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Signs you may be stressed and 3 healthy ways to deal with it

In the Garden

It’s an understatement to say we live in a changing, evolving, and different world than we are used to. When you consider this from a farmer or rancher’s perspective of trying to produce and sell a crop, payoff an operating loan, keep the family farm, and manage unpredictable challenges, the agriculture industry has not been in a pleasant situation. It is more critical now than ever to maintain and cultivate a productive mindset to manage the stress that comes from these challenges.

Let’s define what some common signs and physical manifestations of stress can be for ag producers, (or for anybody else as well). Some of the physical signs of stress showing up in the body include headaches, stomachaches, high blood pressure, racing heart, nausea, and feeling physically tense. A good description would be like you are on edge, and living in a fight or flight response to the world around you.

It all starts in your mind, and when stressed you may feel anxious, angry, sad, bitter, depressed, and hopeless. As you may already know, what you think and feel will inevitably become your actions, and stress manifests itself in many different forms. Examples can include losing sleep, not eating, or the opposite of sleeping or eating too much. Losing the drive to get out of bed and face the day because of hopelessness or feeling depressed is another example. Becoming withdrawn and losing interest in relationships that normally have been valued and important is another sign.

Here are three strategies to help you manage stress in a more productive way.

First, consider how and what you are telling yourself. If a person reacts to stressors with negative self-talk, saying things such as “I mess everything up”, or “I can’t make it”, or thinking “I am not good enough,” then start by recognizing these are untrue statements. It’s a self-defeating behavior. Choose words you can tell yourself that are true, and allow you to step back from a situation to regain your power and perspective over what is going on. When I am facing a challenge, many times I say in my mind, “it could be worse,” or in the midst of a hard time I say, “I still have the things that matter most, and everything else is just details”. These positive self-talk words will differ for each of us, but they are essential to managing unhealthy stress.

The second tool for coping is the most simple: stop and breathe. I don’t mean this metaphorically. It helps to calm your mind, put things back in perspective, and allow you to regain control over what you are thinking. For example, how many times have you been working in the field all day, and your mind dwells on negative self-talk or sources of stress? If you stop and take a few deep breaths and allow your mind to calm down, you can start your positive self-talk and have a more productive mindset.

The third tool for stress management is acceptance. A helpful quote by Mary Engelbreit says, “If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” This tool of choosing to accept unchangeable stress as part of the world enables you to move forward, so you are no longer being held back with negative emotions, feelings, or thoughts.

Those who may not have the tools or ability to handle what they are going through may be considering suicide. This is the time that reaching out for help could save a life. Realize you are not alone, and there are many resources available to prevent a tragedy. The national suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, and the Idaho suicide prevention hotline is (208) 398-4357. There are local resources available for immediate crisis events through first responders, hospitals, and the department of health and welfare.

Farming and ranching is a challenging world to live in, and sometimes it becomes more than what a person can handle. But, there are people who understand the challenges you are facing firsthand and are willing to help. For help accessing resources, email Lance Ellis at ellis@uidaho.edu or call the Fremont County Extension office at (208) 624-3102.

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