NDSU Extension - Morton County


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December 2, 2019 Farm & Ranch Stress

Renae Gress, Extension Agent/Agriculture and Natural Resources


Dates to Remember:

  • December 5-Irrigation Workshop, Bismarck
  • December 10-BSC Ag Marketing Club, Progressive Ag, Bismarck
  • December 11- Bovine Emergency Response Plan Training, Turtle Lake
  • December 17-BSC Ag Marketing Club, Lighthouse Commodities, Bismarck


Farm and Ranch Stress

Farming and ranching is stressful from having to deal with adverse weather, disease, regulations, low or volatile commodity prices, family dynamics and financial worries. Farmers and ranchers are self-employed, don’t work a typical 8 hour workday, and often have no separation between home and work. Stress can easily build and eventually take a heavy toll on your outlook. Did you know your health is the most important asset in farming and ranching?

What is stress?

Stress can be defined in many ways. It is the capacity to withstand strain. It is energy in a blocked or chaotic state. Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Often one stressful event piles up on top of another and tensions run high which can lead to high levels of stress for everyone involved in the operation.

Stress Symptoms

Early warning signs of stress are like flashing red lights on the dashboard of your car when the engine is overheating. If you ignore it long enough, the engine will blow. Our bodies are the same way, rising blood pressure, aching neck and shoulder, sweating hands and feet, a churning stomach are all red lights, warning you that trouble could lie ahead. If you ignore your body’s physical signals of stress and strain, it can lead to hypertension, depression, heart disease, or other mental health issues.

It is important to recognize early warning signal of stress in your body, actions, emotional life, and relationship with others. Physical symptoms of stress include aching muscles, stomach problems, shortness of breath and fatigue. Behavioral symptoms include trouble relaxing, concentrating, making decisions or sleeping. Emotional warning signs of stress include increased irritability, impatience, depression, difficulty controlling emotions and feeling negative about oneself. Often individuals from different families farm and ranch together. Lack of good listening and communication can lead to intense family blowups, communication breakdowns, strained relationships, marital dissatisfaction, or parent-child conflicts. Recognizing warning signs of stress in yourself and others early can help you manage it and regain personal health and self-esteem. To relax and manage stress well during peak farm and ranch stress seasons such as planting or harvesting takes discipline and daily practice at controlling events, attitudes and responses.

Focus on what you can control

To reduce the pile-up of too many stressful events at once, farmers and ranchers can control some situations.

  • Set priorities about what has to be done today and what can wait until tomorrow.
  • Schedule stressful events within your control, such as elective surgery.
  • Say no to extra commitments that you do not have time for.
  • Plan ahead, don’t procrastinate.

How you and family members view situations is a key factor in creating or eliminating unwanted stress.

  • List all the stress you have- identify what you can change and accept the ones you cannot.
  • Think about how to turn your challenge into opportunity.
  • Shift your focus from worrying to problem solving.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations daily.

Make time daily to take care of yourself, for you work is vital to all of us.

  • Take care of your body- eat well-balanced meals and limit your intake of coffee and pop.
  • Think positive thoughts, “I can and will succeed.”
  • Look for the humor in things that you do.
  • Take a break.

Where to get help

People often don’t get the help they need simply because they don’t know where to begin. If you are dealing with thoughts of depression or anxiety talk to your primary care physician and ask about available mental health services. If you don’t have a doctor, here are some resources you can use and services you can reach out to:

  • NDSU Extension Farm/Ranch Stress Resources
  • FirstLink Help Line – Call 211
  • Reach out to a loved one, friends or clergy-talk about how you are feeling
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline-Call 800-273-8255

Your life as a farmer or rancher will never be totally free from stress. The key is to be flexible and maintain a balanced lifestyle. Through daily practice you can recognize early warning signs of stress and make it a habit to do what works best for you to ease pressures. You may find that your work is more enjoyable and your relationships are more enriching and supportive.

Sources: NDSU Extension Farm and Ranch Stress Sheets

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