Learn to manage farming-related stress

It is important to know how to manage stress levels and to reduce the effects of unwanted stress to avoid accidents.

Farming is a very stressful occupation. It ranks in the top ten most stressful occupations in the United States.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently examined 130 occupations and found laborers and farm owners had the highest rate of deaths due to stress-related conditions like heart and artery disease, hypertension, ulcers and nervous disorder. It is important to know how to manage stress levels and to reduce the effects of unwanted stress. Too much stress can make a person more accident-prone. This is why it is important to identify common stressors, recognize the symptoms of stress and manage stress. By doing these three things, you will make the work place safer.

Stress is an normal emotional response to the demands of life.  Everyone experiences it, and the results vary in intensity from being in a foul mood to more complicated illnesses.  In fact, it is estimated by Family Development Resources, Inc. that 75 percent to 90 percent of all illnesses are stress related.

Common stressors in farm families in particular could be:

  • Weather
  • Large debt loads
  • Government regulations
  • High interest rates
  • Machinery breakdowns
  • Livestock illnesses or problems
  • Long hours
  • Crop yield
  • Disagreements within farm families, partnerships or LLC’s

When responsibilities start to pile up on top of each other, farm life can be very stressful. To prevent this from happening, people need to recognize the symptoms of stress and then manage the stress.

Symptoms of stress:


  • Headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Rising blood pressure
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Clenched teeth

Emotional symptoms:

  • Impatience
  • Yelling more
  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • Angry blow ups
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Low self-esteem

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Increase in smoking or drinking
  • Trouble adapting to change
  • Hard to relax or sleep
  • Communication problems
  • Verbal or physical abuse
  • Sarcastic arguments

Manage stress:

The biggest hurdle is identifying where your symptoms of stress come from. Once your symptoms are identified you must learn to manage the stress because the body’s reaction to stress can have serious implications to your health.

  • Plan ahead. Replace worn out machinery or fix them during the winter months.
  • Plan to use your time efficiently.
  • Prior to stressful seasons, such as planting and harvesting, determine who will do the everyday chores.
  • Learn to say “no” to the extra things during the busy times.
  • Change the “I can’t” to “I can” or “this will get better.”
  • Spend time with your family.

Accepting that stress is part of life is a common reaction to it, but the steps you take to curb it can determine how stressful you feel.

There are RELAX-Alternatives to Anger classes offered throughout the state of Michigan; these courses teach participants to manage anger and stress constructively. To find a class near you, visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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