NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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When Your Back is Up Against the Wall



Growing up, I learned about raising crops, cattle, and hogs on our family farm in southwestern Minnesota.  I was the oldest child in the family, and my perception was that we were pretty much always struggling financially.

When I was somewhere between 8-10 years old, the summer was hot, dry, and windy.  Crop growth was stunted; corn leaves were curling up and turning brown.  Our animals were suffering from the heat, and livestock prices were bad. 

Overhearing my mom and dad’s tense “discussions,” I could tell things weren’t good on the farm.  Perhaps it was just another bad year, but it seemed to me to be worse than usual. 

I didn’t know much about emotions back then, but based on what I know now, I would say that Dad probably felt frustrated, sad, angry, worried, helpless, or depressed.  Maybe all of the above.   Mom’s love was sure and strong, but she never was a coddler, so to my young ears, the talk between them sounded tough.  The slamming door seemed to confirm that. 


Looking back, I can recognize what we were experiencing.  It was excessive stress.  The demands far out-paced the available resources of not only money, but also time, physical energy, and emotional energy.  Our back was up against the wall. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing overwhelming, excessive stress, or what seems to be approaching the overwhelming or excessive level, take stock of resources that are available for coping with and navigating through the tough times.

First Link (www.myfirstlink.org) and the 211 helpline is an example of one such resource.  By calling 2-1-1, or 701-2345-7335 (SEEK), anyone can tap into the statewide, 24-hour helpline.  Callers receive confidential listening and support from call specialists who are trained in crisis intervention, including suicide intervention.  Callers can also get information and referral for questions or issues involving abuse/assault, addiction, disabilities, education, financial assistance, food, medical, mental health, military, parenting, suicide, and transportation. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is another resource.  By calling 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), anyone can access 24-hour crisis intervention tools.

NDSU Extension pamphlets, “Farming and Ranching in Tough Times,” “Responding to Distressed People,” and “Working with Distressed Clientele,” provide insights for recognizing, understanding, and coping with stress.  The pamphlets are available free online or upon request from your county extension office.  

Unfortunately, some of the easy “escapes” from stress tend to be unhealthy or negative approaches that many times will actually make the problems worse.  Things like indulging, tantrums, blame, denial, withdrawal, and abuse of alcohol, food, or drugs fall into that category.

However, there are many healthy strategies for coping with stress.  Making a commitment to addressing all aspects of wellness, including the dimensions of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical wellness, is a good place to start. 

Avoid the temptation to neglect any area of wellness.  Oftentimes, it is when we “don’t have time” for a break or a change that we most need to “take the time” for just that, in the name of managing stress and preserving self.

Photo Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/38/Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_002.jpg  
(downloaded 7/6/17)


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