New Wellness Resources for Farm and Ranch Families

Photo of a farmer in contemplation in a field

New Wellness Resources for Farm and Ranch Families

Agriculture is a stressful occupation and while it provides numerous rewards, it does not come without challenges. Too much stress can contribute to health issues and make us more accident prone.

This week Nebraska Extension Educators Glennis McClure and Brandy VanDeWalle presented a webinar on the stresses faced in everyone's daily life, and especially the lives of farmers and ranchers.

The National Center for Farmer Health points out that stress is the human response to any change that is perceived as a challenge or a threat. Changes that cause worry, frustration or upheaval and seem beyond our control can cause stress. An example that hits close to home for Nebraska farmers and ranchers is the recent weather-related disasters. Attitudes, perceptions, and meanings that people assign to events determine a large part of one’s stress levels.

There are many symptoms of stress that impact our body, mind, and actions. For example, physical symptoms might include nausea, shortness of breath, shaky legs, headaches, and fatigue. When under stress, some people may experience moodiness, frustration, anger, loneliness, anxiety or depression, and even suicidal thoughts. Sleeping too much or too little, increased use of alcohol or drugs, withdrawal from others, and exhibiting nervous behaviors are all examples of how our actions might change when stressed. 

The good news is there are many ways to reduce stress. Susan Harris-Broomfield, Nebraska extension educator, compiled a list:

  • Exercise ½ hour a day every day or every other day.
  • Get enough sleep to meet the demands of your body.
  • Accept that stress is a part of life and don't dwell on it.
  • Learn to relax (try taking deep breaths to relax).
  • Balance work and family time.
  • Connect with sources of support.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Talk with a friend or counselor.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Reaching Out

If you recognize someone in distress, express your concern to them and ask about their situation. Do this in a non-judgmental way and actively listen to them. People in distress might turn to suicide. A majority of people who attempt suicide have given a clue or warning to someone. Don’t ignore indirect references to death or suicide. In fact it is a myth that talking about suicide with someone may give them the idea to carry it out. Asking someone about potential suicidal thoughts they may have or discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do for someone who is suicidal. If someone indicates they are thinking of suicide, do not leave them alone. Call for help and/or take them to a hospital or health care provider. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This hotline can be accessed day or night.

In keeping with the #NebraskaStrong hashtag used in social media this spring, remember to be strong, seek help as needed, and assist others who may need help. In Nebraska, the Rural Response Hotline at 1-800-464-0258 is available to provide assistance. When a farmer, rancher, or rural resident calls the hotline and requests help with stress related issues, they are connected to an experienced staff person who is trained to help through the Counseling, Outreach and Mental Health Therapy program. Staff members work with individuals over the phone or in their home, providing confidential information and assistance.

A recording of the webinar is available online and additional resources utilized for this program are available at https://go.unl.edu/wellnessintoughtimes.  More resources, especially disaster-related resources, can be accessed at Nebraska Extension's flood.unl.edu website.

For more information, contact Brandy VanDeWalle at brandy.vandewalle@unl.edu or (402) 759-3712 or Glennis McClure at gmcclure3@unl.edu or (402) 472-0661.

Dates and locations for a separate workshop, Communicating with Farmers Under Stress, are being scheduled across Nebraska now.  This program is available to agribusiness professionals and service providers working with farmers and ranchers.  For more information on this workshop contact Susan Harris-Broomfield at susan.harris@unl.edu.