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Corn+Soybean Digest

Boiling Point

Floods, drought and lousy commodity prices all have a devastating effect on your year-end financial picture. But, how do they affect you?

Unlike a balance sheet, there are no hard and fast numbers that give you a clear assessment of how you and your family are enduring the depressed situation of the past year.

If you feel overloaded, take a look at what things you have control over, and those you don't, advises Ron Pitzer, family sociologist at the University of Minnesota. He says taking care of built-up anger during emotional duress could save your life.

"Anger is a normal, healthy emotion, and it's an emotion of survival," Pitzer explains. "Anger is a common way to deal with what doesn't make sense. And when we are under great stress, anger allows us to feel less pain."

But he says to keep anger from becoming hurtful, learn how to manage it.

Change how you see things. "If you don't have control over something, look at ways not to put so much energy into those things," he says. "For example, you probably don't have control over prices, so you'll gain nothing by spinning your wheels and spending energy on that."

Say how you feel, why and what you want. "This will relieve tension, help you see your situation in a clearer light and often helps you see a solution. People who talk about their feelings cope better with crisis than those who do not," says Pitzer.

"Ask yourself if your situation is truly hopeless? Or, can you find some rays of hope? Then try to focus on those areas," he says. "Now is also the time to stay connected with somebody you can talk to without being put down. Maybe that works within the family. Or, maybe there is someone else, like a clergyman, friend or neighbor you can open up with."

His caution: "Find someone who will listen and not someone who will criticize, offer judgments or even advice. That may end up being a professional counselor."

Also, when you say how you feel, do it without violence, Pitzer says. "Belittling other people, putting them down, insulting them, shaming them or verbally abusing them is not okay," he says. "If you're angry, the people you live and work with pay the price.

"In addition, try focusing on solving problems by learning to say 'I' instead of 'You'," Pitzer says. "By doing that, you'll make the person you are talking to more willing to listen and give you power over your own feelings."

Calm down. "When you feel yourself starting to become angry, find a way to calm down," Pitzer says.

"Take a good look at how you're viewing the situation and realize that there may be other ways of looking at it.

"All of us need some way to deliberately relax, too, when we're feeling tense. That may be listening to music, deep breathing or doing something vigorous like hard work or exercise," he adds.

To help cope with stressful times, here are tips from Susan Fritz, leadership development specialist at the University of Nebraska.

* Plan and maintain the physical side of your life. * Develop helpful, supportive, two-way relationships. * Enrich and sustain your spiritual life. * Look at those around you who have survived similar situations. * Be wary of self-destructive behaviors, like temporary relief from drugs and alcohol.

For more help on dealing with stress, contact your local mental health association, United Way's First Call for Help, or get a referral from your local county agent. In most states, there's some type of 800 crisis hotline number. Check your phone book under "crisis," call information or even contact your local library.

Warning Signs Of Stress When stress is prolonged or little is done to relieve negative physical or emotional problems, watch for signals, says Marcie Moran, psychologist and director of Behavioral Health Services at McKennan Hospital, Sioux Falls, SD.

Overload signals: * Feeling tense, irritable, constantly pressured * Unable to get worries and problems off your mind * Waking at night or difficulty falling asleep * Difficulty thinking clearly or making decisions * Being upset by things that didn't use to upset you

Physical symptoms can include: * Headaches or stiffness across neck and shoulders * Upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea or dizziness * Shortness of breath * Numbness or trembling in hands, legs or arms * Feeling cold

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