“And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.” - Paul Harvey, “So God Made a Farmer”, 1978
Being the caretaker of land and livestock is both rewarding and frustrating. George Washington once said agriculture is “the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says farming and ranching is one of the most dangerous and most stressful occupations in the United States. A noble but stressful job. Farmers and ranchers feed the world while dealing with rollercoaster commodity markets and the uncertainties of Mother Nature.
This year has definitely tested the resolve of many of our region’s producers. According to the USDA, cold temperatures and heavy rains prevented the planting of 19.3 million acres of Midwest farmland. In South Dakota, 3.86 million acres were designated unplantable (the most in the country). Iowa and Minnesota producers fared a little better but still many agricultural families are dealing with the stress of a lousy 2019 growing season and uncertainty of the future.
While you can’t control the rivers, weather or markets, you can control the effects of stress on your body, your family and relationships. We’ve compiled some coping tips from a variety of resources to help you manage your stress, attitude, and responses to these difficult times. We encourage families dealing with emotional and financial stress to seek additional resources from mental or health care professionals, county extension offices and local pastors or clergy.
Change Your Mind
- Think about ways you can solve your problems vs. worrying about them. How can you turn your situation into an opportunity? Switch into problem-solving mode and empower yourself.
- Stop negative self-talk and thoughts. Focus on positive thinking. Tell yourself (out loud if you have to) that things will be alright. Say it until you believe it.
- Identify what’s in your control and what is not. Fix what you can. Let go of what you can’t. Dwelling on it won’t help.
- Focus on accomplishments vs. failures.
Change Your Routine
- Eat well-balanced meals, exercise at least 30 minutes a day and limit the intake of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
- Get adequate sleep. This is hard to do but getting enough sleep will help you cope better with the stress of your situation. Nothing is ever solved when you’re overtired.
- Lean on a supportive group of friends and family that you can talk to. Try not to focus on the negatives but lift each other up.
- Find something you can do for another farmer or producer in a similar situation. Giving of yourself will help you change your focus.
- Look for ways to balance work and play. Give yourself a break and permission to have fun. You know what they say, “laughter is the best medicine.”
Change Your Response
Take a mental vacation. Daydream for 10 or 15 minutes. Think of a place you love. Enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells. You’ll be surprised how relaxed and refreshed you’ll feel.
- The University of Michigan suggests focusing on B-R-A-I-N. B=breathe. R=relax. A= Ask yourself what you need or want to feel (ex: calm, confident, at peace, etc.) I= imagine feeling that way. N=Now, ask yourself how you feel.
- Unplug before bed. Turn off electronics. Stretch. Listen to music and focus on what you have that is good… literally count your blessings.
When is it time to seek professional help?
Here are few warning signs it might be time to seek out a health care, clergy, or mental health professional.
- Drastic changes in sleeping and eating patterns.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Quick to anger or abusive behavior towards others.
- Feelings of being hopeless and constantly panic.
- Lack of care of yourself, your animals, land or machinery.
- Feeling of isolation, depression and extreme guilt.
- Unable to think or express any happy or positive thoughts or emotions.
Farm and Rural Stress Hotline – Avera Health
Iowa Concern Hotline
Farm & Rural Helpline – Minnesota Department of Agriculture
2-1-1 Helpline Center – South Dakota
Dial 2-1-1 or text your zip code to 898211
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Online Chat option: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Crisis Text Line
Text CONNECT to 741741
Farm Crisis Center – National Farmers Union
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