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Feeling stressed out? 3 strategies to help you through it

3 min read

Farming can be a stressful business, and many factors that influence agricultural production can’t be controlled. In busy seasons like planting or harvest, the added workload and time sensitivity pressures can cause stress levels to escalate.

There are ways to prepare for busy seasons and implement healthy stress management strategies.

Kathy Somers, a registered kinesiologist at the Stress Management and High-Performance Clinic in Guelph, Ont., describes stress as what we experience when demands and pressures exceed our personal and environmental strengths and resources.

Stress responses can be physical, emotional or cognitive. Symptoms can vary from person to person.

Recognize the signs

It is common to experience headaches, neck, back and shoulder tightness, gastrointestinal disturbances or increased blood pressure as symptoms of stress. Changes in sleep, mood and behaviour can also occur.

“Some people think that stress symptoms are all body experiences, so they’re surprised that having a shorter fuse, not being able to see somebody else’s perspective, feeling less hope or needing to be alone are also stress responses,” says Somers.

In addition, stress can trigger behavioural changes such as smoking or drinking more, tapping fingers or twirling hair.

3 strategies to manage stress

While eliminating stress and seasonal increases in stress is unrealistic, there are ways to prepare for busy seasons and implement healthy management strategies. To maintain physical and mental health, Somers shares three suggestions:

1. Eat regularly

Eat a meal or snack – made up of a protein and a carbohydrate – every three to four hours. Carbohydrate fuels the body immediately, and protein provides energy to last another three to four hours.

Effective energy management does not involve drinking coffee or consuming sugar. If the taste is desired, they should only be consumed after a quality protein and carbohydrate.

How to prepare: Make grocery lists to stay organized and identify foods and containers stored in the shop or equipment for easy access. Make meals to freeze ahead of busy seasons.

2. Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep impacts alertness, judgment, coordination and reaction time while driving.

Being awake 18 hours or longer causes the same impairment as having a blood alcohol content of 0.5% and being awake for 24 hours is equal to having a blood alcohol content of 0.10%, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

For people prone to mental health or cardiovascular issues, lack of sleep exacerbates their symptoms.

How to prepare: Coordinate extra help during busy times and schedule shifts to protect the sleep time of all workers.

3. Talk it out

Take time to talk as a family and farm team regularly. This could include a quick team phone call each morning and family dinners on Friday evenings. Conversation should include checking in with each person to see how they are doing, and planning the workday or debriefing the week on the farm.

How to prepare: Plan when and how the family and team are going to communicate during busy seasons and commit to following through.

How to de-escalate

When stress does arise, Somers recommends taking slow, comfortable breaths and releasing body tension on the exhale. Next, repeat a mantra of “I will handle this” and ask yourself what can be done to cope with the situation.

“If you’re experiencing stress that feels uncomfortable or if your loved ones are telling you about your stressed behaviour, seek out professional help,” advises Somers. “There are phone numbers you can call to talk, even from the field in the middle of the night.”

For an extensive list of contacts and resources visit domore.ag.

Article by: Rebecca Hannam

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