Living and working in rural Australia can be very rewarding. However, farming can also be stressful. There are the everyday issues of family life, balancing budgets, planning for the future and keeping up with developments in your area of farming. The added pressures of managing a farm during difficult times like extreme climatic events, market fluctuations or natural disaster can sometimes seem overwhelming. Social isolation and working long, irregular hours can make this harder to cope with.
Keeping yourself in a fit state to enjoy the good times is very important. Keeping yourself fit to weather the difficult times is even more important. A small amount of stress can help keep us motivated. However, persistent stress can have a negative impact on both your physical and mental wellbeing.
Different people respond differently to potentially stressful situations. Be aware of some of the common effects of stress to watch out for in yourself and others:
- Poor sleep or sleeping more than usual
- Poor concentration, irritability, and anger
- Increased drinking or smoking
- Poor decision making, avoiding making decisions or forgetfulness
- Changed appetite, not feeling well or nervousness
- Feel like you are at the end of your tether
If you see or feel these signs, take notice and take action.
Some simple tips to help get you through tough times:
- Eat healthy, nutritious food
- Get adequate sleep and have a regular sleep routine
- Keep physically active
- Make time to get away from the farm
- Find things to laugh about
- Allow yourself time to do something you enjoy
- Keep socially connected
These are things that we often forget when we are feeling stressed, but they are the very things that can help us get through a stressful period.
Some tips for managing stressful times in your farming business:
- Make a list of people and services you can call on for information and assistance
- Break large tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks which you can then prioritise in order of importance
- Keep the lines of communication open—schedule regular farm business meetings and don’t avoid making decisions
- Celebrate and reward success, even small wins should be acknowledged
- Keep in touch with farming groups and industry networks—they are sources of information and social contact
- Schedule time away from the farm—taking a break gives you fresh perspective, renewed energy and improved decision-making power.
You need to talk about it
While we know people in rural farming communities are very willing to volunteer help to others, many farmers, who are used to working things out for themselves, don’t want to share their problems. However, it’s really important that you talk to family, trusted friends or a health professional about issues that are upsetting, stressful or difficult. You may be helping someone else as well if you open up and say how you feel. Don’t give up if you find it tricky to find support that suits you—there is never a one-size-fits-all solution. Keep trying until you find what works for you.
Find out more about this topic on Better Health Channel
References used for this topic page
National Centre for Farmer Health Support Page
Managing Stress on the Farm—booklet download
Better Health Channel
Research & reviews:
The Journal of Remote Health
Alcohol Consumption, Obesity and Psychological Distress in Farming Communities – An Australian Study
Medical Journal of Australia
Last updated: 27th April, 2020