November 6, 2020

Don’t Face Stress Alone

 |  By: Farm Journal Editors

From drought to wildfires to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 is proving to be an obstacle course for agriculture. The financial frustration is mounting and bleeding over into mental health concerns.

“Farmers, even in best times, have a very high rate of suicide,” says Deborah Reed, University of Kentucky professor of nursing and agricultural health.

Farmers and ranchers are on the front lines feeling the effects of added stress. As stress builds, Reed explains, you have physical and mental consequences.

“You make poor decisions that affect your bottom line on the farm,“ she says. “You have a chronic anxiety, which affects everyone around you. Maybe you’ve even thought of harming yourself. These are very serious outcomes.”

Candid conversations are key, Reed says. Honesty about stress and anxiety could help remove the stigma around mental health in agriculture for good.

Tips to Deal With Stress

Stress is a requirement for life. But, you can change how you handle it with focus and time, explains Athena Diesch-Chham, a clinical veterinary social worker at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

1. Know your stress response type. People respond to stress in three main ways: hot reactors (explode in the moment), sustainers (go and go until they can’t anymore) and the resilient (lower reactivity and healthy daily habits).

2. Normalize seeking help. Push past canned answers and find out how your friends are doing. Wait for a real response – don’t let people think they can just say “I’m fine” all the time.

3. Take a deep breath. When we become more present, stress starts to come down. Breathing is one of the easiest ways to  handle stress. When you feel stress growing, breathe deeply five times and release air slowly.