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Steps on How to Manage Stress Within Agriculture During Covid - 19

BY: Jeremia Machingaifa|2 June 2020
BLOG| Business leadership and strategy

“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion”. ...Daniel Goleman

Introduction

Life today is definitely uncertain, it brings us seasons of uncertainty and unending possibilities. Agriculture is very rewarding and requires a thick skin however, even the toughest person is human and prone to the risks and factors associated with these challenges. This article aims to highlight some interesting aspects of wellness and make mention some of the key remedies that could provide solutions to be used in dealing with work related stress in Agriculture.

 

Are we affected?

In the face of Covid 19, the risks have escalated and one will do well to manage and deal with the changes in the best way possible before they go out of hand. Our emotional responses can explode from extreme anxiety, fear, anger, and hurt, to blame and shame,” says expert, Dr. Robert Fetsch, a University Extension specialist emeritus working at in the department of human development and family studies in the State of Colorado.

I have included some important excerpts from an article written by Fetsch entitled, “6 ways to cope with uncertainty,” Where he further talks about fear and anxiety and ways to survive the present situation and survival mode with the shortages of resources. He also describes interesting perspectives that highlights the exposure of Agriculture industry and farmers to the pressure likely to impact them today.

 

How do we know that we are stressed?

One interesting thought that came to my mind would be to personally find out if what stress is and thereafter look at interventions. So if you are someone who is working with a farmer or you own a farm or agricultural business. How would you know that someone is stressed in order to help them or if it is you, then some of the symptoms mentioned could mean that you are affected?

I recently read on and found interesting, a relevant article by the Iowa State University that identifies several symptoms of stress affecting farmers. The article mentions that one may display a change in their daily routine likely to be caused by lack of time or possibly due to their workload. They also raises interesting concerns that the farmer or family no longer participates in activities they once enjoyed regularly such as church, or making visit to their local restaurant.

What I found particularly interesting is that they mention the impact of fatigue, the inability to concentrate likely to lead to greater risk of accidents amongst a host of others. I have read quite a lot of informative health and safety articles discussing other industry related risks, coupled with the fact that we have hosted a lot of agricultural events, I took an interest in stress management in agriculture. 

In the transitive period between the lockdown and the gradual ease back to normalcy, Agricultural experts need to manage the demand and adjust their work schedules accordingly. When these uncertain circumstances and demands set in, Farmers and Agriculturalists need to adapt accordingly and be aware that this is perfectly normal.

We respond to external forces in various ways and as a result, the body prepares for a response and according to Fetsch, “Those feelings originate in the old Flight or flight responses our ancestors experienced when threatened.” These responses and ideas are all mentioned in some of our training interventions and for this instance in particular, Resilience or Emotional Intelligence.

 

Self Awareness and Management

One skill according to Emotional Intelligence author, Daniel Goleman, is the ability to manage the personal situation to maintain focus. One needs to find an optimistic view of negative situations and cultivate a positive mind towards a negative situation. As a farmer or agricultural expert who works for the well-being of the Community, you add essential value and therefore we cannot afford to lose you. Avoid letting vague fears hold you back from doing what you do best, that includes, contributing to the community.

Take credit for the important role and positivity that you play in other peoples lives. What should you be aware of now is that there is an increasing number of symptoms that farmers should be aware of such as headaches, exhaustion and fatigue, body aches and pains, hypertension, rapid heart rate, and panic attacks.

We also need to mention the emotional responses to challenges that could include depression, anxiety uneasiness, fear, feelings of vulnerability and being overwhelmed, frustration, feeling trapped and disappointment.

Covid -19 has taught us many ways to live and to look after ourselves by watching our health. We need to be mindful of what we are involved in, how we engage and also consciously think about our health.  If you are grappling with life’s uncertain challenges or have any difficulty with issues it is wise to open up to someone you trust or talk to your primary care physician and ask about available mental health services in your community.

 

What to do - 5 basic Steps to take

I have chosen four from his article of what I consider the most important things to fuse into your daily cycle.

Unearth the uncertainty.  In an honest and open approach, be open with yourself and others about issues of extreme difficulty and uncertainty regarding definite financial or farming challenges. It is important to highlight issues likely to affect the family or business and likely to impact the community or key stakeholders. 

Continue Learning and develop yourself

Keep your interest in growth and continue learning and developing yourself professionally as learning enhances self - esteem and encourages a high level of social interaction and higher levels of well-being. You could also start something new including a pastime or hobby to keep your mind off stress as you are busy.

Create your vision.  Have a vision of where the business needs to be in a couple of years. Create time to meet with key members of staff in the absence of distractions, clearly write a common vision to for the future. Imagine and dream about the future of your family and farm think about what it will look like. Identify what your purpose in life is. What constitutes your passion and the single most important reason each of us to get out of bed most mornings with a smile. What is the driving force or energy that moves us to towards our desired vision?

Adopt a suitable decision-making style.  There are many styles of leadership and decision making methods. Choose one that will suite your family or organisation and if need be willing to change the styles to suit the situation. There are four main styles, Autocratic, Democratic, Laissez fares, Compromise / Paternalistic.

Focus on the well-being of others’ emotional well-being. 

Seek to do your best to contribute to the emotional well-being of others in the family and those involved in the farm. This is an effective way to empower those around us to fulfill their unique role in the business and in the farming operation.

 

Conclusion

As we live daily, strive towards generosity and give to others as kindness increases in happiness and wellbeing. We will end with an apt quote by Daniel Goleman where he says, “Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection - or compassionate action.”

 

We need to manage our emotions as well as our responses to what is happening around us. There are things we can change and others that we can’t change. Know your value and introspect and increase your current value. Do have all the necessary steps that you could take to mitigate the exposure to mental illness? Comment below to provide information!

 

Empire Training is hosting an online Conference on Agricultural event on Smart Farming 4.0 and Sustainable Agriculture 2020 and you can read more HERE

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