By David Brown–Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
AMES, Iowa – Over the past few years in Iowa, agricultural producers have faced trade wars, a global COVID-19 pandemic, derechos and hurricane-force winds, and drought-like conditions. Now many are again being impacted by avian influenza.
Poultry producers may be wondering how much more stress they can take or how they can be strong in the face of these challenges. They also may start to experience distressing thoughts and anxious feelings or responses, such as having difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Such strong reactions are common with such extreme events, said David Brown, behavioral health specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
“How can Iowans maintain resilience in the face of these challenges? Fortunately, there are a number of actions people can take to restore their emotional wellbeing and increase their resilience,” Brown said.
Brown offered the following suggestions:
- Get plenty of rest and eat well-balanced meals. Relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing, meditation/prayer or practicing mindfulness, may also make it easier for a person to sleep.
- Remember other hardships you managed well during different times in your life and tap into those same skills.
- Take a break from the news and social media. All those pictures and information about bird loss can make your stress even greater.
- Make time to talk to friends, family members, and coworkers. This is important, since the COVID-19 pandemic has already weakened many support outlets.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Maintain routines in the home and school as much as possible.
- Engage in fun activities, including exercise or hobbies.
- Identify what your top priorities are and make a plan that breaks down the tasks into simple steps.
Resources available for dealing with stress
In collaboration with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, two USDA grant funded (USDA NIFA 2021-70035-35720) publications are now available. One is Farm Stress and Mental Health: A Fact Sheet for Agricultural Advocates. This eight-page publication provides resources and information for those agribusinesses supporting producers.
The second resource is Stress on the Farm: A Resource for Farmers, Families, and Communities. This four-page document highlights the key signs of stress for farmers and family members to be aware of and offers many helpful resources.
For more information, contact Brown at [email protected].
Iowa Concern, offered by ISU Extension and Outreach, provides confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities, and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge. To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or, visit the website, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/, to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or, email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress, or crisis and disaster issues.
Project Recovery Iowa offers a variety of services to anyone affected by the recent Iowa disasters and COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual counselors and consultants provide counseling, family finance consultation, farm financial consultation, referral information, and help finding resources for any Iowan seeking personal support. Iowans of all ages may join groups online for activities and learn creative strategies for coping with the effects of the pandemic. Project Recovery Iowa will announce upcoming programs on the website and via all social media to help Iowans build coping skills, resilience, and emotional support. To request support, visit Project Recovery online.