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Farm Stress Fact Sheets: Farm/Ranch Stress Management Plan (FS287 (Revised))

Farm and ranch families experience a variety of additional life stresses, such as uncertain weather conditions or machinery breakdowns. By meeting together and planning ahead, family members can take steps to reduce or eliminate stress. Use this planning guide to create a stress management plan that works for you.

Sean Brotherson, Family Science Specialist, NDSU Extension Service


Farm/ranch families can reduce or eliminate stress if they plan ahead. With these nine steps, family members can tailor a plan to fit their situation.

Farm/ranch families experience some of the same stresses that non-farm/ranch families do, like rising food and energy costs. In addition, they face the stress of machinery breakdowns, unpredictable weather conditions, and the heavy pressures that accompany planting and harvesting. By meeting together to plan ahead, farm/ranch families can reduce or eliminate much of the stress they feel.

This final leaflet in the series provides nine steps to create a farm/ranch stress management plan that will work for you.

1. The specific stressful problem we want to solve is (e.g., our short tempers during harvest):

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2. The roadblocks and barriers to solving this problem are (e.g., not taking time to notice symptoms early and to think before yelling):

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3. Some early warning symptoms of this stressful problem are (e.g., family arguments, Dad’s neckaches, Mom withdrawing):

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4. Some stress relief methods that work well for us are (e.g., neck rubs, talking about the pressures):

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5. Some possible ways we could solve the problem identified in No. 1 are:

  • By controlling events (e.g., postponing daughter’s elective surgery until after harvest):

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  • By controlling our attitudes (e.g., the worst that would happen if we didn’t get this field’s hay baled by nightfall is that our hay would get wet – we’ve survived worse problems):

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  • By controlling responses (e.g., instead of using our usual “you statements” to blame each other, we could use “I statements” to ask directly for what we want):

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  • By using resources (e.g., asking a family member for a neck massage before falling asleep at night):

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6. We are aware that we know ourselves better than anyone else. So if we were to write the best prescription available to cure the problem identified in No. 1, here’s what we’d plan:

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7. The personal benefit we’ll get from using our plan is (e.g., we’ll eliminate the distress of being short-tempered with each other during harvest):

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8. The price we’ll have to pay is (e.g., we’ll have to remind one another to think before yelling and ask for what we want):

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9. A way we’ll make sure we get a reward for our new behavior is (e.g., when we notice fewer arguments, we’ll point it out and cheer us on):

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After you have put your plan into action for a week or two, you might meet together again to evaluate your progress and perhaps revise your plan or set up a new one to solve another farm/ranch stress problem.

Reprinted from University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Leaflet 284

Robert J. Fetsch, Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523

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