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Released: August 27, 2003

Manage Farm Stress To Stay Safe

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas farmers cope with more job stress than the average worker. In fact, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that farming is one of the 10 most stressful occupations and one of the most dangerous occupations - with an accident rate second only to mining.

“The combination of stress and daily work around powerful machinery and/or large animals in varying and unpredictable situations can lead to accidents,” says John Slocombe, K-State Research and Extension Farm Safety Specialist. Slocombe adds, “The most effective way to counter farm stress is to recognize that some events can be stressful and to plan ways to deal with those stressors effectively - before symptoms become severe.”

Stress can manifest itself as physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach problems, or as emotional symptoms through angry outbursts or depression. In most people, stress affects relationships with others and is often first noticed by someone other than the person experiencing it. Stress can also lead to action or behavior that results in a farm accident.

Research shows that even under similar circumstances, farmers react differently to the amount of stress they experience, Slocombe said. This is because some farmers develop more effective coping strategies than others.

With an extended dry weather pattern over much of the state again this year, stress levels among Kansas farmers may be reaching a critical level and so, too, the potential for an increase in farm accidents. Slocombe recommends the following tips for managing stress:

* Recognize your personal symptoms and make a conscious decision to do something about them.

* Eat nutritious foods daily. Just as machinery needs quality fuel, our bodies need nutritious food to function properly.

* Keep machinery and equipment in good working condition. Eliminating potential breakdowns can minimize stressful events.

* Talk about your stress with family or a close friend. If you have no one to turn to, call the Kansas Rural Family Helpline at 1-866-327-6578 for help and understanding.

* Do something relaxing every day - even if it’s just for a few minutes.

* Exercise. Farmers get a lot of exercise, but it’s not always vigorous enough. Try to do some type of aerobic exercise at least three times a week.

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K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by:
Kerri Ebert, Communications Assistant
kebert@ksu.edu
K-State Research& Extension News

Additional Information:
John Slocombe is at 785-532-2906 or jslocomb@bae.ksu.edu and Kansas Rural Family Helpline is at 785-532-2030 or www.ksu.edu/farmksu