Owning a farm or other business is much more than a way to make a living, it is also a way of life. Everyone involved in business knows that there are occasionally some very stressful times. During busy seasons or critical production periods it is normal to be faced with time constraints and work pressures. If you are also faced with major financial issues, these pressures can be multiplied many times over.

Unfortunately, these demands can, at times, put everyone involved in the business under a great deal of pressure. With so many potential challenges in a business (many of which are out of our control), it is important to identify practical ways of coping.

However, before being able to cope with stress, it is critical to be able to recognize it in yourself and in others. By identifying it, you can then try to take some action to reduce it using some of the techniques outlined here. Admitting you are worried and stressed about family or business isn’t a sign of weakness. Admitting it is the first step towards solving it.

Signs of Stress
Stress manifests itself in different ways in different people. Below are some of the common signs. However, it should be noted that these are just common ones; it is not meant to be a comprehensive list. Based upon “Making the Most of Your Stress” by Lera Ryan, it is possible to organize the signs into four categories.

Physical signs include: 
– Insomnia
– Fatigue
– Eating too much or too little
– Excessive drinking
– Excessive smoking
– Stomach cramps
– Child/spouse abuse
– High blood pressure
– Teeth grinding
– Diarrhea/constipation
– Head/back/neck pain
Emotional indicators could be 
– Frustration
– Anger
– Bitterness
– Shouting/screaming
– Crying
– Withdrawal
– Depression
– Guilt
– Nervousness
– Mood swings
– Worrying
Behavioural indicators might be: 
– Resentment
– “Using” people
– Irregular personal care
– Isolation
– Active protesting
– Staying in bed all day
Psychological signs could include 
– Negative attitude
– Feeling worthless
– Feeling a failure
– Afraid of people
– Hopelessness
– Forgetfulness

Techniques to Reduce Stress
There are many techniques to cope and reduce stress. For the most part, they are “common sense.” However, when stressed, individuals are unable to think clearly and these methods are often not apparent.

  • Some ways to reduce stress include:
  • Eat regular, balanced meals and get regular exercise — generally try to stay healthy. A healthy, fit person handles stress better tan someone who is tired and sick.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Work off your anger. Anger management is a book by itself. However, the pent-up energy resulting from anger is better used to handle a chore, such as cleaning up or weeding the garden.
  • Later, after the initial anger, try to formulate your anger into words. Pinpointing the real feelings that led to the anger will help resole not only the immediate difficulty, but other problems as well.
  • Take time to relax and do something fun to get your mind off things. Many people drive themselves so hard that they allow themselves too little time for recreation – an essential for good physical and mental health.
  • Keep a positive attitude and always look for the bright side.
  • Laughter is good medicine — look for the humour in everything you do.
  • Get away for a little while from the business and/or anything else stressing you. Whatever the pressures, don’t make the mistake of being a martyr. A person who stands there and suffers is actually indulging in a form of self-punishment. Escape activities shouldn’t be as stressful as work. Keep it simple.
  • Talk to a close friend about your concerns.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself and rejoice in your accomplishments.
  • Take one thing at a time. For people under tension, an ordinary workload can sometimes seem unbearable. When this happens, remember that it is temporary and you can work your way out of it.
  • Take a few of the most urgent tasks and pitch into them, one at a time, setting aside all the rest for the time being.
  • Seek professional advice. There may be certain times when professional advice is needed. Unfortunately, some may feel the community is looking down upon them if they seek this help. Chances are other members of the community may envy these people because they have the “guts” to admit they have a problem and need professional help.

Developing a Support Network
Sometimes it is difficult to reach out and ask for help, especially if your finances are the core issue (they are very private). We often think we can make it on our own even through the worst situations. Here are some ways to identify and build supports around you and your family at this time.

  • Talk to your family. Families are the best source of support. Sharing ideas, concerns and working out solutions together is important.
  • If you and your spouse/partner feel you need a break, invite friends and neighbors in for an informal gathering. For a little while, it is an opportunity to take your mind off your worries.
  • If you and your spouse/partner feel you cannot handle a situation alone and need to talk to someone outside the family, and your circle of friends, there are community agencies and stress lines that can help you discuss issues and find the assistance you need.

It is important to realize that not everyone sees a situation the same way. What is stressful to one person may not be for another. Everyone has their own past experiences that influence how they look at and deal with situations. Individuals must be sensitive to this reality and try to understand others’ reactions.

Furthermore, there are times when professional help may be required. It is then critical to recognize that if the stress reduction techniques discussed here do not work, it is time to consider professional advice.

It is useful to remember that most stressful situations will pass. Although, it is very hard at the time, focus on the good and enjoyable times.

Source: Factsheet: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, September 1999. 
Written by Peter H. Coughler 

Categories: Stress