|“Chronic farm stress can weaken a person’s spirit, appetite, physical stamina, focus, relationships, decision-making ability and dampen happiness and satisfaction in time. Life skills can help deal with it.”
Perception is heavily related to the image or picture we have in our minds of whatever situation, coupled with any meaning or attitude attached to that image or picture. An occurrence might happen to two people and one might very positively perceive it and the other very negatively with a wide range of other “perceptions” in between.
Reality is a sum of a person’s internal capacity and external environment to understand the situation surrounding stress or a crisis event. Some situations take families by surprise or are beyond their control. If life events come too soon, are delayed or fail to materialize, the health, happiness, and well-being may be affected (Schlossberg, et. al., 1996). Intensified emotionality and/or behavioral disorganization in families and their members are likely to occur as a result (Toberto, 1991). Another crucial variable in dealing with the unexpected is family development and environmental fit (Eccles et. al., 1993).
Identify emotions of stress related circumstances. Emotions are often so intertwined and often mangled that identifying the underlying causes or emotion is not easy. For instance, an exhibit of anger, a secondary emotion, often is expressed due to another emotion. Anxiety and depression often have a root cause. Once we realize our perception and the reality of the situation, we look inward to identify causes so as not to transfer negative emotions to or onto others.
Manage through stress knowing all situations have some hope, alternatives or options. Identify what can be controlled and accept what is beyond control without blaming oneself. Understand that lack of clarity of future can induce stress as it brings worry, confusion, conflict and even shame (Boss). Assess stress symptoms–heart rate, shallow breathing, headaches, anxiety, outbursts, lack of focus and hope to name a few—to know stress levels.
Extend oneself to others as social isolation and loneliness can further add to stress. Those in family environments are best helped by family members, but introverted males often do not extend their thoughts and feelings readily to allow for healthy family support. Guilt, shame and social stigma often inhibit extending to others for help, as well.
Resources are important in life. Families that are able to make positive meaning of their stressors and use effective coping strategies as well as internal and external resources are more likely to adapt as well (Xu, 2007). This applies to individuals, too! Internal resources and coping strategies were shared in previous sections. External resource needs tend to focus on things that help develop skills in:
1) Interpersonal Communication—everyone has their own beliefs, feelings, needs and agenda to be shared. Knowing healthy/ideal versus unhealthy/common behaviors can separate success and failure in overcoming stress/conflict.
2) Family and Community Support—immediate and intergenerational families, and intertwined communities can be a source of both stress and strength—attend to self- help and other resources, and other people’s needs as family and community support is a two-way street.
3) Problem Solving Techniques—use processes to: define the problem/stress; consider pros and cons to alternatives; select a plan; take action steps; identify resources; and use group/family meetings. Be “proactive” in problem solving.
4) Goal Setting—Make them SMART—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Based.
For more information on farm stress and management please visit the following links or contact your local extension office.
• Helping Farmers Cope with Stress
• Farming: America’s Most Stressful Job?
• Agricultural Producers and Stress: When Do You Need a Counselor