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Dealing with Stress in Farming

Dealing with Stress in Farming

Stress is normal and part and parcel of our daily lives. A certain amount of stress is a positive thing – it can help to make us more focused and more productive in our work and in caring for our families. Ciara O’Shea, Teagasc advisor Macroom, has good advice on Dealing with Stress in Farming here

Life events such as the death of a loved one, divorce and marital separation have been identified as highly likely to result in stress. Concern over financial issues also rates quite highly in terms of stress.  The lower end of the scale might be attending to paperwork or handling cattle at the mart.  A combination of major life events on top of everyday stresses within a short period of time can increase the risk of stress symptoms.

The main problem with stress is when we feel overwhelmed by too many demands – be they work, family, financial etc. – and losing confidence in our ability to cope.  For some of us, we may not be aware of what is causing us to be stressed. This makes it more difficult to deal with the problem.  Others might feel embarrassed or afraid to talk about being stressed. However you should be assured that the brave and responsible thing to do is just that – to talk, to try to

If we do not learn to identify when we are stressed and to deal effectively with stress, over time it can impact in a very negative way on our health. Most of us have experienced feelings such as being worried, being tense or feeling unable to cope. The good news is that there are things you can do to manage stress at home and on the farm, with support from those around you. Talking to someone and sharing your concerns can have almost immediate benefits.

What are the stress signals?

A build-up of pressure, without the opportunity to recover, can lead to harmful stress. The important thing is to recognise the warning signs while you can do something about it. get to the bottom of the problem and, when we need to, to have the confidence to seek help from a friend or a health professional if required.

Common warning signs are:

  • Eating more or less than normal.
  • Mood swings.
  • Not being able to concentrate.
  • Feeling tense.
  • Feeling useless.
  • Headaches.
  • Feeling worried or nervous.
  • Not looking after yourself.
  • Not sleeping properly.
  • Being tired.
  • Being forgetful.
  • Excessive drinking. 

Why bother?

Stress can trigger anxiety and depression which can be difficult to recover from and you can experience physical symptoms such as:

  • Back pain.
  • Indigestion.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Migraine.
  • Heart and artery disorders.
  • Rashes, allergies

Discussion groups have an invaluable social dimension as well as a practical farm one

Dealing with stress in a positive way:

Social involvement with others is crucial. This is made more difficult currently because of the COVID restrictions but thankfully these are starting to ease now and there are still things you can do:

  1. Talk to trusted family members, neighbours and friends.
  2. Pick up the phone and call your local Teagasc adviser to discuss farming problems.
  3. Discussion groups have an invaluable social dimension as well as a practical farm one which is positive for solving problems & managing stress. While groups are not meeting face to face right now, groups are still meeting remotely via the phone and online. Contact fellow group members and share issues that may be causing you stress.  We all look forward to getting back on farm for meetings regularly.

Looking after your Health

Have a regular (at least annual) health check with your doctor.  Most practices offer an NCT, where bloods, blood pressure amongst other checks are included.  This is a habit that is crucial to long-term health.  By visiting more frequently, you build up a relationship and a history with your doctor which can break down barriers that might prevent you going to see the doctor if you are stressed.

Being physically active is a key approach to stress management. Modern farm work can be hard and lead to strength but it does not always lead to the right type of physical activity.  Many farm tasks are now automated and involve machinery, therefore no active physical activity or aerobic fitness is involved.  This is required for cardiovascular health or healthy heart that is fit like any other muscle in the body.

So exercise along with social contact for leisure purposes within CoVID-19 guidelines plays a crucial also in managing stresses.  It also gets you away from the farm and gives you a break to clear your head and helps you to make time for family members.

Eating a balanced diet, including fruit and vegetables. At a recent Carbery wellness seminar, healthy snacks were outlined as fruits, nuts and good bowl of porridge in the morning rather than a cereal.  Some foods in excess such as alcohol, chocolate, coffee and soft drink cause increased tension.

Watch the Carbery webinar here as a 3 part video series

Farm Safety

We are coming into the very busy time for farm machinery work with 1st cut silage on the horizon.  To protect yourself and your family, examine your farm for hazards and remove them.  Work organisation is crucial to avoid long hours, rushing and injury.  Check the length of your working day as excessively long working days can lead to isolation.  Take time out every day for relaxation.  Take regular breaks and hopefully this summer we will all get the chance to take a holiday.

Further Information:

If you found this article useful you might also like to read Taking care of the Farmer and farm problems and also Make personal health and wellbeing a priority

You can contact any of our Teagasc offices using this link Teagasc Advisory Regions here