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UW-Madison's Shutske Talks About Stress Management at AFBF
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 01/15/2019

One of the main speakers during the American Farm Bureau's annual convention in New Orleans this week was John Shutske, professor and Extension agricultural safety and health specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He outlined the cause of stress and the best practices for coping with high levels of it during a workshop at the meeting.

Working with farmers on stress management for more than 30 years, Shutske encouraged farmers to implement strategies to handle pressure to minimize the impact of stress.

"Stress impacts farmers mentally and physically and it comes in many formats," said Shutske. "A lot of time when we talk about stress we focus on short-term impact, but we need to also look at long-term stress."

He explained the cycle of stress and the impact it has on the human brain. John also noted that stress isn't concerning, it's the long-term chronic stress that is most worrisome. With depressed commodity prices this is especially relevant for today's farmers.

"If you have constant levels of high stress your brain receptors physically begin to wear out," he said. "If your brain is constantly fueling stress hormones, it can lead to serious problems."

Not only can stress impact blood pressure and anxiety, it can also severely impact relationships.

Meanwhile, Shutske encouraged farmers to focus on the things they can control in their businesses and relationships, rather than things they can't. He suggested proactively managing stress with tips, such as setting achievable goals, writing down to-do lists, maintaining your overall health, and getting plenty of exercise.

Shutske also mentioned that it is important to take time to reflect or meditate because relaxation is important to moderating stress levels.

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