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Don’t let stress on the farm affect how you work

From simple meditation to talking with a mental health professional, here are tools to manage stressors.

Elizabeth Hodges, Staff Writer

March 30, 2023

3 Min Read
Woman sitting in wheat field with closed eyes
BREATH IT IN: Your farm is an amazing place, but it can also be a stressful one. Take a moment to just sit, close your eyes and breath in. It can help lower your anxiety level and heart rate.Pheelings Media/Getty images

Farmers certainly do not have any shortage of stressors. This is even more evident during calving season and the upcoming planting season.

According to Brandy VanDeWalle, Nebraska Extension educator in Fillmore and Clay counties, “not all stress is bad,” but making sure you know how to live with the stresses of farming is important.

She hosted a Nebraska Extension webinar to help farmers identify and address these stressors. In it, she explained the three elements of stress.

The first is the presence of an external stressor. This could be a difficult person or situation. VanDeWalle says you may have concerns over rising crop input and farm expenses, low commodity prices, machinery breakdowns or weather. Then there are other overall concerns about farm and family finances, finding downtime from work, along with myriad unknowns that come along in life.

The next element is individual internalization. Once there is an occurrence of a stress, it is not talked about with others. Instead, you may choose to work through that stress on your own.

The third element comes in the form of a response — how will you actually work through it?

Outside display of inside problem

It is important to know the early warning signs of stress. VanDeWalle gives six things to watch out for in yourself, your family or your fellow farmers and ranchers:

  1. Your routine changes.

  2. Care of livestock declines.

  3. Illness increases.

  4. The number of farm accidents increases.

  5. The upkeep of your farm declines.

  6. Children start to act out or are absent from school.

Steps to reduce stress

Now that you know the signs that you or your neighbor are under a lot of stress, here are some ways that you can reduce its impact on your health:

Take deep breaths. Practice box breathing. This is where you think about filling a box with your breath until your heart rate goes back to normal.

Switch to positive self-talk. For instance, when you start talking down on yourself, take time to think about the 3 C’s — calm, collected and in-control — to recenter. Then remind yourself, “This, too, will pass.”

Time to meditate. Consider using a meditation app on your phone, like “Calm,” to take time to recenter. Or simply find a place on the farm to be quiet and reflect.

Focus on personal health. Make sure to eat, exercise and sleep. Skipping or shortening these activities in a day can create even more stress.

Connect with others. Go to community events and interact with people off the farm.

Seek help. It’s okay to admit you’re struggling. Reach out to an individual on the rural wellness team at ruralwellness.unl.edu/meet-team.

The stress that you face in the agricultural industry can start to consume your day and affect you physically and mentally. “You have to talk about it [stress] or it will eat you alive,” VanDeWalle says.

This calving season and planting season, make sure to take the time to recognize the signs of stress. To learn more about ways to help others or seek help for rural wellness, check out ruralwellness.unl.edu or contact VanDeWalle at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Hodges

Staff Writer, Farm Progress

Growing up on a third-generation purebred Berkshire hog operation, Elizabeth Hodges of Julian, Neb., credits her farm background as showing her what it takes to be involved in the ag industry. She began her journalism career while in high school, reporting on producer progress for the Midwest Messenger newspaper.

While a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she became a Husker Harvest Days intern at Nebraska Farmer in 2022. The next year, she was hired full time as a staff writer for Farm Progress. She plans to graduate in 2024 with a double major in ag and environmental sciences communications, as well as animal science.

Being on the 2022 Meat Judging team at UNL led her to be on the 2023 Livestock Judging team, where she saw all aspects of the livestock industry. She is also in Block and Bridle and has held different leadership positions within the club.

Hodges’ father, Michael, raises hogs, and her mother, Christy, is an ag education teacher and FFA advisor at Johnson County Central. Hodges is the oldest sibling of four.

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