Agriculture is a stressful occupation, and while it provides numerous rewards, it does not come without challenges. Too much stress can contribute to health problems and make us more accident prone.
Nebraska Extension educators Glennis McClure and Brandy VanDeWalle recently presented a webinar on the stresses faced in everyone's daily life — particularly in the lives of farmers and ranchers.
The National Center for Farmer Health points out that stress is the human response to any change perceived as a challenge or a threat. Any changes that cause worry, frustration or upheaval and seem beyond our control can cause stress.
An example that hits close to home for Nebraska farmers and ranchers is the recent weather-related disasters. Attitudes, perceptions and meanings that people assign to events determine a large part of one's stress levels.
Symptoms of stress
There are many symptoms of stress that affect our body, mind and actions. For example, physical symptoms might include nausea, shortness of breath, shaky legs, headaches and fatigue.
When under stress, some people may experience moodiness, frustration, anger, loneliness, anxiety or depression, and even suicidal thoughts. Sleeping too much or too little, increased use of alcohol or drugs, withdrawal from others and exhibiting nervous behaviors all are examples of how our actions might change when stressed.
Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce stress. Susan Harris-Broomfield, Nebraska Extension educator, compiled a list:
- Exercise a half-hour a day, every day or every other day.
- Get enough sleep to meet the demands of your body.
- Accept that stress is a part of life and don't dwell on it.
- Learn to relax (try taking deep breaths to relax).
- Balance work and family time.
- Connect with sources of support.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Talk with a friend or counselor.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help.
If you recognize someone in distress, express your concern to them and ask about their situation. Do this in a nonjudgmental way and actively listen to them. People in distress might turn to suicide. Most people who attempt suicide have given a clue or warning to someone. Don't ignore indirect references to death or suicide.
In fact, it is a myth that talking about suicide with someone may give them the idea to carry it out. Asking someone about potential suicidal thoughts they may have or discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do for someone who is suicidal.
If someone indicates they are thinking of suicide, do not leave them alone. Call for help or take them to a hospital or health care provider. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This hotline can be reached day or night.
Following the #NebraskaStrong hashtag used in social media this year, remember to be strong, seek help as needed and assist others who may need help. In Nebraska, the Rural Response Hotline at 1-800-464-0258 is available to help.
When a farmer, rancher or rural resident calls the hotline and requests help with stress-related issues, they are connected to an experienced staff person who is trained to help through the Counseling, Outreach and Mental Health Therapy program. Staff members work with individuals over the phone or in their home, providing confidential information and assistance.
A recording of the webinar presented by VanDeWalle and McClure is available online, and additional resources used for this program are available at go.unl.edu. More disaster-related resources can be accessed at Nebraska Extension's flood.unl.edu website.
Dates and locations for a separate workshop, Communicating with Farmers Under Stress, are being scheduled across Nebraska now. This program is available to agribusiness professionals and service providers working with farmers and ranchers.
For information on this workshop, contact Susan Harris-Broomfield at firstname.lastname@example.org