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Dairy Farming Mamas: Don’t ignore these 9 symptoms of stress

Heather Moore for Progressive Dairyman Published on 14 November 2017

If there’s anything that a dairy mama knows, it’s stress. We never have enough hours in the day; sometimes there’s not enough month left at the end of the money. The kids are crying; the cows are bellering; the calves need fed; and the pig is out. (Well, maybe that last one only happens at my house.)

We all have our own way to deal with the stresses in our lives. Some of us take long showers. Some of us get pedicures. Some of us eat brownies or go for a long run. And sometimes, no matter what we do, we just can’t shake it. How do we know if we aren’t handling stress appropriately? How can we identify when it’s getting to be too much? What are the signs that we should be watching for from our family and friends?

Heather Moore and Ashley Edstrom

1. Social isolation: People who are having trouble handling stressors in their life tend to withdraw from social events. They may miss events they have committed to, stop coming to church or decline invitations that they normally accept.

2. Sudden decline in hygiene: Skipping showers, wearing dirty clothes or appearing disheveled (more than is usual on the farm) is a sign that you or someone you know is having trouble coping.

3. Paranoia: People heading toward a breakdown may be paranoid that someone is watching or stalking them. Beware of feeling like people are suddenly talking about you or judging you – it may be your stress, not your neighbors talking.

4. Panic attacks: Panic attacks can include chest pain, detachment from reality and self, extreme fear and difficulty breathing. Panic attacks are a scary sign that you need to seek help dealing with the stresses in your life.

5. Insomnia, eating and sleeping poorly: Poor sleep and poor nutrition can compound the feelings and symptoms of stress and cause dangerous working conditions on the farm.

6. Anxiety: Feeling anxious and physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, tense muscles, clammy hands, dizziness, upset stomach and trembling and shaking can be manifestations of stress loads that are unmanageable.

7. Extreme mood swings or unexplained outbursts: Noticeable signs that you or a loved one is under an abnormal stress load are extreme mood swings and outbursts.

8. Flashbacks of a traumatic event: Flashbacks can suggest post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a serious condition that can cause ongoing mental health issues.

9. Depressive symptoms: Loss of hope and thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others are signs that need immediate medical attention.

If you have any of these symptoms, please do not ignore them. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Do not keep your feelings to yourself. Tell a trusted friend or reach out to a clergy member. Call your family doctor, or make an appointment with a therapist. Take care of your physical needs – get some sleep, eat healthy meals, get 30 minutes of exercise each day. Remember your personal and farm goals and work toward them. Take a walk around the farm and try to appreciate where you are and what you have done. Play with your kids without any distractions. Take a break from the pressures of social media and have coffee with a friend. Keep a routine each day. Write out a to-do list of tasks to make them more tangible and feel less overwhelming. Stay away from toxic people. Many states have resources to support the mental health of farmers.

If you are feeling helpless and hopeless, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). Remember, unless you take care of you, you can’t take care of anyone else!  end mark

Heather Moore is a dairy farming mama herself, raising three little boys with her husband, Brandon. The Moore family has a 50-cow dairy and custom feeds 800 head of beef cattle near Maquoketa, Iowa. When she is not chasing around cows and kids, you'll find her volunteering, cooking and very occasionally, sleeping.

PHOTO: Heather Moore (right) and fellow dairywoman Ashley Edstrom (left) on a coffee break at World Dairy Expo. Moore says they took the opportunity to leave the cows and the kids behind and get some good food, look at some good cows and have a weekend with good friends. Photo provided by Heather Moore.

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