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Stress prevention strategies

Don Tyler for Progressive Cattle Published on 25 January 2022
Preventing stress

Your friends and family are concerned about you, and so am I. There is a level of uncertainty in agriculture and nearly all businesses which exceeds anything we’ve seen or experienced in our lifetimes.

No one needs to remind us of the societal and business stresses all producers are facing at this unique point in time. “This too shall pass …” can be a comforting lament, but the duration of these challenges takes a toll.

Experienced counselors report that when people have gone through difficulties for a long period of time, they often say it was not the depth of the difficulty, but the duration. How long it lasted, not how bad it got. The longer a stressor exists, the more we need to take action to minimize negative effects on our health and well-being.

Stress starts small and continues to build if left unresolved. What was once a distraction that kept us from sleeping eventually becomes depression – and then a reduced will to do regular activities that should bring us satisfaction. Left untreated, the individual begins to spiral, and recovery faces greater levels of difficulty.

There have been many great articles written about the signs of significant stress and depression and how to get those individuals the help they need, so I won’t try to build on that excellent material. Instead, let’s focus on how to prevent the issue rather than waiting until there is a crisis. Consider this a discussion of how we can vaccinate ourselves against stress, rather than a type of treatment program.

Stress triggers

Let’s look at some common origins of stress:

  • Not being able to do quality work or finish a job due to conditions or time constraints
  • Unavoidable circumstances continuing to force changes in crucial plans
  • A loss of joy in doing daily activities
  • Conditions that continually undermine our sense of control
  • Situations that impact our ability to care for or address the needs of our family and employees
  • Ongoing unpredictability that continues to mount in additional areas of our life

Most people can manage two significant stressors at a time, but adding a third is typically more than they can handle. Significant stressors would include a serious medical issue, financial challenges, death of someone dear to us, loneliness, loss of esteem within the community, substance abuse or relationship challenges. Attempting to deal with three or more of these is a recipe for downward spiral.

Behaviors to avoid

To help prevent stress from continuing to build, avoid these behaviors:

  • Going without adequate sleep
  • Lacking a regular routine that keeps you focused on the most important areas of your life
  • Raising your voice as a typical response to situations and challenges
  • Consistently working too fast
  • Lengthy or consistent isolation
  • Shirking daily personal hygiene
  • Missing most family events and activities
  • Taking physical risks or short-cutting safety procedures
  • Increasing use of alcohol or medications to help cope
  • Chronic sacrifice of your personal well-being for small rewards

Stress reducers

Here are some activities you can regularly engage in to ease your stress:

  • Talk with people who understand your situation.
  • Regular physical intimacy and contact
  • Recreation and breaks away from the stressful environment
  • Prayer or meditation – especially in an outdoor or other comforting, calm environment
  • Hobbies that provide relaxation, personal development or happiness
  • Doing something for others

Interacting with animals or pets can also be very effective stress reducers. In fact, research shows that dairy producers who experience high-stress situations often report the most calming thing they do to help deal with their stress was to “… just go out and walk around with the cows.”

Action steps

Consider these strategies to help you or others prevent stress:

  • Do something for those in your family, especially something you know they personally enjoy.
  • Talk about what is stressful.
  • Get at least eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Form and stick to a consistent routine that ensures you accomplish important tasks such as handling basic paperwork, cleaning your work areas, eating at regular times, etc.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene. Everyone else in your life will appreciate this.
  • For a few minutes each day, do something just for fun.
  • Smile often, and make others smile.
  • Adjust your diet to be sure to eat healthy during the day – fruit drinks and snacks, protein, water, etc. For example, think about feeding an animal when you are trying to maximize their performance – what would you feed them?
  • Take a minute to talk to neighbors and friends when you see them.
  • Do self-improvement – read, exercise, journal, new experiences, etc.
  • Keep facilities and equipment neat and orderly.
  • Identify and celebrate your successes, even minor ones, with others on your team and in your family.

Of all these action steps, the two items of highest priority are getting adequate, quality sleep and establishing a consistent daily routine. Most people in stressful situations report only getting three or four hours of sleep. When they change their daily habits to get closer to eight hours of sleep, their depression and stress levels go down significantly or completely disappear. Forming a consistent routine gives them a sense of accomplishment each day and allows them to look around and see progress rather than signs of failure.

When your situation is difficult to deal with, you may feel these strategies are nearly impossible to do. That’s why it is important to use them as preventative measures rather than treatments. Initially, choose one or two from each category above, perhaps based on the input of your family, and do them for three weeks. They’ll see the difference, and it will encourage you to continue. end mark

Getty Images.

Don Tyler is owner of Tyler & Associates Executive and Management Coaching. For more information about this topic or as a trainer/speaker, he can be reached at (765) 490-0353, or email Don Tyler, or through his website at Tyler & Associates.

Don Tyler
  • Don Tyler

  • Founder
  • Tyler & Associates Management Coaching
  • Email Don Tyler

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