May is a chaotic month for many in the Upper Midwest. It frequently presents the first opportunity for many producers to get out into the fields, start planting, and get a jump on the year ahead. May is also mental health awareness month. Though some may not initially tie mental health awareness with agriculture, members of the agricultural community are indeed an appropriate audience. In this article, I will begin by identifying both obvious and sneaky stressors on the farm and how they can impact those in the agricultural community.
Those involved with agriculture can have many contributors to their continuous stress levels. Sources may be interactions with the bank, managing farm staff, or maybe even family relationships. All these hemispheres are continually jumping up, dropping down, and, if we are lucky, stable. Though several of the sources listed above are unique to agriculture, they also fall into some universal categories. These include: financial pressure, dependence on unpredictable weather and volatile markets, extreme outdoor working conditions, lack of personal time, and intergenerational differences, to name a few. After reading the above list, several of us felt that anxiety, pressure, and stress creep up our spine. Working in agriculture unquestionably can be stressful. Not only is it mentally taxing on our psyche, but it can also influence our bodies.
When faced with excessive stress, we can react in a variety of ways. Our reaction may be an increase in blood pressure, an increase in heart rate or our digestive system can slow down (or stop). Unrelieved stress is a known risk factor in many of the leading causes of premature death among adults, including conditions and illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and deterioration of the immune system (Mayo Clinic, 2016). Stress is also a risk factor for depression, addiction, and suicide (Donham & Thelin, 2016).
Thanks for joining me as we start this conversation about how stress can show up in our lives! Though not all stress can be completely eliminated, next week in Part 2, we will dive into what baby steps you can take in controlling the stress that you face around your operation.
The information for this article was compiled from Ohio State University Extension, “Farm Stress & Decision-Making During Challenging Times” linked here (https://z.umn.edu/OSUFarmStress). Residents of Stearns, Benton, and Morrison counties can direct questions to either my email (email@example.com) or call my desk phone at (320) 255-6169 x 3.