Individuals engaged in agriculture are more prone than the general population to react strongly to perceived threats — and anything that endangers a farmer's economic well-being and capacity to continue farming is usually perceived as a threat and causes added stress. (Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)
An intersection of farm, physical and mental health
August 3, 2020 | Lauren Houska
You can’t avoid farm stress, but you can manage it. Whether you need help managing stress or you know someone else who needs support, we've collected resources here to help you find the information or professional you need.
Sometimes, it's the little things. During busy seasons, long hours in the tractor or truck are unavoidable, which can leave you feeling uncomfortable and irritable.
- Try these six stretches from Alison Hartman, Physical Therapist with Pro-Activity, to stretch out the stress and fuel your safe and productive harvest season here.
- Check out Live Healthy Iowa for challenges you can take part in to get you moving and shaking off the stress.
Fuel yourself like you fuel your truck, tractor or combine.
- Check out the Iowa Food & Family Project to find recipes for meals or snacks that fill you up and keep you satisfied, rather than crashing from a sugar high later.
- This Farm Girl Cooks also offers a range of nutritious, handheld meals for farm families on the go.
Need someone to talk to about financial, legal, family or other stress? Know someone who might? The 24/7 Iowa Concern Hotline (1-800-447-1985) is free of charge and confidential. It was created in the 1980s to help producers through the farm crisis but now offers a wide range of services, including language interpretation. Dial 711 for TTY/TDD.
"It’s just like an illness," says Minnesota soybean farmer Bob Worth. "Like the flu or anything else. There are tools out there to help. The main thing is you have to talk about it; otherwise, things will escalate. There's no shame in getting the help you need." Read more about Bob's experience.
"How should we respond, not only to our own stress, but to the stress being felt by those around us?" asks South Dakota soybean farmer Brandon Wipf. "How can we be anchors for our communities in these tough times, even as we ourselves are badly impacted by what is happening? Here are some tips that work for me." Read more about Brandon's experience.
"It has been over three years since the day that Keith died by his own hand," says says Minnesota soybean farmer Theresia Gillie. "The day he died by suicide. So many people want my farm to succeed even though Keith is gone; I have gotten and continue to feel love from near and far every day. I would like to share what it has been like for me these three years and how I am doing now." Learn more about Theresia's experience.
Iowa Farm Bureau put together a 3-part Spokesman Speaks podcast series on managing farm stress in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, featuring Dr. Larry Tranel (a pastoral psychologist who has spent more than 30 years working with farm families).
- Identifying unhealthy stress and how to manage it
- Making effective business decisions and communicating, despite stress
- Managing stress as a family.
The Ag State of Mind: Jason Medows didn’t set out to be a podcaster. He just liked to listen to them. A pharmacist and a farmer, he took a special interest when his favorite agricultural podcasts discussed mental health, but those episodes were few and far between. So, he decided he would try recording his own podcast. It turns out, there were plenty of people that wanted to listen. “I’ve been surprised by the interest. Every time I talk to someone, they refer me to two more people to talk to.” The Ag State of Mind is focused on combating the mental health crisis in agriculture delving into hard to talk about topics such as depression, anxiety, and suicide. Learn more & listen here.
Additional Reading & Resources
Know of a resource that should be on this list? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org so your fellow farmers and rural Iowans can benefit from it.