Extreme temperatures can trigger intense emotions in farmers

Spring heat wave and hard frosts take an emotional toll on growers, farm workers and families.

Many people are still reeling from the impact of record-breaking warm temperatures in March followed by hard freezes in April that caused frost damage to crops such as grapes, peaches, plums and cherries in Michigan and the Great Lakes area. Experts say this is the worst year for the fruit industry in several decades – with many growers losing significant amounts of their crops. For some growers, businesses, farm workers and families, this means not only the stress of financial uncertainty, but also a change in day-to-day routines as they adapt to the reality of diminished yields and lost crops.

These losses and changes are real and can take a significant emotional toll on the people involved. Feelings of anger, anxiety, fear and sadness – while natural and understandable – can also provide challenges to people’s relationships and overall health and well-being.

It’s important that those who are navigating the realities of financial loss, economic hardships, job loss and changed routines tend to their emotional lives during this stressful time.  Research on how to best navigate loss suggests the following:

  • Times of loss, change and transition can trigger a necessary and natural grieving process. It’s helpful to remember that while loss and grief are universal, the way people experience and move through them varies from person to person and situation to situation.
  • People experience grief on many levels – including physical symptoms (trouble sleeping, fatigue, changes in appetite) and emotional responses (anger, despair, agitation, anxiety, deep sadness). Grief can also impact our thinking (how we filter information, forgetfulness, our ability to concentrate and make decisions).
  • People moving through the grieving process often cycle through stages of denial (shock, feelings that this can’t really be happening), anger (towards ourselves, our co-workers or loved ones), bargaining (unrealistic deals with ourselves, “if only I had …” or “If I just do this then I can fix that…”), sadness/depression (everything from silence and isolation to tears) and acceptance (beginning to accept what’s happened and see possibilities for healing and growth).

Experts on loss and grief point out that there are several things that people going through these processes can do to help themselves and others. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Don’t expect too much of yourself.  Allow yourself (and others) to feel and experience all the stages of grief. Don’t try to go around it or rush the process.  There are no short cuts. Everything you’re feeling is important and brings the opportunity for growth and healing.
  • Decide that you can survive intense emotions. Find a quiet space to be alone with your thoughts and give yourself the time you need to release the emotions you feel. Remember that this is not your forever – it’s how you feel right now.
  • Be compassionate with yourself and others when confusing, contradictory and extreme emotions surface unexpectedly throughout the day.
  • Avoid stuffing your feelings or isolating yourself. Spend time with safe and supportive people and talk about what’s happening for you.
  • Eat regular and nutritious meals, get plenty of sleep, relaxation time and exercise.
  • Take care of yourself in ways that help you settle down and relieve stress (take a walk, listen to music, talk to friends, do something fun, engage in a favorite hobby – whatever works for you).
  • Try to avoid self-medicating behaviors and limit (or eliminate) your use of alcohol, drugs or other substances.
  • Remember that sadness and other feelings are normal – but seek professional help if it all feels too overwhelming, is causing concern for you or others, or if you feel like it’s too much for you to handle alone.
  • Avoid making big decisions. Give yourself time before making any changes or decisions that could affect the rest of your life.
  • In moments when your mind feels a bit more quiet and reflective, ask yourself three questions:  What’s lost? What’s left? What’s possible?

For more suggestions on how to manage stress and emotions triggered by it, see:

Additional information:

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