Farm/Ranch Stress Management Plan

(FS287 Revised June 2022)

Families in farming or ranching can minimize stress if they plan ahead. Creating a stress management plan is a useful step in that process. Using the nine steps outlined in this fact sheet, family members can tailor a plan to fit their situation and needs.

Lead Author
Lead Author:
Sean Brotherson, Family Science Specialist, NDSU Extension
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Publication Sections

Planning to Reduce Stress

Individuals and families involved in farming and ranching experience many of the same stresses that others do, such as rising food or energy costs. In addition, they face additional stresses such as machinery breakdowns, unpredictable weather conditions, and the heavy pressures that go along with planting and harvesting.

However, by meeting together and planning ahead, those involved in agriculture and its ups and downs can be proactive and reduce much of the stress that they feel. The final fact sheet in this series outlines nine steps to create a farm/ranch stress management plan that will work effectively for you. Take time to sit down, discuss your stress concerns, and fill out the steps in this plan so you can reduce stress and improve health and relationships.

Steps in Your Plan

1. The specific stressful problem we want to work on or solve is (example – our short tempers during harvest time, etc.).

2. The roadblocks and barriers to solving this problem are (example – not taking time to notice symptoms early and to think before yelling or arguing).

3. Some early warning symptoms of this stressful problem are (example – family arguments, Dad’s neckaches, Mom withdrawing, etc.).

4. Some stress relief methods that work well for us or we might want to try (example – neck rubs, talking about the pressures, etc.).

5. Some possible ways we could solve the problem identified in step #1 are:

  • By controlling events (example – postponing daughter’s elective surgery until after the harvest season).
  • By controlling our attitudes (example – the worst that would happen if we didn’t get this field’s hay baled by nightfall is that our hay would get wet – and we’ve managed worse problems).
  • By controlling responses (example – instead of using our usual “you did X” statements to blame each other, we could use “I statements,” such as “I would like X,” to ask directly for what we want or need).
  • By using available resources (example – asking a family member for a neck massage before falling asleep at night).

6. We are aware that we know ourselves better than anyone else. So, if we were to write the best prescription available to cure the problem identified in Step #1, we would plan (example – take 15 minutes daily to plan, talk and reconnect during harvest time).

7. The personal benefit we’ll get from using our plan is (example – we’ll eliminate the distress of being short-tempered with each other during harvest season).

8. The key tasks we’ll have to do for our plan to work include (example – we’ll need to remind one another to think before yelling, to ask for what we want directly instead of blaming, and schedule daily time for discussion).

9. A way we’ll make sure we get a reward for our new behavior is (example – when we reduce our number of arguments, we’ll express a verbal “Thank you” daily and take ourselves out for a nice meal once a week).

Follow-Up to Your Plan

After you have put your plan into action for a week or two, you might meet together again to evaluate your progress and perhaps revise your plan or set up a new one to solve another farm/ranch stress problem.

Key Resources for Farm Stress

Made possible with support from the North Dakota Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center project, with funding from USDA-NIFA.

Reprinted from University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Leaflet 284

Original publication by Robert J. Fetsch, Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Colorado State University


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