Healthy Stress vs Unhealthy Stress
As any farmer or rancher knows, life in agriculture is often stressful. We love what we do, but the hours are long, the workload heavy, and much of the day-to-day – from commodity prices to weather – is out of our control. The constant demands of running a farm or ranch combined with the inherent unpredictability of agricultural life can result in a feeling of being chronically stressed.
Yet, despite the negative connotations stress has earned over the years, all stress is not created equal. Recognizing the difference between healthy stress and unhealthy stress is an excellent first step in learning to manage overall stress levels.
Healthy stress is short-term. It motivates you to take needed action, but once action is taken the stress passes and you feel a sense of relief. Say you’re out working a pasture and your bull decides to charge. That’s stressful! The stress response is what gets you up and over the fence to safety. Similarly, but in a less dramatic fashion, if you’ve been putting off a needed tractor repair, but are beginning to feel anxious because planting season is coming, the stress of that looming task motivates you to make the repair happen.
Unhealthy stress, however, wears you down. It doesn’t pass, but feels like a constant, overwhelming presence. Unhealthy stress may cause irritability, depression, or even physical pain like headaches or stomachaches. It often is a result of long-term issues that don’t have an easy solution: financial strain, chronic illness, or traumatic events.
So, how does one deal with unhealthy stress? Here are three suggestions to start with:
Get off the farm or ranch.
It’s counterintuitive, but removing oneself from the situation or location causing the stress works wonders in gaining a fresh perspective. Go do something you enjoy and allow your brain and body to reset.
Take one small step to address the issue.
What’s the primary cause of the chronic stress you’re feeling? Is it financial hardship? Maybe schedule an informational appointment with a financial advisor. Is it an injury making it hard to work? Commit to actually doing the physical therapy the doctor assigned. Chronic stress is compounded by feelings of powerlessness. Taking a small step in the direction of seeking a solution can greatly improve one’s outlook.
Talk to someone who gets it.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a therapist, though that’s an excellent resource if you’re comfortable seeking one out. Who do you know who has been through something similar? Who do you find you simply enjoy spending time with? Grab a coffee and commiserate. Ask for their perspective. See what viewpoint someone unrelated to the stressful situation may bring.
Healthy stress is an integral part of daily life, but when healthy stress turns into unhealthy stress, it wreaks havoc on one’s well-being and mental and physical health. Taking steps to keep stress in check is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle allowing us to farm and ranch for years to come.