Signs of Chronic Stress

The current financial stress is not confined to the barn and farm. As with many family run businesses, stress from the farm business gradually spills over into the home and affects the entire family. “In times like this, it is important for friends, members of extended families, neighbors and others to be aware of the signs that a family may be under severe stress and in need of assistance,” said Roger Williams, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor emeritus of professional development and applied studies.

What are some signs or symptoms of stress?

Many farm and ranch families experience financial and emotional stress as a result of difficult times. These are several signs or symptoms when a farm family may be in need of help. These are signs that can be observed by friends, extended family members, neighbors, milk haulers, veterinarians, clergy persons, school personnel or health and human service workers.

  • Change in routines – The farmer or farm family members stop attending community events, such as church, drop out of 4-H or other groups, or no longer stops in at the local coffee shop or feed mill.
  • Increase in illness – Farmers or farm family members may experience more colds or routine illnesses, or have other chronic conditions such as aches, pains or a persistent cough.
  • Appearance of farmstead declines – The farm family may no longer takes care of the way farm buildings and farmstead look or keep up with maintenance work.
  • Care of livestock declines – Animals may not be cared for in the usual way—they may lose condition, appear gaunt, or show signs of neglect or physical abuse.
  • Increase in farm injuries – The risk of farm injury can increase due to fatigue or loss of the ability to concentrate. Children may be at risk if there isn’t adequate childcare as a result of finances or other conditions.
  • Children show signs of stress – Farm children may act out, decline in academic performance or be increasingly absent from school. They may also show signs of physical or verbal abuse or neglect.

What are signs or chronic, prolonged stress?

When a person is stressed out for long periods or time—chronic, prolonged stress—they may experience a number of signs and symptoms.

  •  Physical
    • Headaches
    • Ulcers
    • Backaches
    • Eating Irregularities
    • Sleep Disturbances
    • Frequent sickness
    • Exhaustion
  • Cognitive
    • Memory Loss
    • Lack of Concentration
    • Inability to make decisions
  • Self-esteem
    • “I’m a failure.”
    • “I blew it.”
    • “Why can’t I…?”Self-Esteem
  • Emotional
    • Sadness
    • Depression
    • Bitterness
    • Anger
    • Anxiety
    • Loss of Spirit
    • Loss of Humor
    • Behavioral
    • Irritability
    • Backbiting
    • Acting out
    • Withdrawal
    • Passive-Aggressiveness
    • Alcoholism
    • Violence

What can I do?

Friends, neighbors, and business associates can help by putting the stressed family in touch with professionals who are trained to provide assistance. People who are concerned about a stressed family can do the following:

  • Listen for signs and symptoms that the person or family needs help—financial, legal or personal counseling—and be aware of the agencies and resources available in your community. Find out what services they offer and what their limitations are. Determine which agency or community resource would be most appropriate to address the person’s (or family’s) problem.
  • Discuss the referral with the person or family (“It looks like you are feeling frustrated with your financial problems. I think this person or agency could help you deal with your situation.”). Explore the individual’s or family’s willingness to initiate contact with the community resource. Ask: “How do you feel about seeking help from this person or agency?”
  • If the person or family is unwilling to take the initiative or if there is some danger if action is not taken, Williams recommends the concerned friend take the initiative. Ask for permission to contact the agency; then call that agency, share your concern and discuss how the agency will respond to this referral.

What should I do if the situation seems urgent?

If it’s an emergency situation and the agency can’t act quickly enough, you may need to take other actions. You can call the Wisconsin DATCP Farm Center at 800-942-2474 or 911 for local emergency services. In rare situations where a person is suicidal, it’s important to stay with that person until help arrives or until you can get the person to someone who can help—a family physician, clergy person, or hospital emergency room.