Tips to manage harvest stress and keep healthy

As harvest approaches, farmers take care of their machinery, but we sometimes neglect to take care of our minds and bodies. Considering your health, wellbeing, and safety is so important with the upcoming long hours and pressure to get it done.

Farmers can take the time to protect yourself against injury, fatigue, and stress with just a few simple tips:
1 – Plan a healthy diet – Sitting in the tractor, you will not need as many calories as you usually do. Have a good breakfast that is low in glycemic carbohydrates such as, oatmeal or bran-based cereal, multigrain bread, eggs and/or cooked vegetables. Don’t skip meals. Pack a healthy lunch and avoid junk foods high in salt or sugars. For snacks, consider things such as unsalted nuts, a piece of fruit, hard-boiled egg, carrot sticks, or a cup of berries or grapes.

2 – Avoid dehydration – Plan to drink at least a couple of liters of water (two large water bottles) or something with electrolytes. Sitting in the cab can lead to constipation, and not having enough water exacerbates the problem. Also, look at your urine, if it is dark yellow, then you are not drinking enough. Also, avoid excessive amounts of alcohol as this contributes to dehydration and contributes poor judgment and reaction time in the field.

3 – Get enough sleep – This can be difficult as the hours can be long. Once you get 10 hours behind, this can have effects similar to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.08%, affecting your reaction time, judgment, and creates irritability.

4 – Be sure to exercise – Plan to take the time to shut-off the combine, stretch, and walk or jog around for 5 to 30 minutes. Think about something cheerful and not work-related to help relieve stress. Some simple things you can do while in the cab include:

• Point your toes and use your big toe to make shapes or write your name
• Sit up straight and gently twist from side to side
• Do some marching on the spot sitting down
• Arch your back, then straighten up tall and turn your head side to side

5 – Pray or meditate – Enjoy peaceful and quiet time by doing something that forces your concentration on something relaxing. There are several apps for relaxing that are either free or low-cost that you can use while out in the field, as well as prayer apps.

6 – Reach out – Reach out for support when you are feeling bad or are stressed. Talk to your spouse, friends, pastor or someone of faith, or other trusted advisor, and tell them what concerns you. They can be a good listening ear and offer advice. If you want to talk to somebody professionally, there are some options you can use while out in the field. As odd as it sounds, your pets can also relieve stress.

NDSU Extension has a comprehensive list of the types of stress and other ways to deal with it. Learn the symptoms of stress and how to manage it this harvest season as it can lead to long-term health effects. A piece of machinery can be fixed, but your mind and body cannot. You are the most important asset to the farm, and it is important to take the time to protect it even if you think you don’t have the time.