Personal Resiliency: The Antidote to Stress

I am stressed out right now. It seems to happen every January as the official kick-off to the “conference season,” the time when most farmers have a lull in their schedules and therefore a slew of farmer meetings, classes, and conferences are organized, facilitated, and/or schlepped to and fro with Extension exhibits and program resources in tow. And it lasts until just about the time when the growing season starts.

messy office

My office, pre-NOFA VT conference! Hopefully, it will be tidy again by April.

As a farmer, you may experience this type of stress too, especially at the start of the growing season when the daily to-do list items seem to greatly outnumber the hours in a day.

The experts define these types of stresses largely as “acute” or short-lived; they say acute stress often can actually be beneficial and create motivation. (I admit, I do feel extremely productive so far in 2014!) This is largely attributed to the “fight or flight” response from our bodies, i.e. the release of hormones like adrenaline and norepinephrine that cause us to energize and focus. So, in these situations, the assumption is when the situation is resolved, the stress diminishes and life goes merrily along.

Prolonged or chronic stress is a bit of a different story. That’s the type of stress that just hangs on, and potentially can cause negative health effects (including immune system suppression, increased blood pressure, and can even contribute to obesity, among other effects).

The antidote to stress? Experts suggest that personal resiliency is the key. “Resiliency” is a word we hear a lot now, especially given recent weather extremes, but it is usually applied to production practices like soil management and crop rotations. Personal resiliency is the ability to bounce back from stressful situations. Some of us are naturally more resilient than others, and have an easier time of managing stress. For the rest of us, building and maintaining resiliency is an on-going process. A North Dakota team created a postcard I particularly like that uses a handy acronym “FACTS” to help remind us of ways to cope with stress:

  • Foster hope.
  • Act with purpose.
  • Connect with others.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Search for meaning.

I’ll keep these FACTS in mind over the next several weeks. The upside of the conference season, after all, is connecting with others…and I always do walk away inspired by all the creativity and passion shared by farmers and educators alike!



About Debra Heleba

Deb works for University of Vermont Extension where she is the Vermont SARE coordinator and also coordinates eOrganic's dairy team.
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