Farmers, ranchers have ways to manage stress during drought

Using strategies such as controlling events, attitudes and responses can help manage symptoms of stress.

drought stressed wheat field
Drought can be stressful for farmers and ranchers. NDSU photo

Piled-up stress during a drought can lead farmers and ranchers to develop physical or mental health issues, but they can take steps to reduce stress and create healthy ways to manage it, a North Dakota State University Extension expert says.

“Farm and ranch families often experience pressure, conflict and uncertainty, especially during times of drought or other weather concerns,” says Sean Brotherson, Extension family science specialist. “If feelings of frustration and helplessness build up, they can lead to worrisome problems involving spouses or partners, children, parents and other relatives. If left unresolved, these feelings can lead to costly accidents, poor decisions, strained relationships, health concerns and risks, including suicide.”

Using strategies such as controlling events, attitudes and responses can help manage symptoms of stress, according to Brotherson.

“Farmers, ranchers and their family members and employees can learn to manage their stresses well, even during drought or other times of difficulty,” he says. “The key is to be flexible and maintain a balanced lifestyle. Make time daily to take care of yourself because your work is vital to all of us. Your health is your most important asset on your farm or ranch operation.”

To help manage stress, Brotherson suggests:


  • Taking control of events by planning ahead - Discuss who can be available to help before key seasons or decision-making times. Make time to set priorities so you can focus on what needs to be done today and what can wait.
  • Taking control of attitudes that influence you - Identify the sources of the stress you have, and which ones you can and cannot change. Shift your focus off worrying and onto problem solving. Notice what you have achieved rather than what you did not accomplish. Set goals and daily expectations that are realistic. How you view a situation is a key factor in creating or eliminating stress.
  • Controlling your responses to stressful conditions - Take a break when feeling stressed and focus on relaxing your body and mind. Take multiple deep breaths slowly and let go of unwanted stress. Think positive thoughts, balance work and play, find someone to talk to and seek help when you need it.

Brotherson encourages farm and ranch family members to get additional resources from NDSU Extension’s Farm and Ranch Stress website ( ), talk to trusted friends or associates such as pastors or counselors, or call North Dakota’s 2-1-1 help line.

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