November 2, 2006
Weathering Tough Times Made Easier by Reducing Personal Stress
Weather and prices loom large as sources of farm or ranch stress, says Sean Brotherson, North Dakota State University Extension Service family science specialist. Lingering drought conditions in some regions of North Dakota and across the country are raising some concerns about personal or family stress.
"Personal stress often results when we experience factors beyond our control, such as weather patterns, so we feel that we can do little or nothing to change the situation," Brotherson says. "Factors that seem beyond one's control may create a sense of challenges beyond resolution. This can result in feelings ranging from helplessness to anger to depression. However, weathering tough times can be made easier by focusing on things you definitely can control, such as reducing your personal stress."
Brotherson has some suggestions for farmers and their family members in dealing with stress brought on by drought conditions or other circumstances.
Identify and access available resources that may be helpful. Consider the resources you most need and then look at what's available in your community or region.
"You need to be willing to do some homework and then approach others who may have the knowledge or resources that can benefit you," Brotherson says. "You don't need to struggle alone with feelings of frustration when others may have information that can help you."
Pursue open, continuous and healthy communication with other family members and friends. Don't let anger or withdrawal become the primary mode of communication. That elevates stress even more. Be willing to share fears and concerns, and talk and share with others who understand or who you trust.
Build social ties with others who can network with you and share ideas. Brotherson points out that just getting together with other farmers or ranchers who are stressed may not help. There needs to be a focus. Marketing clubs or other proactive, positive groups can help brainstorm ideas or have the knowledge about how to face a problem. Avoid gossip or judgmental attitudes about others in the community. Instead, focus on what you can do to make a difference in your situation and your operation.
Focus on family relationships.
"Although drought conditions may be the source of the stress or concern, that is not the most important thing," Brotherson says. "Family relationships are your primary source of support and need your attention first. Follow consistent family routines that provide security, such as regular family meals. Take time together as a couple or family, even if it's just for a family outing or an evening walk."
Use stress reduction techniques, such as getting regular exercise, sleeping sufficient hours or eating a healthy and balanced diet. Healthy living is more and not less important during stressful times. Exercise, sleep and a proper diet are critical.
"Also think about what else helps you relax,” Brotherson says. “Laughter is important. Just watching a funny movie together or telling a few good jokes can help you to relax and reduce stress.”
Take steps to get spiritually renewed and explore sources of spiritual strength.
"Research on stress with farmers in North Dakota shows that many highly value spiritual sources of renewal or support," Brotherson says. "Farmers may want to explore sources of spiritual support or find strength in the faith community that is meaningful to them."
Taking conscious steps to manage and reduce personal stress can make the difference for farmers and family members who want to keep their perspective and health as they deal with conditions of drought or other concerns.