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Managing on-farm stress shouldn’t be ignored


Back in July, the National Corn Growers Association broached the subject of increased stress on the farm and its potential impact on mental health. Low commodity prices, high debt load, and wet weather were identified as key culprits on the list of things that can put a major kink in a farmer’s day. Now we can add in the unknown of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) may be stressful for people driving fear and anxiety. Imagine being a farmer who has a short window to plant a crop that is critical to your economic future.

Whenever there is increased stress on the farm, it’s a good time to recognize escalating stress in yourself and your friends, family, and neighbors in the ag community, according to Charles Schuster and Jeanette M. Jeffrey, with the University of Maryland Extension. That’s because unaddressed issues can lead to health and addiction problems and even suicide.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently examined 130 occupations, and farmers had the highest rate of death due to stress-related conditions such as heart and artery disease, hypertension, ulcers, and nervous disorders.

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Assisting others to cope with their stress can also make your community stronger.

Ways to cope with stress:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media, while in the tractor or truck. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Try to take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. In addition to those step, try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Regular exercise is also good for your body. When you get out of the tractor at the end of the day, take a walk. Lastly, be sure to get plenty of sleep.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Many state-based or even local services are available and easy to find through an internet search, but a few national resources recommended include: Center for Rural Affairs, the American Farm Bureau Federation Rural Resilience, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-Talk (8255).

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