Missouri Dairy Business Update Commercial Agriculture
Volume 3, Number 7
July 2003

Stress Relief- Not Just for Cows!

From watching Missouri dairymen over the years, I can tell you that it isn't only cows that get stressed out from the summer heat! By August, the following scenario is commonly unfolding on dairy farms here:

  • milk production has usually dropped
  • lots of cows are dry
  • the milk check price hasn't caught up with the promised better prices yet
  • accounts payable from putting out crops are more than 60 days past due
  • and folks are getting just plain tired of the heat, flies, and health problems of summer.

If this sounds depressingly familiar, just remember lots of other folks are in the same boat. Cooler weather and better milk prices are on the way. If stress relief is good for cows, maybe it would help you too! You may want to read this article I clipped from the Arkansas June Dairy Digest.


Farmers and Stress
By Russ Kennedy, Ph. D, MBA, MPH & former farmer

Farmers except stress as part of daily life and most do little to cope with it consciously. You may feel physical stress, which is the result of too much to do, not enough sleep, a poor diet or the effects of an illness. Stress can also be mental: when you worry about money, a loved one's illness, or retirement.

However, much of our stress comes from less dramatic everyday responsibilities. Obligations and pressures that are both physical and mental are not always obvious to us. In response to these daily strains your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to you muscles. This response is intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation but constant stress can threaten your health and well-being. There are ways to reduce unwanted stress or manage it productively.

Be realistic. If you feel overwhelmed by some activities (yours and/or your family's), learn to say NO! Eliminate an activity that is not absolutely necessary. You may be taking on more responsibility than you can or should handle. Be willing to listen to other's suggestions and be ready to compromise.

Shed the "superman/superwoman" urge. No one is perfect; so don't expect perfection from yourself or others. Ask yourself, "What really needs to be done?" How much can I do? Is the deadline realistic? What adjustments can I make?" Don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

Meditate. Just ten to twenty minutes of quiet reflection may bring relief from chronic stress as well as increase your tolerance to it. Use the time to listen to music, relax and try to think of pleasant things or nothing.

Visualize. Use your imagination and picture how you can manage a stressful situation more successfully. Whether it's a farm problem or visiting with your banker, many people feel visual rehearsals boost self-confidence and enable them to take a more positive approach to a difficult task.

Take one thing at a time. For people under tension or stress, an ordinary workload can sometimes seem unbearable. The best way to cope with this feeling of being overwhelmed is to take one task at a time. Pick one urgent task and work on it. Once you accomplish that task, choose the next one. The positive feeling of "checking off" tasks is very satisfying. It will motivate you to keep going.

Exercise. Regular exercise is a popular way to relieve stress. Twenty to thirty minutes of physical activity benefits both the body and the mind.

Hobbies. Take a break from your worries by doing something you enjoy. Whether it's gardening or painting, schedules time to indulge your interest.

Healthy life style. Good nutrition makes a difference. Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol (alcohol actually disturbs regular sleep patterns), get adequate rest, exercise, and balance work and play.

Share your feelings. A conversation with a friend lets you know that you are not the only one having a bad day, coping with low prices or production problems. Stay in touch with friends and family. Let them provide love, support and guidance. Don't try to cope alone.

Give in occasionally. Be flexible! If you find you're meeting constant opposition in either your personal or professional life, rethink your position or strategy. Arguing only intensifies stressful feelings. If you know you are right, stand your ground, but do so calmly and rationally. Make allowances for other's opinions and be prepared to compromise. If you are willing to give in, others may meet you halfway. Not only will you reduce your stress, you may find better solutions to your problems.

Go easy with criticism. You may expect too much of yourself and others. Try not to feel frustrated, let down, disappointed or even "trapped" when another person does not measure up. The "other person" may be a wife, a husband, or child whom you are trying to change to suit yourself. Remember, everyone is unique, and has his or her own virtues, shortcomings, and right to develop as an individual.


[ Back to Missouri Dairy Business Update Index ]

AgEBB | Dairy Focus Team | Dairy Publications