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Anxiety or stress?

Q: I see myself as an anxious person and I have been off and on for most of my life. But my wife sees things differently. She says that I am under considerable stress most of the time and that I am probably not anxious at all. I think that is her way of saying that she would like me to downsize our farm and learn to relax. I am not sure that I want to downsize the farm and I am confused about the whole stress/anxiety thing. Can you help me sort it out?

A: Stress and anxiety can be two different experiences, but they are sometimes related.

Stress is when a person feels pressure from different things going on in the environment.

Farm life is loaded with potential stress factors. The weather is not predictable, market prices jump up and down, farm machinery breaks down when it is most needed, the kids skip out of their chores and the bank calls to renew your credit ratings and rebuild your debt repayment structure.

These are real concerns that you have to figure out how to deal with. Until you do, you can bet that each also adds its tug of war to the overall stress level.

Anxiety is different. This is something that goes on inside a person’s head. It appears to be drawn from a pervasive self belief that life is overwhelming and despite whatever is happening in the world, the good, the bad and the ugly, an anxious person is going to find a reason to fret and worry and generally be upset.

If your wife is right and you are a victim of stress, she may be right in pushing you to downsize the farm. Presumably cutting back your commitments to the farm will mean that you will have fewer things to worry about and you will find more time to relax.

If your wife is wrong, and you are indeed a victim of anxiety, downsizing the farm will not stop you from worrying.

You need not be intimidated by whether you are stressed or anxious. Anxiety is relatively common. Three to five percent of farmers struggle with generalized anxiety. No one can cure it but with proper medication from your physician and counselling from the mental health clinic, the anxiety can be controlled enough to spark the enthusiasm needed to once again enjoy life on the farm.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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