Perhaps you have noticed that some famers crumble under the pressures of events that you find easy to handle. Or perhaps you have wondered how other farmers can go on in spite of the stress load they carry.
Why is it that some farmers can handle lots of stress and others very little? Researchers who have examined differences between successful and unscuccessful stress managers have identified three key factors. First, individuals vary in their capacity to tolerate stress. For example, prolonged exertion and fatigue that would be only mildly stressful to a young farmer may prove very difficult for an older farmer or someone with a heart defect. Emergencies, delays and other problems that a confident farmer takes in stride may be a stumbling block for one who feels inadequate. While part of an individual’s stress tolerance is inborn, a crucial part depends on the quality of skills practiced. Learning to cope successfully with a stressor once makes it easier the next time.
A second factor is feeling in control. Successful stress managers know how to accept those stressors out of their control - the weather, their height, stock market fluctuations, - and how to worry effecively (problem-solve) about those within their control - neck tension, temper flare-ups, record keeping.
Finally, the attitudes, perceptions, and meanings that people assign to events determine a large part of their stress levels. A person has to perceive a situation as stressful or threatening in order to experience stress. If you think your dog is barking in the middle of the night because of a vandal, you will experience more stress than if you suspect a skunk has wandered into your yard.
Stress can be defined as energy in a blocked or chaotic state. It is an absence of calm, free flowing energy that promotes harmony and balance in a person’s body, psyche and soul. To achieve the relaxation response during peak farm stress seasons - planting and harvesting - takes discipline and daily practice at controlling events, attitudes and responses.Following are some techniques individuals may adopt to gain control.
Control events. To reduce the pile-up of too many stressful events at one time, farmers can control some situations.
Control attitudes. How farm family members view situations is a key factor in creating or eliminating unwanted stress.
Control responses. The past is gone. The future is not here yet. Right now you have the choice to feel stressed or to feel relaxed. Start here.
Farm family members can manage their stress well - even during planting and harvesting. The key is to be flexible and to maintain a balanced lifestyle. Make time daily to take care of yourself, for your work is vital to all of us.
To learn more about managing your stress, read and practice The Quieting Reflex by C.F. Stroebel (New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons, 1982) or The Relaxation Response by H. Benson (New York, Avon, 1975).
Cooperative Extension Service The University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in cooperation with Georgia Counties
Released by Don Bower, Extension Human Development Specialist, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, The University of Georgia
Adapted from Farm Stress Series, Robert J. Fetsch, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky, 1984.
The University of Georgia and Ft. Valley State University, The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Counties of the State Cooperating. The Cooperative Extension Service offers educational programs, assistance and material to all people without regard to race, color, national origin, age, sex or disability. For large print, taped or braille editions of this publication, contact the author.
AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY/AFFIRMATIVE ACTION ORGANIZATION
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914. The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.
Gale Buchanan, Dean and Director
College of Family and Consumer Sciences and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences cooperating
Publication #: CHFD-E-33 HD-4 November, 1999
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More