Extending support for farmers, ranchers in times of stress

Elizabeth Cronin
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

DEVILS LAKE - As winter storms hit the region and families seek to manage their farming efforts in the coming days and weeks, many farmers, farm laborers, agricultural professionals and family members are facing increased stresses linked with uncertain weather, inflation costs and other factors. The hours they must spend dealing with weather impacts, reviewing financial decisions and making farming decisions can be long, stressful and tiring.

Late winter weather has increased stress for ranchers and farmers.

“The emotional and physical needs of those who are undergoing stress from such conditions in agriculture are sometimes forgotten during efforts to manage farming impacts from external events,” says Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension family science specialist. “Individual farmers, ranchers and laborers may not consider their own needs or they may feel too occupied with other responsibilities to handle personal or family needs.”

Brotherson adds that farmers and others working in agriculture sometimes try to be invulnerable to fatigue, stress, frustration and depression.

“Perhaps the demand on their energies is so great they think they can muddle through,” says Brotherson. “However, farmers and other agricultural workers need help, encouragement and assistance in times of higher stress levels.”

NDSU Extension has resources on its website designed to assist individuals, families and community professionals in managing stresses in agriculture. Search “NDSU Extension farm stress” and click on “Managing Stress” in your search results.

Similarly, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture offers a wide range of supportive resources to assist those dealing with livestock losses or other farming concerns, which can be accessed at the North Dakota Department of Agriculture website. 

“Farmers, their family members and other agricultural workers need to take care of themselves to have the emotional and physical resources to deal with stresses,” says Brotherson.

NDSU Extension offers a few tips for addressing emotional and physical well-being:

Get sufficient sleep.

Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals as much as possible. Avoid junk food or unhealthy snacks.

Set up and maintain a structured routine if possible.

Learn to say no without feeling guilty during times of demand. Conserve your energy for where it is most needed.

Take time for breaks to rest and renew your energy (5-10 minutes every hour).

Get up, stretch, walk or exercise briefly.

Realize when a situation or problem requires help from others. Be willing to engage some support.

Reach out and call on others for additional support if needed.

Be aware of your energy limits and stop when these limits have been reached.

Prioritize your time and attention. Planning five minutes now can save frustration later.

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths and seek help for areas you need to grow.

Communicate with people who understand your tasks and challenges.

Practice optimism and humor. Laughter is a great source of stress relief.

See a healthcare provider and get a physical and mental health check-up.

Take time to process feelings of grief, loss or frustration due to stress.

Farmers and other professionals or their family members can use help from people not directly involved in agriculture, adds Brotherson. Family members or community members, including mental health workers, can provide needed support to farmers, ranchers and others in agriculture so they can make needed decisions and negotiate any tasks that need to be accomplished.

“For critical tasks to get done in a time of stress, the load must be shared,” says Brotherson. “Farmers, ranchers and their families need to know that others are willing to stand with them and extend a hand of support or a listening ear.”