10/14/21 Tools for Farm Stress #441

Farmers and ranchers learn early on how to troubleshoot almost any problem, but when feelings of stress or sadness become overwhelming, sometimes they cannot troubleshoot that problem. Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension family life specialist, joins Sound Ad Advice to discuss the stress resources available to farmers.

Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Extension Ag Communication Specialist
Speaker 2: Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension Family Life Specialist

Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson and I'm joined this week by Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension family life specialist. Today we're going to be talking about farm stress. Now we know that farmers and ranchers learn early on how to troubleshoot almost any problem. But sometimes you just can't troubleshoot the weather or low commodity prices. And it's common for people from a rural background to want to rely on themselves to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, so to say, when times get tough. So Sean, what should farmers do, if the times are tough, and their feelings of sadness or stress become overwhelming?

Sean: The first thing they need to realize is that this is part of the human experience. And this is a really common thing. If you're feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, frustrated, depressed as a result of difficult conditions that are going on in agriculture, you need to realize that it's not a reflection on you, personally, you're not broken, there's not something wrong with you, you're not weak, you're not a failure. What we want to do is be resilient in the face of those kinds of stresses and think about what are the things that may be overwhelming me? What are signs that I'm experiencing difficulty? And what can I do about some of those things?

Kelli: You mentioned signs. So what are some of the signs of stress that people should be aware of, about how they're feeling?

Sean: Stress tends to affect us by piling up and putting pressure on us. So it's really difficult to function. And yet, it's during times of difficulty that we really need to function better. So it's like you have a piece of farm equipment that when you need it in the field during harvest or planting, you really want it to function well. Your health is what allows you have the ability to function well in times of stress. So you want to pay attention to physical signs. If you have a hard time getting going in the morning, you just feel a lot of fatigue. If you feel headache, strain, backache, things like that, these are things to pay attention to, if you're not getting very good sleep, mentally, you'll see it in the way you think. And if you have a hard time, looking at the positive side of things, or if you have a hard time concentrating or focusing or making decisions, if we keep sending negative messages to ourselves, like hey, you're a failure, you're a burden to everybody around you. Those are negative things that are a sign of depressive thinking.
We see it also in our emotions, in terms of just a feeling of hopelessness, a feeling of inability to get motivated and do the day, a sense of anxiety, just really low mood that is persistent, beyond what is normal for you. Those are all signs to pay attention to.

Kelli: So where can farmers and ranchers go to access some support on these issues?

Sean: It's really important to understand that depression, for example, is a medical condition, just like diabetes is a medical condition and it's best handled with the support of health care professionals. The first thing to do is to make an appointment with your local health care professional. Like your typical primary caregiver or nurse practitioner. And these are individuals who are trained to deal with a wide range of health issues, not just physical health concerns, but mental and behavioral health as well. And they can help you assess the state of both your physical and mental well-being and then make some plans to take action, get support, and do some treatment that may be necessary.

There's a wide variety of organizations across the region that have really geared up to be available in this particular area. First Link incorporates the 211 helpline that you can call at any time. They do Crisis Counseling as well as referrals to a wide variety of services. And Lutheran Social Services has geared up thier counseling program, so you can have a conversation with someone about some of the stresses that you're feeling from your kitchen table or from the cab of your pickup truck because they do telehealth, right. So there's a lot of resources like that that are available.

The State Department of Human Services has regional human service centers that are very attentive to these issues. Each of them is available in regions across the state. So all of those are good resources, you can go to our NDSU Farm Stress web page, just search NDSU farm stress. All of those resources are listed and you can get easy access to them online.

Kelli: Our guest today has been Sean Brotherson NDSU Extension family life specialist, we thank him for his time and important information. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.

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