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Three strategies to reduce stress during difficult economic times

Joanne Musich, Extension Educator – Family Relations

Published in Dairy Star June 27, 2009

No doubt, many dairy farm families are going through some difficult times right now and are challenged by their financial situation. We can talk or read about low milk prices and the economy to the point of extreme stress or create even more anxiety for ourselves. How can dairy families cope on a day-to-day basis now and in the weeks ahead so they don’t lose sight of the most important things in their lives? Doing three things will go a long way to having a positive influence on your relationships and help you deal with your economic situation. They are: 1) Keep friends close; 2) Express gratitude; and 3) Channel anxiety and stress in healthy ways.

  1. Keeping friends close is essential. It is very important for every person to stay connected to other people. That is our human nature. We need friendships and confidants, which take effort and time. For some this is easy; for others it requires planning in order to keep those connections with people who they can confide their feelings with trust. Friendships by nature are mutual. Friendships should have a natural ebb and flow of sharing back and forth. At times one friend will need to listen and give more support. Listening does not mean giving advice unless it is asked for. With a confidant you can acknowledge that you are “stressed out,” and talk about solutions. Spouse and family members can be friends and sounding boards, but do try to maintain at least a few friendships beyond the family as well. My son and his wife take the time and effort to keep friends. I think they are wise. They often host meals at their home. Sometimes they provide the food but other times it is shared responsibility, a ‘potluck’. I have attended some of these potlucks and I can see that over time they have built a network of friendships that support them and who they in turn support.
  2. Expressing gratitude is a tried and true way to deal with stress. When we are able to think about the things we are grateful for and then express that gratitude, we remain positive and can better recognize opportunity. In challenging times seeing what is good in our life helps us cope with economic, health, relationship or other difficulties that come our way. There are many ways to express gratitude. You may keep a journal, briefly noting what you have to be thankful for. Schedule your day with five minutes to write in your “gratitude journal.” Spread your gratitude in the form of appreciation, for what others have done or who they are! Writing a thank you note expresses gratitude. Showing appreciation is one of the characteristics of a healthy family. Every person no matter how young or old, near or far, likes to be appreciated and acknowledged…those working on the farm, in the community, and especially within the family at home.
  3. Channeling anxiety and stress in healthy ways needs to be done deliberately with right action steps. Eat well, get regular exercise, and try sleeping the recommended seven to eight hours. Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes and lower-fat proteins like fish, lean meat and poultry. Drink water, low-fat milk and natural juices. Although there is physical work on the dairy farm family members today need regular exercise as well. Walking, running, biking, swimming or whatever exercise you choose is a way of taking control of your health. It begins with getting moving and keeping the habit which, as an added benefit, slows the aging process.
  4. You and your children can sleep soundly by winding down in the hour before bedtime. Beauty Sleep author Michael Breuss suggests splitting the hour before bedtime in three segments. The first is prepping for the next day, the second for personal care such as a bath and good dental hygiene, and the third for stretching or reading. My spouse does this trio of bedtime rituals with great success in sleeping soundly.

Keeping friends close, expressing gratitude, and channeling anxiety and stress in healthy ways will go a long way to having a positive influence on your relationships and will help you deal with the difficult economic situation you and your family may be facing.

More information for dairy farm families facing difficult times is available at Families in Tough Times.

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