Stress on the farm is hard to avoid with the numerous challenges farmers have had to deal with in 2019. From the many weather challenges during the growing season to the various production risks producers faced because of this situation, this year was a stressful one for many in agriculture.

Long-term stress is bad for one’s health, both physically and emotionally. Those who are struggling with stress should not be ignored. However, there are actions and activities that can be taken to help reduce stress.


There are two types of stress, according to experts in a recent “Keep Stress Levels in Check on the Farm” webinar put on by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension. Glennis McClure, an UNL Extension educator, said eustress is good stress while distress is bad stress.

Eustress is short-lived, but it motivates people, improves performance and can give an individual a feeling of excitement. Receiving a work bonus, getting a promotion at work, or getting married are just a few examples of good stress.

Distress can be bad if the amount of time it is present is fairly long. Prolonged stress affects the body, mind and one’s actions, she said.

Stress can affect a body in various ways from muscle cramps to feeling sick, she said. It can affect the mind by making some people easily angered, exhausted or just not being able to concentrate.

McClure said people under stress act in many different ways, such as overeating, drinking, smoking, drug use, etc.

Chronic stress creates high levels of cortisol in the body, which increases blood cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure, which can cause heart disease, she said.

“Long-term stress can affect how the blood clots,” McClure said. “This makes the blood stickier and increases the risk of stroke.”


There are several things farmers can do to lessen the effects of stress, said Brandy VanDeWalle, a UNL Extension educator.

One practice would be to build gaps into the day to ensure you have time for a mental break. Another thing would be to become more assertive and perhaps to say no to events and activities that add to your already full schedule, she said.

Other practices to lessen stress would be learning to take some time off, getting some exercise during the course of the day and having someone to talk to.

“This could be a family member or a friend to talk to or maybe this could even being journaling,” VanDeWalle said.

In addition, VanDeWalle said an Ohio State University website lists various stress-reducing activities and actions. This list included eating a well-balanced diet, exercising a half hour a day, getting enough sleep, not dwelling on stress, managing time efficiently, setting realistic goals, learning to relax and separating work and family time.

Those who are under stress need to cultivate a productive mindset, McClure said.

Utilizing self-talk can help in this process. Choose three words to help maintain a positive mindset, she said.

“I would choose calm, capable and controlled,” McClure said.

Other practices to maintaining a productive mindset would be the use of breathing and use of acceptance, McClure said. Deep breathing would give you a time to pause and accept your situation and then begin working on a solution to your problems, she said.


Everyone handles stress differently, therefore, some people do not handle stress as well as others. If you come across someone in distress there are things to do to help this person, according to McClure.

Once you recognize signs of distress, you need to express your concerns to the person and ask about their situation, she said. If they express suicidal thoughts you need to take action immediately.

“Any suicidal talk or behavior must be treated as serious and do not leave the person alone,” McClure said.

Many people believe if you ask someone about suicide this puts the thought into the person’s mind. This is a myth and talking about it does not increase the chances of it happening, she said.

There are many resources available for those in distress including:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Nebraska Family Helpline 1-888-866-8660

Nebraska Rural Response Hotline 1-800-464-0258

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 1-800-985-5990

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension has launched a new website for rural wellness at:…

In addition, UNL Extension also contributes on a new Nebraska Rural Youth Suicide Prevention Campaign at:…

Russ Quinn can be reached at

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Source: Russ Quinn, DTN