A little stress can keep you on your toes and help you get things done, but persistent stress reduces productivity and is probably doing you damage. Stress is also a contributing factor to many farm accidents.
Farm life is busy and often stressful. Stress can be caused by everyday issues like farm finances, machinery breakdowns, family and relationship pressures, or managing livestock. Extreme events like bushfires, droughts and floods can be particularly stressful.
Stress can affect many areas of the body including the nervous system, memory, the ability to fight off infection, cardiovascular health, pain and gut problems.
Everyone reacts differently to potentially stressful situations. Learn to recognise your stress triggers and have coping skills ready to use.
- Think about your thinking: Consciously focus on halting unhelpful patterns of thinking—‘I will never get this job done’—and replace this with helpful thinking patterns ‘This job might take me a while, but if I break it into chunks and get someone to give me a hand, I can get it done’.
- Talk to yourself: Instead of getting annoyed and irritable when things go wrong, tell yourself you won’t let this get to you. Try it, it works. Talk out loud—out on the farm, who’s going to hear you?
- Talk to your friends: Chances are you’re not the only one who feels the way you do, and talking may help you find solutions you hadn’t thought of on your own.
- Talk to a professional: If you feel you can’t manage, talk to an expert (for farm tasks as well as your own wellbeing). If there are not many services in your area, or you’d prefer something more private, there are confidential phone lines and online services you can use to support your social and emotional wellbeing.
- Talk to your pet: They are always pleased to see you and great listeners!
- Write a list: Sometimes thinking of all the jobs you need to do can seem overwhelming. Writing a list and prioritising tasks can increase your sense of control. Make sure you tick off items and reward yourself as you achieve them!
- Don’t avoid making decisions: Stress can lead to poor decision making or—worse still—failure to make any decisions. Seek information and make decisions early to ensure you have options in difficult times.
- You need to look after yourself, it’s part of looking after your farming business.
Some key things to reduce stress and improve your health include:
- Get adequate sleep
- Eat healthy meals
- Take time to do something you enjoy
- Take time away from the farm
- Remain involved in your community
- Find things to laugh about
These are the things that we often neglect when life gets stressful, but are also some of the simplest and most effective strategies to help us get through tough times.
References used for this topic page
National Centre for Farmer Health
Managing Stress on the Farm
Black Dog Institute
Hints to avoid harmful stress
Black Dog Institute
Coping with the Drought
Research & reviews:
Rural and Remote Health
Coping and resilience in farming families affected by drought
The American Institute of Stress
Stress and heart disease
The farmer’s wife
The Medical Journal of Australia
Drought-related stress among farmers: findings from the Australian Rural Mental Health Study