NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Extending Support for Farmers and Ranchers in Times of Stress

stress, managing stress, managing stress in agriculture

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

As winter moves forward and families review and plan their farming efforts for the coming year, many farmers, agricultural professionals and family members are facing increased stresses linked with uncertain market conditions. The hours they must spend in checking on market prospects, reviewing financial needs, and making farming decisions can be long, stressful and tiring.

The emotional and physical needs of those who are undergoing stress from conditions in agriculture are sometimes forgotten during planning efforts. Individual farmers and ranchers may not consider their own needs or they may feel too occupied with other responsibilities to handle personal or family needs. Farmers sometimes try to be invulnerable to fatigue, stress, frustration and depression. Perhaps the demand on their energies is so great they think they can muddle through. However, farmers need help, encouragement and assistance in times of higher stress levels.

The NDSU Extension Service has resources on its website designed to assist individuals, families and community professionals in managing stresses in agriculture at: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/cff/resources-for-emotional-and-mental-health

Farmers, their family members and other agricultural workers need to take care of themselves to have the emotional and physical resources to deal with stresses.

Here are a few tips to consider for addressing emotional and physical well-being:

  • Get sufficient sleep.
  • Eat well-balanced meals as much as possible. Avoid junk food or unhealthy snacks.
  • Set up and maintain a structured routine if possible.
  • Learn to say no without feeling guilty during times of demand. Conserve your energy for where it is most needed.  
  • Take time for breaks to rest and renew your energy (5-10 minutes every hour).
  • Get up, stretch, walk, or exercise briefly.   
  • Realize when a situation or problem requires help from others. Be willing to engage some support.
  • Delegate tasks to others or call for additional support if needed.
  • Be aware of your energy limits and stop when these limits have been reached.
  • Prioritize your time and attention. Planning five minutes now can save frustration later.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths and seek help for areas you need to grow.  
  • Communicate with people who understand your tasks and challenges.
  • Practice optimism and humor. Laughter is a great source of stress relief.  

Farmers and other professionals or their family members can use help from people not directly involved in agriculture. Family members or community members, including mental health workers, can provide needed support to farmers, ranchers and others in agriculture so they can do planning for the year ahead and negotiate any tasks that need to be accomplished. For critical tasks to get done in a time of stress, the load must be shared. Farmers, ranchers and their families need to know that others are willing to stand with them and extend a hand of support or a listening ear.

For more details about dealing with stress and other information, visit the NDSU Extension Web site at: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/cff/resources-for-emotional-and-mental-health.

Source: Sean Brotherson, Extension family science specialist, NDSU Extension Service

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