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Farmers Bob and Barb get up early every morning. They work all day in the field, come home late, and sometimes have to go back into the field after dinner. Their bodies have severe pain, they both have sleep problems, and they’re irritable with everyone. But is it stress or burnout?
Men are different from women when it comes to handling stress and burnout. But when it comes to farmers, male stress and burnout which leads to depression and maybe even suicide, is at an all time high.
Farmers deflect stress.
When it comes to personal mental health, a farmer deflects his/her mental health on other reasons. “I’m stressed cause it’s calving season,” or “this year’s harvest is gonna be ruined unless I get all the crops out today.”
Farming is a very high stress job. There are so many things that could and often do go wrong. The weather isn’t in your control. Crop prices depend on politicians and trade agreements. If there’s a trade dispute, like the one between Canada and the U.S., crop subsidies are needed to pull farmers out of financial debt. There’s issues like pay for farm workers, providing accident coverage for employees, mechanical upkeep costs, and general feed and fertilizer costs. A farmer has all these things and more to deal with.
But at what point does stress become burnout? When does going back into the field every night to finish harvesting start physically hurting? How do you even know if you’re burned out?
Burnout is when your body has had it physically and mentally. Its hit the proverbial wall. Stress has become unhealthy. It’s ruining your body, and it’s taking a toll on your ability to think. Your brain is overloaded and wants to shut out anxieties that are causing all sorts of chemical chaos in the body. Sometimes burnout shows itself slowly. Other times it’s a dramatic shutdown.
Warning Signs of Burnout.
If your ability to function is impaired, or your relationships are getting testy or unhealthy, its time to check your stress and burnout levels. Men are particularly bad when it comes to admitting burnout. Men have this belief that they have to be strong and in control of their emotions. When a man feels hopeless, helpless, or overwhelmed by despair, he tends to deny it or cover it up by drinking too much, behaving recklessly, or exploding with anger. A man is more likely to deny his feelings, to hide them from others, or mask depression with other behaviour (gambling, sex, food, anger).
Signs of burnout include:
Low energy and motivation.
Severe irritability and losing your temper easily. Feeling restless and agitated.
Severe physical pains, usually back pains and headaches.
Turning to alcohol, gambling, food, sex, anger as ways to vent anxiety and frustration.
Change in attitude like cynicism, detachment, feelings of being ineffective.
How to Fight Burnout
Be aware that you’re stressed out. The first step is always knowing and admitting that you’re stretched too thin.
Talk to someone. Tell your partner or doctor or a friend about how you’re feeling. Be honest. Don’t be ashamed or afraid.
Ask for help. Ask a friend or family member to help with the chores or finances. Reach out to the farming community if any farmers can help you.
Change up the workload. Reduce how much you’re doing by sharing your workload with someone.
Take some time out. This is the hardest thing for a farmer to do. But taking time off work helps a person get a fresh perspective on life.
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