Stress: It isn’t going away, but there are ways to reduce it at every size operation


SALEM, Ohio — This year has been stressful for many area farmers.

At first, the rain wouldn’t stop falling, which created a late planting. Then, there was an increased risk of pest infestation because of the late planting. And now, farmers are facing a harvest later than usual, which could be hampered if we get wet weather before crops come off.

And that’s on top of a typical year’s stress about crop yields, machinery breakdowns and, of course, will there be enough money to cover the bills for another year?

Talk about stress!

Not alone

The important thing for farmers to remember is that they are not alone and there is help out there to deal with the stress.

According to the University of Delaware, a characteristic of farmers who manage their stress well is that they have people they can turn to for emotional support.

The support might come from family, church members, friends, or other farmers who have experienced the same kind of stress. Farmers are encouraged to talk about problems to someone who cares. Don’t keep anxiety and worry bottled up.

Another characteristic is that good stress managers use and give support. They develop friendships with others for help and comfort during the ups and downs in life. Researchers at the University of Delaware found that may be one of the most important stress management strategies.

The research also shows that marriages can be very important for farmers. According to the University of Delaware, married people tend to be happier and live longer than single people. But research also suggests that social support is more important than marital status in predicting happiness and well-being.

Someone to talk to. In other words, farmers to need to have one or two really good friends. People need to have someone to talk with regularly to share problems and joys.

The researchers also found it is important for farmers to recognize when they are under stress, and to find someone to talk to. Let the listener know what problems need solved, and have the other person help you think of some possible solutions.

One sign of stress is withdrawing from church and community activities. Some farmers may feel embarrassed and pressed for time, but this is when those type of outlets are needed the most.

Farmers and stress

Michael Schulman, a professor who works in both the Delaware Department of 4-H Youth Development and consumer sciences and the department of sociology, has studied farmers and stress.

What makes a farm different from other small businesses, he found, is that farms are both businesses and households. When one part of the enterprise is under stress (for example, crop damage), it also impacts the family and household.

Many farm families have multiple household earners and non-farm jobs. The downturn in the economy has impacted them greatly, too.

Schulman said one extraordinary factor farm families have to deal with is that when a crisis happens to the farm such as bad weather or pest infestation, the farm is not singled out in the crisis. It means that many others are also facing problems and the support team that would usually be able to come assist the family is not able to, because they are facing the same crisis.

“When everyone is impacted in the farming community, it makes it more difficult for farmers and neighbors to offer social support,” said Schulman.

Seeking help

Knowing you are under stress is one thing, but determining if you should see a professional counselor is another, for many farmers.

According to the University of Wyoming, attitudes can stop many people from getting the help they need in dealing with the stress.

But if certain clues are present, farmers should get past the attitude and seek the help they need in order for the whole family to deal with the situation.

It may be time to seek professional assistance if you suffer from panic attacks, poor concentration, excessive alcohol abuse, thoughts of suicide, constant crying, fatigue, physical fighting with a spouse, physical discipline of children, constant criticism of one of the children, or neglect responsibilities.

The next step for anyone suffering these issues is to choose a counselor with accreditation.

Coping with stress

The Farm and Dairy asked our readers how they cope with the stresses they face on our blog, The Social Silo.

One man said he goes outsides and does some physical exercise to relieve the tension.

Another man commented on the blog that he likes to go to the barn and crank the radio up while he works with the cattle or grooms his horses.

He stated that being in the barn working with the livestock is the best stress reliever he can find for himself. But to unwind from a really hard day, he likes talking with this family over a home-cooked meal and fishing.


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