealt with or are dealing with mental health issues. The podcast aims to be a sounding board and offers that no one who is experiencing mental health issues has to do it alone.

And in Michigan, the Rural Resilience program has brought an online stress management and training tool to pickup cabs, machinery sheds and living room recliners across the US. The free and private training modules focus on managing stress, communicating with distressed farmers and suicide prevention. Every module can be accessed anytime and anywhere an internet connection is available, and courses can be started and stopped at the learner’s discretion.

The bottom line: there are resources available, the majority are free and anonymity is a component of every one.

We usually wrap these blogs by sharing our phone number and the fact that we are always just a phone call away. But in this blog, we’re sharing a different phone number: 2-1-1 and a different website because when it comes to mental stress, we aren’t the experts…but we know how to find them.