Thinking about pleasant events can help reduce stress. How about considering a list of 320 items?
The events might include being at the beach, rock climbing, reading Scripture, going to races, breathing clean air, playing cards, being with animals, playing a musical instrument, singing to yourself, canning preserves, taking a nap, having a lively talk, listening to the sounds of nature, reading maps, remembering a departed friend or loved one or asking for help or advice.
The list is part of a free, new online workshop that can help ag producers and their families cope better with stress. It’s available at www.extension.umn.edu/family/tough-times/dealing-with-stress/education-series.html.
The principal author is a psychologist who not only was raised on a farm in North Dakota but has served in a rural practice in Morris, Minn., and now as a consultant in the country near Spicer, Minn.
Dr. Katherine Slama, who also serves as an adjunct assistant professor for psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said feedback to the series of workshops has been excellent.
“Agricultural work and rural living can be very stressful. With the long hours, unpredictable factors that affect ‘success’ in agriculture, and dangers that come with the job, the whole family can feel the impact of stress,” she said in her introduction to the 11 easy-to-use workshops.
She said if people want to learn more about how to cope with stress and keep it at a manageable level, the free web-based educational series can be helpful. She currently is working on obtaining a grant to help let people in the Upper Midwest know that the online workshops are available.
While it was tailored to those in agriculture, the information contained in the workshops are applicable to anyone who feels stress on a regular basis.
This website and related educational resources are meant for educational purposes, not as a substitute for clinical diagnosis or treatment.
These “Dealing with Stress” workshops, Slama said, can help people:
• Understand what stress is.
• Identify areas of stress in your life and which ones are important for you to change.
• Build skills and discover tools to manage the physical, emotional, and attitudinal effects of stress.
• Develop skills to change what you do, how you think and how you face conflict so that you have less stress in your life.
Persons can start with the first workshop and complete the others on their own time schedule. Each workshop takes about 15-25 minutes to complete.
Each workshop features:
• An overview of the workshop.
• Descriptions of the core concepts.
• Examples that pertain to agricultural life.
• Questionnaires and worksheets you can use to apply concepts and skills.
There are brief instructions at the beginning of each workshop for navigating through the narrated presentation. Most people find it self-explanatory once they begin.
She also said the evaluations at the end of the workshops are important, as they help provide feedback. Dr. J. Patrick Hart of Rural2Rural Consult-ing of Pisgah, Iowa, worked on constructing the evaluations with input from Slama and her research assistant, Denise Herbst, and the University of Minnesota staff.
“I reviewed each workshop as it was being developed to know what I was evaluating,” Hart said. “My impression from that experience is that the workshops are quite professionally done or clinically sound in terms of the training and experience and the scholarly foundation that Kay Slama brought to the content. There also was a strong, and I believe successful, effort to cast the content as much as possible in situations and terms that people in agriculture could relate to.
“I also had the opportunity on a series of site visits on a different project to sit with one or two people in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, who work in agricultural behavioral health, while they looked over the workshops,” he continued. “There was an overall appreciation that the workshops would be valuable to the people they served.”
Hart said from April of last year through this year, there have been many visits to the website, although they would like to increase the number.
In the past year, there were 840 visits to the workshop web page that introduces and gives background information on the series and 500 visits to the web page that contains the individual stress workshops and provides instructions on how to use them.
Although financial stresses on the farm might be on the downturn, Slama said there always seems to be some type of crisis that rears up.
The online site also can direct people to other “help sites.” As examples, there are links to sites at which people who receive public assistance or are in a disaster recovery can receive additional assistance.
People facing stress problems in Minnesota also have a help line available at 866-379-6363. The 24-hour crisis-line counseling called “Crisis Connection” is offered 365 days a week to anyone calling from a Minnesota area code. The call center’s employees have been trained to answer questions that relate specifically to this training and to stress in general.
Slama would like to see similar help lines developed in other states, and that’s part of the next step in the process to get the word out about the online workshops.
This series was developed through the help of the Minnesota Sowing the Seeds of Hope Coalition and various partners, including the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development and the Bremer Foundation, which provided financial help.
The Sowing Seeds of Hope Coalition provides behavioral health services to uninsured, underinsured and other at-risk farm and ranch families and agricultural workers. A regional program called AgriWellness includes Sowing Seeds of Hope groups in six other states: Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.