Vaccinate Yourself Against Stress

By Don Tyler


I’m concerned about you. No one needs to remind us of the 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 that it was not the depth of the difficulty, but the duration. How long it lasted, not how bad it got. The longer that a stressor exists, the more we need to take action to minimize negative effects on our health and wellbeing.

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 continue. Like handling an illness in livestock, we can either keep treating the symptoms or address the root cause of the disorder.

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

Most people can manage two significant stressors at a time but adding a third one is more than they can handle. Significant stressors would include a serious medical issue, financial challenges, death of someone close, loneliness, loss of esteem within the community, substance abuse or relationship challenges.

Behaviors to Avoid

To help prevent stress from building, avoid these behaviors:

• Raising your voice as a common habit

• 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 wellbeing for small rewards

Stress Reducers

Engage in these activities 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

• Do something for others

Interacting with animals or pets can also be very effective stress reducers. In fact, research shows that dairymen who experience high-stress situations often report that the most calming thing they do to help deal with the 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.

• Do something just for fun, for a couple minutes each day.

• 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 that 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 your family.

When individuals are feeling depressed or under stress, research shows the first step is getting adequate, quality sleep. Most people in stressful situations report only getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep. When they change their daily habits to get closer to 8 hours of sleep, their depression and stress levels go down significantly, or completely disappear.

You may feel these strategies are nearly impossible to do. Initially choose one or two from each category above, perhaps based on the input of your family, and do them for 3 weeks. They’ll see the difference and encourage you to continue.

For Management and Executive Coaching assistance, conference speaker or help with your employee and family business challenges, Don can be reached at, or by calling 765-490-0353.

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