AMES, Iowa -- Recognizing the many ways that stress impacts dairy farmers and the farming industry at large, dairy specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach have recently published a series of nearly a dozen publications related to farm stress.
The publications cover the varying levels of stress, how to prevent and cope with stress, and how to respond after stressful things happen.
Larry Tranel, dairy specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach, said stress is common for farmers and is a natural part of life. But when the farm community is ill prepared or does not know how to respond, stress can turn into distress and grief — and the consequences become even greater.
“Stress definitely encourages both arousal and higher performance, but it gets to a point where it can stretch too far, just like a rubber band, and when stretched too far, it can break into trauma, exhaustion and even grief.”
Tranel said the publications can be broken down into two basic subsets: identifying and understanding stress, and learning how to become more resilient to stress and develop a mindset that can respond to stress.
The publications strive to cover all facets of life, including family, financial and relational stress, and there are publications that are unique to men, women and children.
Tranel became a pastoral psychologist in 2008, not thinking someday it might benefit his dairy specialist position. That changed in 2019 with the realization of the mental health concerns of many of his dairy clients. The poor prices of the past five years lasted longer than many could cope with.
“I’ve never experienced stress levels so high,” he said. “For some, stress that was natural turned into grief and distress, many had to leave dairying, and I decided that more needed to be done to help.”
Tranel combined his knowledge of dairy with his knowledge of psychology, helping to research and author the publications, and gain the support from his dairy team colleagues.
Along with Tranel, the publications were written with the support of dairy specialists Fred Hall and Jenn Bentley.
“The overall goal was to help farmers better face their stress and think through their stress,” said Tranel. “If we aren’t prepared to do this, the emotions in our protective mindset can overtake our best behaviors.”
The following farm stress publications are available:
- Farm and Market Reality, Stress and Grief.
- PRIMER for Farm Stress Resiliency.
- Keys When "Married" to Farm Stress - Great Marriage Communication for the Both of You.
- From One "Dairy Girl" to the Next - Taking Care of YOU in Turbulent Times.
- Helping Farm Men Under Crisis.
- Farm Youth Stress and Challenges - What Do You Tell the Kids?
- Good Grief -- We Just Lost -- Dealing with Farm and Family Loss.
- Mindset Tactics for Happiness, Brain Health and Behavioral Well-Being.
- Mitigating Farm Distress -- Mindfulness Over Emotions.
- Destressing Farm Relationships -- Intentional Attitudinal Behaviors.
- Fixes for Brain and Behavioral Health -- 30 Key Tools in the Farmer's Mental Health Toolbox.
- Understanding Farm Personalities: Why We Act as We Do.
Photo credit: Farm couple, by Jessica Rockowitz on Unsplash.