By Emily Wilmes, U of M Extension
Farming and working in agriculture can be stressful. There are numerous factors outside of our control and, with the state of the agricultural economy, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and even, at times, helpless. And that’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay. What’s important is that we recognize when we aren’t feeling like ourselves and are able to seek help if we need it. Sometimes, we may need to help others recognize that they aren’t at their best. Understanding and recognizing the behavioral and physical signs of stress can assist us.
Some of the behavioral signs of stress include:
• Worrying about things you didn’t before.
• Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.
• Poor concentration, confusion, or forgetfulness.
• Uncertainty or trouble making decisions.
• Relationship problems.
• Feeling sad or anxious.
• Change in personality and irritability.
• Negative thinking.
• Wanting to withdraw from people or activities.
• Increased smoking/drinking.
Some physical signs of stress include:
• Poor or disturbed sleep.
• Weight loss or gain.
• Changes in appetite.
• Stomach or gastrointestinal problems.
• Clenching or grinding teeth.
• Chest pain.
• Poor hygiene.
So, what do you do when you recognize some of these signs? If you feel you’re experiencing immense stress yourself, you can reach out to a loved one, talk about how you’re feeling to your friends, clergy, or a medical provider, or reach out to a mental health professional. If you see these warning signs in someone else, you can help them by listening attentively and without judgment, trying to understand where they are coming from; sharing your concerns about their behavior, mood, appearance, etc., and ask questions about the changes you observe; you can also encourage them to reach out to someone or tell a family member.
If you or someone you know wants to talk to someone, but feels uncomfortable reaching out to family or someone in the community, the Farm and Rural Helpline is free, confidential, and available 24/7 by calling (833) 600-2670.
In times of high stress, it’s important for the farming community to come together to help one another. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you are concerned about a family member, friend, or neighbor. If you don’t feel like yourself, it’s okay. Help is available.
If you have any questions about farm stress or farmer mental health, feel free to call me at the Stearns County Extension Office at (320) 255-6169, ext. 3.