NDSU Extension - Stark & Billings County


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October 10-16 is Ag Mental Health Week

Poor growing and harvesting conditions, low commodity prices, trade wars and a shortage of livestock feed for winter all have been stressful for North Dakota farmers and ranchers.

North Dakota State University Extension has developed a number of resources to help farmers and ranchers cope with the stress resulting from the uncertainties in their profession.

The first step is to recognize the early symptoms of stress, according to Sean Brotherson, Extension family science specialist.

“Before farm/ranch families can do much about managing stress, they have to know when they are experiencing it,” he says. “Much of the time, people do not know or give attention to what is going on in their bodies and in their relationships with others.”

Those early signs include rising blood pressure, a rapidly beating heart, clenched teeth, aching neck and shoulders, sweating hands and feet, and churning stomach.

“Early warning signs are like a flashing red light on the dashboard of your car when the engine is overheating,” Brotherson says. “If you ignore it long enough, the engine will get damaged.”

To help farmers and ranchers recognize the warning signs and do something about them, Brotherson has developed fact sheets with tips on how to control events that cause stress, control their attitudes about those events and control their responses.

To control events, he suggests farmers and ranchers plan ahead and replace worn machinery parts during the off-season, for example, rather than waiting until they break down at a crucial time. Controlling events also includes setting priorities about what has to be done today and what can wait until tomorrow; discussing before the harvest who can be available to run for parts, care for livestock, etc.; and saying no to extra commitments that you do not have time to do.

One way to control attitudes is listing all of your stresses, then identifying those you can change and accepting the ones you cannot change. Other ways to control attitudes are to set realistic goals and expectations daily, notice what you have accomplished rather than what you failed to do, and shift your focus from worrying to problem solving.

Controlling your responses includes focusing on relaxing your body and mind, taking care of your body by exercising regularly and eating well-balanced meals, not smoking cigarettes or using alcohol or other drugs, taking regular breaks to get rid of tension as you work, finding someone with whom you can talk about your worries and frustrations, and seeking help when you need it. For a complete list, visit https://tinyurl.com/FarmStressFactSheet.

Other resources on the Farm and Ranch Stress website at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension/farmranchstress/


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