University of Maryland Extension

Mental health and stress management

Author: 
Neith Little, Extension Agent, Urban Agriculture

Urban Ag home | Table of contents

"I need to fix the problem, I don't have time to de-stress." That’s how I felt about stress management until very recently.

However, no matter how hard you work, life is going to continue being stressful. And farming can be a particularly stressful profession: long hours of both physical and social labor, with unpredictable weather and financial challenges.

The chronic stress of dealing with these challenges can, over time, negatively affect your physical and mental health. When you remain constantly in a “fight-or-flight” stress response state for a long period of time, the elevated levels of stress hormones in your body can cause long-term changes in your body that increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.

And if you spend all your time on the farm feeling worried, angry, frightened, and discouraged, over time you will no longer want to farm. The pressure and risk of burnout is greater the higher-stakes your farm goals are, whether your goals are to make a full living from farming or to address big systemic problems in your community through your urban agriculture work.

This means that problems on the farm require a two-pronged approach: both working towards solving the root cause of the problem and working to take care of yourself regardless of the outcome. Regularly working to get your mind and body out of stress mode is a productive use of your time.

University of Maryland Extension has gathered farm stress and mental health resources online: https://extension.umd.edu/FarmStressManagement

For help finding a health-care provider relevant to your needs, check out the Maryland Network of Care website: http://www.maryland.networkofcare.org/splash.aspx?state=maryland They have a surprisingly intuitive web-tool for finding mental and behavioral health care providers and not-for-profits.

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