10/21/21 Farm Stress Tools for Couples #442

One of the unique aspects of farming and ranching is that husbands and wives often work closely together. Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension family life specialist, joins this segment of Sound Ag Advice to talk about some simple ways couples can manage stress together and where they can go to learn more about farm stress.

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 the NDSU Extension Service. I'm Kelli Anderson, and I'm joined this week by Sean Brotherson, NDSU extension family life specialist. Now last week, we talked about stress management for individuals, how an individual can control some of the events in their life to manage their stress. This week, we're going to be talking about stress management for couples. And one of the unique aspects of farming and ranching is that husbands and wives often work closely together. Farm and ranch decisions are also more likely to affect the whole family. So stress management really comes into play for that. Sean, tell us a little bit about how a couple can manage stress together?

Sean: Well, one of the really important things is just to recognize that this is a partnership, a farm and ranch operation is a family business, and you are working with people closely and if you are a married couple in the business of farming or ranching, then the decisions that you make are not only going to affect the farm or ranch operation, they're going to affect the experience of the family. So, if you're trying to make a decision about can we afford to buy a piece of farm equipment right now? That's going to affect other things, like can we take a vacation together? Or can we get a new refrigerator? Staying connected and communicating with each other in that couple partnership is really important when you're in farming and ranching.

Kelli: Are there some specific things that a couple could do to relieve stress and strain?

Sean: Yeah, I was just mentioning communication. And I think having a structured mechanism to communicate on a regular basis about your decisions about your feelings about directions that you need to go is really important. Many couples find it useful to set up a weekly formal meeting where they sit down and talk about what's going on in the operation, how it's affecting things in family life, and what kind of goals they have, and what direction they want to proceed. But it's also helpful to have a daily check in sometimes. We call this a temperature check, just to say, where are we in terms of our stress level as a couple? And then what are some strategies we can do to manage that if we feel like our stress levels are getting higher than is comfortable for us?

Kelli: You mentioned strategies, I know that you've developed a farm and ranch stress management plan that really would work for couples, tell us a little bit more about that.

Sean: We've developed a variety of resources. The farm and ranch stress management plan is one tool that we use among our set of farm stress spec sheets, to help any individuals who are in the farming and ranching industry be able to be strategic and proactive, about how they're managing the different decisions in their operation. And so that takes you through a specific process where you're identifying what are maybe some specific problems that we need to deal with, what are some concerns that may come up and then making plans about resources, we can access techniques or methods that we can use to relieve stress, it may be as simple as, hey, we haven't had time together to really connect recently. So we're going to plan and have a weekly date, even if it's just going for a walk. My wife and I find that we plan a walk three or four times a week, we take half an hour and it was interesting. She said to me the other day, that makes all the difference. You don't know what a difference it makes just to have that concentrated planned time to be able to relax a little bit. So simple things, but really important for couples and managing stress.

Kelli: In addition to the fact sheets that you mentioned, where can people go for more information about managing farm stress.

Sean: There's a lot of resources that are available through the NDSU Extension Service, google NDSU Extension and farm stress or NDSU Extension and drought, and we have dedicated web pages online with a lot of resources that people can access, and those pages will also connect them to other resources. The other thing that they should do is contact their local county Extension agent who is an excellent source of information and connection with resources in their community.
Kelli: Great advice from our NDSU Extension Service family life specialist Sean Brotherson, we thank him for his time today. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by the NDSU Extension Service.

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