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Learn to manage stress on the farm

Farmer Brooks Davis knows about sleepless nights. “This job will make you turn gray-headed,” he said of farming.

“For us, we feel plenty of stress-making marketing decisions. You could work all year for free if you don’t make the right decisions.”

Davis of Arkansas County, Ark., said fuel, fertilizer and other inputs all went up this year. While crop prices have been favorable, he said if he makes a bad decision about marketing, “we could lose a lot of money. I think it’s common for people with a business to wake up at 3 a.m. worrying,” he said.

Stress is a normal part of life for farmers, said Russ Kennedy, health specialist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. Many a farmer has suffered through a sleepless night worrying about pests, market prices, weather or repaying a six-figure crop loan.

“Farmers accept stress as part of daily life, and most do little to cope with it consciously,” he said. Much of our stress comes from everyday responsibilities.

“In response to daily strains,” he said, “your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism and blood flow to your muscles.”

This response is intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation, but constant stress can threaten your health and well-being.

Kennedy offers several ways to reduce unwanted stress or manage it:

• Be realistic. If you feel overwhelmed by some activities (yours and/or your family’s), learn to say NO! Eliminate an activity that is not absolutely necessary. You may be taking on more responsibility than you can or should handle.

• Shed the “superman/superwoman” urge. No one is perfect, so don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. Ask yourself, “How much can I do? Is the deadline realistic? What adjustments can I make?” Don’t hesitate to ask for help.

• Meditate. Just 10 to 20 minutes of quiet reflection may bring relief from chronic stress as well as increase your tolerance to it.

• Visualize. Use your imagination and picture how you can manage a stressful situation more successfully. Whether it’s a farm problem or visiting with your banker, many people feel visual rehearsals boost self-confidence and enable them to take a more positive approach to a difficult task.

• Take one thing at a time. For people under tension or stress, an ordinary workload can sometimes seem unbearable. The best way to cope with this feeling of being overwhelmed is to take one task at a time.

• Exercise. Regular exercise is a popular way to relieve stress. Twenty to 30 minutes of physical activity benefits both the body and the mind.

• Hobbies. Take a break from your worries by doing something you enjoy.

• Healthy life style. Good nutrition makes a difference. Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol, get adequate rest, exercise and balance work and play.

• Share your feelings. A conversation with a friend lets you know that you are not the only one having a bad day, coping with low prices or production problems. Stay in touch with friends and family. Don’t try to cope alone.

• Give in occasionally. Be flexible! If you find you’re meeting constant opposition in either your personal or professional life, rethink your position or strategy. Arguing only intensifies stressful feelings.

• Go easy with criticism. You may expect too much of yourself and others. Try not to feel frustrated, let down, disappointed or even “trapped” when another person doesn’t measure up

For more information about managing stress, go to


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