Are you stressed? Or are you feeling anxiety?
Turns out that there are specific definitions for these two terms. Understanding the difference, and labeling what we’re experiencing lets us adjust our mindset. And that can help us manage the level of stress in our lives and improve our businesses and our health. Thanks to Charlotte Smith of 3 Cow Marketing and her husband, psychotherapist Marc Rott, we’ve got some new tools to work with.
Let’s start with understanding stress and anxiety. Stress is short term tension. It’s something that pushes against you and you handle it and it’s over. A little bit of stress can be a good thing. It can provide the drive and energy to get things done in the short term.
Anxiety is a feeling of constant pressure from one thing or multiple things. It’s something farmers and ranchers are likely to experience, having chosen a career that comes with more risk than your average office job. There are a host of things we can’t control that affect us every day – like the weather, sick animals, new regulations and markets. If we can’t manage our responses to these constant pressures, we’re at risk of serious health consequences including insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, a weakened immune system, and depression.
So what do we do?
In her post How to Manage Stress When You Can’t Control Things, Charlotte and her husband talk about some of the first steps we can take using examples from their own farm life. First they recognize the difference between stress and anxiety. There’s the short-term stress of chickens laying fewer eggs during the winter months when there are fewer hours of daylight. Come Spring, the daylight hours increase and the chickens lay more eggs – stress over. There’s also the anxiety caused by worrying that customers will be unhappy with fewer eggs, that there will be less money to make ends meet.
Next they acknowledge the difference between controlling and managing. As Marc puts it, when you’re loading 300 pound pigs into a trailer, you’re not controlling them, you’re managing them. In the chickens and eggs example, they don’t have control over the hours of light in a day, but they can manage what they do as a result. They can put light in the coop to help with egg production. They can adjust their customers’ expectations, letting them know what’s happening on the farm. And they can plan ahead for this change in their income. It follows that you can’t control the weather, but you can manage your response to it to reduce long-term anxiety.
The other key to managing stress and anxiety is self-care. That means taking care of your health – food and drink, exercise, and time to relax. “Sure,” Marc says, everyone would rather hear about solutions, but without self-care you can’t take care of anything else.” He says it’s like putting on our own oxygen masks first before taking care of anyone or anything else. If we can’t breathe we’re no help to anyone.
Thinking about taking care of yourself might make you feel stress – how can you fit it in with everything else you already have to do?! It’s ok – Charlotte and Marc have some answers to help you get started and be successful. Just head over to Charlotte’s post, where you can download your “Free Guide for Managing Stress on the Farm” with all the starter tips for self-care. You’ll also find the video of Charlotte and Mark talking through how farmers and ranchers can manage the stress and anxiety in their lives.
Check it out. It was helpful to me, and I think you’ll like it too! And as Charlotte and Marc share more about how to manage stress, I’ll be sure we share it here.