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How farmers can keep fatigue and stress levels under control

Farming is a physically and mentally demanding career. Fatigue and stress often lead to debilitating consequences, including safety and well-being issues.

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Rural Mutual agent Tobi Spillane and customers Scott and Barb Cassidy discuss the upcoming harvest season on the farm.Submitted by Rural Mutual Insurance Company

Farming is a career that involves long hours, a hectic work environment, and is physically and mentally demanding.  When all of these are added up, the job of a farmer can take its toll. Fatigue and stress can cause substantial safety issues in all trades, and farming is no exception.

Fatigue is more than just feeling tired, and stress is more than feeling pressured or worried. Fatigue and stress pose many risks to farmers, their animals, and their land. Battling these conditions can be the difference between life and death, especially during planting and harvest seasons.

Here are a few tips to help reduce fatigue and stress on the farm.

Stay hydrated and well-nourished

Dehydration intensifies the effects of fatigue like headaches, dizziness, tiredness, and dry mouth. Drinking plenty of water and eating healthy, regular, protein-rich meals and snacks are important to fuel alertness and energy.

Heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and heat exhaustion are common results of dehydration. Especially during the hot summer months, it is crucial to drink lots of water to compensate for higher sweat levels. Always have bottles of water in your tractor, truck, or wherever you are working. The recommended water intake is one cup every 15 minutes.

Prioritize rest

Despite long hours, a good night’s sleep and taking short breaks throughout the day are essential to combating fatigue and stress. Research shows that fatigue and stress can have serious negative impacts on both your body and mental health.

Lack of sleep, combined with the everyday hazards of farming, escalates the possibility of accidents on the farm. Sleep deprivation drastically reduces productivity and attentiveness and depletes the immune and central nervous systems, according to Healthline. Operating machinery when you’re sleep-deprived can be as dangerous as operating machinery under the influence.

Know the signs of fatigue and stress

Knowing the signs and paying attention to your body and mind are key. Common signs of fatigue includes loss of concentration, a reduced attention span, being distracted easily, and the feeling of zoning out. Experiencing these uncomfortable side effects not only decreases productivity but may lead to mistakes and injuries. In turn, sitting for prolonged periods of time can also be hazardous, which is why it's good to move your body frequently. Take a brief walk every hour to stretch your muscles and keep your blood flowing.

Typical stress symptoms, on the other hand, include headaches, rapid heartbeat, chest pains, upset stomach, muscle tension, or pain, according to Mayo Clinic. Forgetfulness and poor judgment are other major signs of stress that can lead to injury or mistakes. Ignoring these warning signals can cause health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, and depression.

Seek professional help

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates in agriculture are higher than in any other sector. Farmers are nearly twice as likely to die from suicide than the general population. If you ever feel your stress levels are hindering your ability to perform your job or live your life to the fullest, the best step to take is seeking professional help. Schedule an appointment with a doctor or mental health provider as soon as possible.

Rural Mutual Insurance Company has been protecting farms across the state since 1934 and offers various types of coverage to keep families and children in our farming communities safe. To learn more, visit ruralmutual.com.

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