Farm life can be full of hidden stresses
Don't underestimate the impact of mental strain
The farm enterprise is more than just a business. Unlike a typical business premises, there is no pulling down the shutters, turning on the security alarm and heading off home for a nice quiet evening. Farming is a 24/7, 365-days-of-the-year job that requires careful time management.
In addition, many factors in farm life are beyond the farmer's control, ie the weather, machinery breakdowns, market prices and so on. Add in all the other variables, like family pressures, age and fitness, and there is clearly a risk for stress, and this needs to be managed for good health and well-being.
The most basic definition of stress is "physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension". Another popular definition is "a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilise."
In a new publication, Manage and Reduce Stress Mental Health Ireland (www.mentalhealthireland.ie) define stress as a feeling of being under abnormal pressure, whether it is an increased workload, an argument with a family member, or financial worries.
The long hours culture associated with farming can impact on the farm family and may not allow for adequate time to relax and recuperate from the physical demands of farming. Lack of regular sleep and tiredness are associated with these working patterns which can be exacerbated by worries about farm incomes and security.
Stress affects us in a number of ways, both physically and emotionally, and in varying intensities.
While research has shown that some stress can be positive, making us more alert and helping us perform better in certain situations, stress is only healthy if it is short-lived.
Unfortunately, excessive or prolonged stress can lead to debilitating illnesses such as heart disease and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.