Reducing stress important for maintaining successful business
“Farming and ranching is one of the top 12 high-stress careers,” says Lyndy Phillips, a comedian and motivational speaker. “Farm and ranch owners are only second from others for stress-related diseases.”
Many things cause stress, but Phillips notes that the number one cause of stress for Americans is their career. In agriculture, the next two leading causes of stress are an integral part of the day-to-day job.
“The second cause of stress is family,” he continues, noting that families, and especially children, are very stressful. “The third thing is money. It doesn’t matter how little or how much we have, money is a stressful part of life.”
Other things that cause stress are the weather and unexpected events that happen.
While some stress is important for sustaining life, Phillips comments that regulating and maintaining stress levels is also important to sustaining a high-quality life.
Negative impacts of stress
It is important to reduce stress levels for several reasons, according to Philips, who notes, “Stress makes us unhealthy.”
The psychological symptoms of stress influence a state of mind referred to as downshifting.
“We all know what downshifting is when we think about tractors,” Phillips says, citing work by Leslie Art, a renowned physician. “In a downshifted state, when we feel nervous, angry, depressed or stressed, our brains work less effectively. We aren’t thinking correctly, and we make a lot of mistakes.”
When thinking is inhibited, he notes that accidents happen more frequently, which can be severely detrimental to health.
“The fourth reason to reduce stress is because 33 percent of us feel like we are drowning in it. If we experience high levels of stress for long periods of time, that is extreme stress, and it can do a lot of damage,” he says.
Extreme stress levels result in the six leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, lung ailments and others.
Results of stress
When stress becomes a prevalent part of producers’ lives, Phillips noted that a number of things happen.
“When we are stressed, our hobbies and the things we enjoy go away. We just don’t care about them any more,” he says. “Farmers just tend to let things go when they get stressed.”
Next, stress induces anger, particularly over incidents that are minor or that wouldn’t normally trigger anger.
“If we find ourselves getting angry over things that shouldn’t make us angry, we might have a high level of stress,” Phillips comments.
“Third is fatigue,” he continues. “Stress makes us tired all the time, everywhere.”
“If we have these symptoms, we need to reduce our stress,” Phillips says.
To reduce stress levels, Phillips notes that there are six different strategies farmers and ranchers can utilize.
“One way to reduce stress is listening to music,” he says. “Music is medically proven to reduce stress. It relaxes the mind.”
Exercise and walking can also reduce stress, but Phillips notes that walking on-the-job isn’t the same as taking a relaxing stroll.
“We need to take time to take a walk leisurely that isn’t part of the job,” he explains. “When we enjoy walking, it is healthy.”
Reading and educating oneself is also a healthy way to reduce stress.
“When we get more educated and learn to do things better and more efficiently, it can also brings stress down,” Phillips says.
He continues, “If we are really stressed, prayer and meditation can also really bring stress down.”
Phillips also highlighted vacation as an option to effectively reduce stress, and while ag producers often don’t have time to take a lot of vacation, it can be important to find or make the time for a break.
“The last thing that helps to reduce stress is laughter,” Phillips says. “Medicine has proven that when we laugh, we reduce stress, and we can also heal our body.”
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins in the body and induces increased production of gamma-interferon, T-cells and B-cells, all of which are important immune cells in the human body.
“Heart attack survivors experiencing 30 minutes of laughter a day were less likely to have another heart attack,” he says. “There are mental and social benefits to laughter.”
“Just living life can be stressful, and being on the farm can be stressful,” Phillips emphasizes, “but we need to find ways to reduce our stress. Don’t cut life short because of stress.”
Phillips presented “Laugh More, Stress Less” at the 22nd Annual Wyoming Women’s Ag Symposium, held in Casper in mid-November.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.