The problem with stress is that while you’re in the thick of things, it can seem like there’s no end in sight. While a certain amount of stress is to be expected in the busy season of spring and fall on the farm, too much stress or not dealing with chronic stress can have both short- and long-term serious consequences. To the good, there are some small, key steps you can take to better manage stress.
Leanna Santangelo, a masters of counselling therapist based in Alberta, says that everyone experiences stress differently, but it’s common for those under extreme stress to experience lost sleep, either a marked loss or increase in appetite, and a major change in their ability to socialize and interact with people.
One of the keys to managing stress is first identifying that perhaps you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms and not doing well. “A self check-in is really the first step,” Santangelo says. If you notice a change in someone else’s behaviour, perhaps, or if you’ve noticed you’re not eating well, are easily irritated, and are feeling disconnected from those around you, it might be time to asses your stress level.
To better manage stress, Santangelo says that physically changing your perspective — either by going to visit grandkids, going to town for coffee with a friend, or putting on music and busying yourself with housework — can all be the biological shift your body needs to start to manage stress. Finding a small way to unwind, even if for a short time, can change your perspective enough to think a little more clearly.
“You can be stressed, it’s allowed,” she says, and it’s important to give yourself and the people in your life the space to de-stress. Maybe that is skeet shooting with buddies, or going to yoga, or a swim, or axe throwing — a planned activity away from the farm can be that space to take a breath, or 10, to start bringing that stress level down a notch.
And while no one likes to be told what to do, Santangelo says that stress impacts our mental health and well being, of course, but chronic stress also has a huge impact on our heart health and our gastro-intestinal health. Lost sleep increases our risk factors for other disease, too. So while we know harvest is a stressful time, if your stress level never seems to let up, what are you going to do to make sure you’re going to be OK now and also three, six, 12 months from now? Santangelo says it’s just so important to look ahead to address some chronic stress issues, those that come up every year, for your long-term well being and physical health.
Listen to Leanna Santangelo’s full discussion here: