Owning and operating any business is a lifestyle that most will admit they enjoy despite how stressful and challenging it can be.

Farming is an especially stressful yet rewarding business to operate. Farmers do not spend much time reflecting on stress; they continue managing day-to-day activities while planning for future needs.

This might include an opportunity to acquire additional land or an additional enterprise, making adjustments after losing an opportunity to farm a number of acres, managing debt service, or considering if it’s economically possible to add another employee or farming partner. These can all be stressful decisions.

Farming is a stressful occupation, no matter how much equity you have accumulated. Property assets, no matter how valuable, only become cash when they are sold. This leaves narrow family living allowances in economic times like we are currently encountering.

Lately, there has been attention to the risk of allowing stress to become a major issue in the life of a farmer. More people are beginning to recognize that the factors above, in addition to personal issues such as family or physical health, are causing stress to be a constant burden in their lives.

Stress is a normal emotional response to daily life. The results vary in intensity from a bad mood to a complicated illness. The key is to keep it in check because chronic stress can lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, increased blood sugar, and a decrease in the ability to fight infection.

Stress increases a reactive protein called cortisol. Cortisol is nature’s built-in alarm system; it works in the brain to control mood, motivation, and fear. It also manages how the body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

It keeps inflammation down, regulates blood sugar, controls your sleep and wake cycle, and boosts energy to overcome stress. Cortisol is a wonderful mechanism in moderation, but prolonged stress leads to prolonged cortisol release which leads to metabolic syndrome, the factors that lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Research conducted to determine what causes stress in people indicated that 95% of what they worried about never happened. Think about that and you may find it to be true in most of the things that worry you. So how can you lower stress? There are several scientifically proven methods. The first is to identify the sources of stress in your life. Are weather, cash flow, and labor some of the largest stressors in your life? Are personal stressors such as health, family challenges, or debt affecting your business decisions? Do not mentally combine these stresses into one overwhelming obstacle.

Address each individually, allowing them to be manageable. Seek help in addressing problems when possible, and find ways to relax. Start each morning by thinking of one positive thing, and stretch before breakfast and bed.

It will make you feel better. Laughter may actually be the best medicine as it releases chemicals to improve your mood and health. Exercising your faith through prayer is very worthwhile. It is okay to turn off the TV, computer, and phone before bed and then focus on one restful thing. Practicing slow, deep breathing when angry can help lower your stress.

Ways to protect yourself from stress include watching for warning signs such as irritability, sleeplessness, or appetite loss. Plan ahead by replacing or fixing equipment during the winter months. Determine who will do everyday chores before the stressful season starts. Use your time efficiently and focus on one thing at a time.

Say no to extra activities during busy times. Spend enjoyable time with your family. Share your feelings and sort out problems together to reduce worry.

This article is certainly outside my routine of agricultural production and economic related topics. The reality is this is a situation every person encounters from time to time and for some, it might seem constant. One of the benefits of farming near Owensboro is convenient access to health care that can help individuals deal with stress, anxiety, or depression. The first step is recognizing the challenge and choosing to do something about it.

Upcoming Events

The National Farm Machinery Show is happening this week in Louisville at the Kentucky Exposition Center from Wednesday, Feb. 12, through Saturday, Feb. 15. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily EST.

Don Wilkins, dwilkins @messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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