Managing Farm Stress
Topics Discussed in this Video:
- Introduction, Influences, Degrees and Consequences of Stress
- Pressure Buildup in Oklahoma
- Farm Stress
- Farmers and Suicide
- Community Support
Mr. Jordan Shuler introduces a way of understanding the stress that farmers experience in the state of Oklahoma and offers a handful of suggestions for how farmers or those who interact with farm families can manage the stress of farm life.
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What is “Stress”
Stress can be described as the experience of being under enough mental or emotional pressure that we feel distressed. The mental and emotional pressure that we feel regularly is considered stress when it pushes you to the point that it feels like it is overwhelming. The situations that end up being experienced as overwhelming by one person may feel manageable to another person depending on their own situations and the ways that they view the pressuring events. Because of this, each person and family may experience different levels of stress during similar events. The consequences of high levels of stress or extended stress range from sleep disruptions, immune system suppression, heart health, mood disturbances, and can even affect your ability to think things through logically.
Pressure in Oklahoma
Here are some of the situations in Oklahoma that may be adding pressure to the lives of Oklahomans:
- In 2019, almost 16% of Oklahomans were living in poverty, which roughly means making less than $25,500 a year for a family of four).
- Oklahoma ranks 9th in obesity in the U.S. with about 35% of adults in Oklahoma qualifying as obese.
- Some estimates show nearly 12% of Oklahomans as having substance abuse problem, putting Oklahoma ranked 2nd in the U.S.
- Oklahoma is also ranked 3rd in the nation for divorces, with more than 14,000 Oklahomans divorcing in 2018 alone.
- Finally, Oklahoma has higher than average tornado rates and higher than average drought conditions.
Stress on the Farm
For farmers in Oklahoma, the pressure they experience not only includes the situations that add pressure for people generally in the state, but added pressures of farm life which may leave farmers particularly vulnerable to high levels of stress. In fact, farming is considered to be among the most stressful and dangerous professions in the country. Economic conditions are unfavorable for farmers in Oklahoma and natural disasters often directly effect farmers’ livelihood. Furthermore, farming can be dangerous. Take, for example, tractors which are involved in nearly one out of every three of the high numbers of farm related deaths and accidents. Between the grueling daily routines, harsh economic conditions, and uncertainty commonly found in farm work, the pressure farmers experience is often very high. Possibly because of this, a major loss or disaster occurring on the farm or in farm families can push farmers from elevated stress into dangerous crisis.
Managing Farm Stress
Understanding what drives stress can also help us understand how to make a difference in how much stress we and our families experience. There are at least two important factors that determine how much stress we experience in a given situation that adds pressure to our regular routines. The first such factor is the resources we have available when pressuring events occur. Resources that affect our level of stress range from money and other financial resources we have available to the emotional and practical support we receive from friends and family when pressure builds. The second factor that makes a difference in how much stress we experience is how threatening the pressuring situation appears to us. For example, someone who works in an office may not think of a hailstorm as being very threatening to their income but for someone who works on a farm the same hailstorm may seem much more threatening and, therefore, more stressful. Many other events are less dramatically different in how threatening they are likely to appear from person to person. Knowing that situations that add pressure to our lives, the resources we have available to use, and the how threatening we see disruptive situations all influence how much stress we experience suggests three basic strategies to managing our levels of stress.
- Limit or remove situations that add pressure to our lives. Where possible, cutting out or lessening our involvement with situations that add pressure to our lives, is often the most direct way to manage stress. Of course, many situations that add pressure in farming life are either out of farmers control or are unavoidable.
- Increasing or using available resources. Reaching out and making meaningful contact with friends, family members, or faith leaders who can relate with your situation and offer meaningful support can lessen the pressure that disruptive circumstances puts on you or your family.
- Shifting perspective on pressuring situation. In some situations, actively challenging perceptions of disruptive events that focus on the worst possible outcomes or exaggerate the possible negative aspects of a situation can help lift some of the stress that people experience. Similarly, focusing on a positive element of a situation can also lessen the feeling of being overwhelmed by disruptive circumstances.
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- National Centers for Environmental Information (n.d.). U.S. tornado climatology: Average annual number of tornados. Retrieved from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/climate-information/extreme-events/us-tornado-climatology
- National Integrated Drought Information Systems. (n.d.). Drought in Oklahoma. Retrieved from https://www.drought.gov/drought/states/oklahoma
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- Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. (2020). Statistics and data. Retrieved from https://www.ok.gov/odmhsas/Additional_Information/Statistics_and_Data/#:~:text=Also%2C%20for%20rates%20of%20Any,in%20the%20nation%20at%2011.9%25.
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- State of Childhood Obesity. (n.d.). The state of obesity in Oklahoma. Retrieved from https://stateofchildhoodobesity.org/states/ok/
- Talk Poverty. (2020). Oklahoma report 2019. Retrieved from. https://talkpoverty.org/state-year-report/oklahoma-2019-report/
- United State Census Bureau. (2020). U.S. marriage and divorce rates by state. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/marriage-divorce-rates-by-state.html