It’s no secret that farming is a stressful occupation. A mental health training program offered through the Division of Extension, COMET, starts the lesson by pinpointing stressors in farmers’ lives. If you take five minutes to write down those stressors, you could probably list four dozen items right off the bat.
The first handful of farm stressors that come to mind: weather, commodity prices, regulations, politics, and input costs. What do all of these have in common? They’re out of your control.
So how do you manage your stress when you can’t control the largest impacts on your business?
You CAN control how you react to stressful events around you.
You CAN focus on other stressors that are within your control.
The following tips are a tool that you can use right now to reduce stress.
Tips to Reduce Stress
● Relax. Whether you are walking, driving or doing another activity, take time to slow down and relax.
● Take care of your body. Exercise regularly and eat well-balanced meals. Limit your intake of stimulants such as coffee, sodas and tea. And avoid smoking, drinking or using drugs – even sleeping pills.
● Take a stress break. Climb down from your tractor and stretch.
● Take three deep breaths – slowly, easily.
● 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. Then go back to work feeling refreshed.
● Think positive thoughts: “I can and will succeed.”
● Look for the humor in things that you do.
● Unwind before bedtime by doing stretches and giving thanks for any good things received today.
● Plan ahead. Don’t procrastinate. Replace worn machinery parts during the off season.
● Before the harvest season, discuss who can be available to run for parts, care for livestock, or handle other needed tasks.
● Set priorities about what has to be done today and what can wait until tomorrow. Plan your time each day or week.
● Say no to extra commitments that you do not have time for.
● Schedule stressful events within your control, such as elective surgery or farm succession planning.
Seek help when you need it:
Know the warning signs of mental health and know that it’s ok to ask for help.
● Farm Aid Helpline: 800-327-6243, Mon-Fri 9am – 5pm
● WI Farm Center: 800-942-2474, Mon-Fri 7:45am – 4:30pm
● National Suicide Hotline: 988, 24 hours a day
● Suicide Prevention Corporation of Southwest Wisconsin
The most important thing to remember when dealing with stress on the farm is that anything can happen at any time. Make sure you have an emergency action plan in place so you and your farm are well-prepared. Reach out to a local agent to protect your farm.