Identifying Stress During Demanding Times

You, your family members and staff may react strongly at the time stressful events happen while others react later, after a few days or even weeks. It may be difficult for those involved to concentrate or stop thinking about the stressful event.

Coping May Be More Difficult for Children and Seniors:

  • Ensure to talk to children about the incident and encourage them to share their concerns;
  • Tell children about your plans each day and don’t leave them in a new place without other family members; and
  • Seniors suffering from depression, cognitive problems (thinking and memory), those living alone or those with few social contacts may have higher levels of difficulties coping.

People React Differently, Some May Experience: 

  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, back pain, upset stomach or pain, diarrhea, problems sleeping, low energy, or changes in appetite; and
  • Emotional symptoms include anger, sadness, anxiousness, and feelings of helplessness or guilt.

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Stress and mental illness may result in decreased care of poultry and a noticeable reduction in regular farm maintenance activities.
Common Effects of Stress On Your Body Common Effects of Stress On Your Mood Common Effects of Stress On Your Behavior



Overeating or undereating

Muscle tension or pain


Angry outbursts

Chest pain

Lack of motivation or focus

Drug or alcohol abuse


Feeling overwhelmed

Tobacco use

Change in sex drive

Irritability or anger

Social withdrawal

Stomach upset

Sadness or depression

Exercising less often

Sleep problems



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Balance is extremely important when dealing with stress. When you look at your internal dashboard, do you see all green lights? Are there any red lights tipping you toward overload and stress?

My Dashboard ©Dr. Georges Sabonguf 2018
Healthy | Optimal
Reacting | Stress
Injured | Burnout
Illness | Depression |

Good Sleep

Good appetite, want to eat healthy

Want to take care of physical health

Rarely or never sick

Mild insomnia


Attracted to junk food often

to exercise

Trouble relaxing without a drink

Moderate insomnia


Binge eating

Drinking too much alcohol or using drugs to relax

Various aches
and pains

Constantly sleeping or periods
of no sleep at all

Constant aching in body
Immune compromised: always sick

Trouble getting off the couch or getting out of bed

Only moments of relief come from excessive drinking or drugs, or over-the-counter medication


Mentally clear

Good concentration

Creative problem-solving

Sees solutions

Easily distracted

Excessive worry



Sees obstacles

Chronically preoccupied

Inability to concentrate
Impaired decision-making

Memory loss

Constant focus on problems

Always negative

Impaired judgment

Paralyzed decision-making

*Suicidal thoughts or actions

*If you’re having suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately and call 911.




Good social network


Loss of sense of humour



Seeing people
is a chore



Low mood


Avoid social situations


Hopelessness or helplessness

Out of control: explosive-implosive, holding it all in

Feeling like a burden

Isolating yourself from friends, family, and your community


Self care: physical, mental, and emotional

Serotonin boost

Take a work break or vacation

Reaching out to friends and family

Doing something to relax

Seeing your
family doctor

Peer support, assistance programs, mental health, first aid Professional or clinical support: doctor, psychologist

Let’s all take care of ourselves so we can continue to do what we enjoy most.

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What is Stress What is Depression What is Anxiety Disorder

Stress is the body’s response to a real or perceived threat. Some stress can be a good thing. It can motivate us to focus on a task or take action and solve a problem. In this situation, stress is manageable and even helpful. Stress becomes a problem when we are not sure how to handle an event or a situation. Then worry sets in, and we feel “stressed.”

Depression is a mental health condition that affects a person’s mood - the way a person feels. Mood impacts the way people think about themselves, relate to others, and interact with the world around them. This is more than a ‘bad day’ or ‘feeling blue.’

Signs of depression include:

  • Feeling sad, worthless, hopeless, guilty or anxious most of the time
  • Feeling irritable or angry; this may include losing interest in things that you used to enjoy and may also include withdrawing from others
  • Difficulty concentrating, focusing on tasks and remembering information; it can be hard to concentrate, learn new things or make decisions
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits and impacts to one’s physical health.

Everyone feels anxious at times. Workplace pressures, demanding schedules or health issues can lead to worry, even fear. However, people suffering from an anxiety disorder have in-tense, prolonged feelings of fright and distress for no obvious reason, and these feelings can seriously impact feelings, thinking and actions.


Sources: Canadian Mental Health Association and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

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Coping Strategies:

Coping Strategies: 

Take time to talk with family members and employees about the events.

Recognize that they may be concerned about the future of the farming operation.

Review with family members and employees the signs of stress (as noted above); Encourage them to come to you or seek out support if they recognize these symptoms in themselves or in you.

Take part in information meetings about the event(s) however also take breaks from the media reports and from thinking and talking about the events.

  • Be cautious about making major decisions if you are very upset;
  • Try to get back to your daily routine;
  • Be physically active and do something you enjoy;
  • Visit with friends and relatives; and
  • Get lots of sleep, eat healthy and on a regular schedule.

When to seek Help:

  • Can’t return to a normal routine;
  • Feeling extremely helpless;
  • Having thoughts of hurting self or others;
  • Using alcohol and drugs excessively; or
  • Stopped doing things you enjoy.

You may want to start with a visit to your doctor or consider seeing a professional counsellor or therapist (may also be your faith leader) who can help you identify and talk through the sources of your stress and learn new coping tools.

3 Mayo Clinic, 2022. Identifying and Managing Stress, Anxiety and Depression: Mental Health Information and Resources

Disclaimer: The information contained within this resource is not a substitute for professional advice. Concerns specific to stress, anxiety depression or other mental health impacts should be discussed with your doctor or other mental health professional.

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Farmers Wellness Initiative

Accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, in English and French, farmers needing immediate support can

call 1-866-267-6255 to speak to a counsellor. 

Farmer Wellness Initiative


Through the Farmer Wellness Initiative, the provincial and federal governments are funding access for up to four free counselling sessions with a mental health professional for all farmers across Ontario including members of their family. The mental health professionals have received training to understand the unique needs of Ontario farmers.

Developed and launched by the Canadian Mental Health Association – Ontario Division in partnership with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, this service is provided by LifeWorks.


Recently Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton at the University of Guelph conducted a national survey of Canadian farmers. The results revealed that: 

45% were classified as having high levels of perceived stress

57% met the criteria for anxiety classification

35% met the criteria for depression classification

How Are You Feeling?

While everyone experiences some level of stress, anxiety and/or depression in their lives, being able to identify and lessen stress is important to one’s overall wellbeing and in helping to ensure that everyday stress does not escalate to something more serious.

The dashboard on the following page uses colours - green, yellow, orange and red - to help you measure your stress level, as well as provides some coping strategies. For example, under orange, moderate insomnia and a constant focus on problems and anger, can lead to injury and/or burnout. On any given day, depending on your circumstances, your stress level may escalate; it is important to know when you need help, or if you feel someone around you needs help, and act upon it.

If you feel that you are a threat to yourself, or others, call 911 immediately, or go to your closest emergency department or hospital. 

The good news?  Most farmers said they would seek help for their mental health – but 40% reported they would feel uneasy getting help “because of what other people might think.” 

Jone-Bitton, et al. “Stress, anxiety, depression and resilience in Canadian farmers.” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 2019.

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I’m Here to Listen and Help

Do you know someone who is going through a challenging time? Have you noticed differences in their behavior, attitude or appearance, or a difference in the condition of their farm or animals? Do you struggle with how to speak with them? How do you begin? What do you say?

Start Simple – “How are you?” or “How are things at the farm?” are basic questions to ask to begin a conversation. From there, you can continue the conversation by asking questions specific to what the person is saying.

Try to Actively Listen and Respond Accordingly – Listen and pay attention to what the person is saying. Give your full attention to the person to assure them that what they are saying is important and that you are genuinely concerned for their wellbeing. Be patient, give the person time to gather their thoughts, and provide gentle encouragement to reveal additional feelings.

Offer to Help - Acknowledge that the person is dealing with a lot and ask what you can do to help or support them. Your goal as a support person is to direct the person towards appropriate resources. You may not be equipped with the skillset necessary to help, but you can be a point of contact to help them see that they need further guidance.

Support System – Ask the speaker if they have a support system and someone they can talk to, be it their family, a friend or a neighbour. If not, encourage them to open up to someone they feel comfortable with, or to contact a mental health resource.

The Hardest and Most Important Question to Ask: Do they have thoughts of causing harm to themselves or others? Are they feeling suicidal? If yes, contact 911 and stay with the person until assistance arrives. Do not leave the individual on their own.

Mental Health Kit for Farmers – The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has developed a Mental Health Kit for Farmers, to assist farmers in dealing with the stresses of owning a farm business and to improve their well-being. Mental health resources and contact information, as well as resources to assist farmers in reducing and coping with stress, financial stress and animal welfare stress, are provided.

Think of the situation like you are a first aid responder, but not a surgeon or a specialist. You can put a band-aid on the wound to help them stabilise and get to the specific aid they need.

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Think of the situation like you are a first aid responder, but not a surgeon or a specialist. You can put a band-aid on the wound to help them stabilise and get to the specific aid they need.