Managing stress while on the farm (Mental Health Awareness)
(Editor’s note: Emily Zobel is an agent associate for University of Maryland Extension, Dorchester County. This is the second article in a four-part series for The Delmarva Farmer by the University of Maryland Extension for Mental Health Awareness Month. An expanded group of articles will be posted online throughout May at www.go.umd.edu/farmstressmanagement.)
Farming is a demanding and stressful occupation due to its ongoing challenges and uncertainties.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an additional toll on farmers and agricultural communities.
Many are still dealing with high levels of stress due to the uncertainty of their livelihoods in the coming months and years. Long-term stress, such as this, can carry physical and mental health risks, so it is crucial to find a healthy way to manage stress.
Not all stress reduction strategies work for everyone — but here are some to help manage stress in your life.
• Deep Breathing: When we are stressed, our minds and body become overloaded. A minute of deep breathing will help calm the brain and the rest of the body. This technique is excellent because it can be done anywhere and at any time. There are many deep breathing techniques, so you may have to try a few to find one that works best for you. A great one to start with is taking deep breaths while counting backward from 10.
• Acceptance: Some things cause us stress but are out of our control, such as commodity prices, government regulations, ect. By accepting that they are out of our control, we can take productive steps towards shift time and energy towards a solution instead of getting frustrated by the problem.
• Connect with others: The act of socializing itself can reduce stress and remind us of our values to those around us. Sharing feelings, frustrations, and stressful problems aids in strengthening our social support system and destigmatizing mental health issues. Friends, family members, spiritual leaders, and counselors may see problems differently and offer insight, solutions, or additional support.
• Exercise: Almost any form of exercise or movement can decrease stress, so no matter your level of fitness, you can still benefit from it. When we are stressed, our bodies produce stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Exercise and physical movement is a great way to help our body “burn up” these hormones while also causing our bodies to create endorphins.
For more information about farm stress management visit UME’s Farm Stress Management website at www.go.umd.edu/farmstressmanagement and to join the farm stress contact list go to https://go.umd.edu/fscontact.
This list will keep you updated on state and national information and educational events related to this topic.