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Farm couples face stress from working together

Couples who work together in a farm/ranch operation have a unique relationship. Not only are the typical stressors found in relationships present, but additional stressors related to the farm, or working together, may also have a strong presence in the relationship. While a little bit of stress is good (it helps to keep us productive), too much stress can cause problems in both the running of the farm and the couple's relationship.

Stress can appear in many different ways. Physical symptoms may emerge such as tight, sore muscles, headaches or increased heart rate and/or respiration. Emotional and relational symptoms may also appear, such as depressive or anxious feelings, becoming easily irritated, increase in arguments and decrease in communication with spouse.

Fortunately, there are things farm couples can do to reduce their farm/home stress.

* Couples can work on improving communication with their spouses. Using "I" messages instead of "You" messages when working out an issue can help to reduce the chance of the conversation turning into a fight. For example, instead of saying, "You're so irresponsible with our money; you buy whatever you want, whenever you want to buy it!" you might say, "I get upset and worried when you make large purchases without letting me know; maybe we should discuss large purchases with each other before we go out to buy it." When using "I" messages, the other spouse will not feel blamed or like he/she is getting yelled at. Instead of a fight, there will be a problem-solving conversation.

* Spending quality time together, no matter how busy schedules might be, is also an important way for farm couples to reduce their relational stressors. Whether it be a whole day, or just an evening, it can be healthy for the relationship to spend that time not talking or worrying about the farm, the kids, the house, or other things that might be a source of stress. Think fun and relaxing.

* Keeping our bodies healthy is also an important way to reduce stress levels. Getting plenty of sleep and eating healthy foods will give our bodies and minds the strength and ability to get through stressful situations. Avoiding alcohol during stressful situations will also help since that may just mask your problems, rather than solve them.

* Couples who talk to each other about how each spouse is handling their stress may also be beneficial. This can help manage reactions to individual stressors, as well as a spouse's stress. Checking in to see how spouses are doing may help them realize they are not going through it alone, and this can also relieve feelings of stress.

If your stress has gotten to an extreme level, and it is severely impacting your work, relationships and life, it may be wise to seek help from a counselor or clergy member to work through your difficult time.

For more information on this topic, contact Christina Masich, Stutsman County Extension agent-in-training at 252-9030 or Christina.