People living in rural communities can suffer depression, relationship breakdown, isolation, poor decision-making, farming accidents and suicide as a result of stress. It's important to have a stress management plan to help you and your family get through the difficult times.
Stress for people living in rural communities can bring depression, relationship breakdown, isolation, poor decision-making, increased use of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, and increased risk of farm accidents. It is important to devise a stress management plan to help you and your family get through the difficult times. See your doctor or health professional for further information and advice.
Stress is a response
Stress is the physical, mental and emotional response to a stress-causing factor or ‘stressor’. Stress can come from any situation or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, nervous, or anxious.
Many people cope with a crisis or other stressful situation by focusing on the problem and putting everything else aside. For most people, this only works in the short term.
Ongoing stress makes us neglect the very things that would help us get through it, such as health, relationships and recreation. We become less able to think clearly or cope. Then problems feel worse than they are and get worse than is necessary.
Rural issues and stress
Rural Australian life is very rewarding in many ways. However, rural people are at risk of many stressors, including natural events such as bushfires, floods and droughts.
Natural disasters can cause long-term stress related to injury or death, finances, and relationships. In addition, financial problems and other issues can be primary sources of stress.
Warning signs of stress
Sometimes we don’t realise how stressful life has become. Some of the signs that you may be under considerable stress are:
- Problems with concentration or memory
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Lack of interest in once-pleasurable activities, such as socialising or sex
- Sleeping problems, such as insomnia, early waking or oversleeping
- Changes in appetite, such as eating too little or too much, or eating unhealthy foods
- Mood changes, such as irritability
- Physical problems such as constant headaches or stomach-aches
- Heart palpitations and breathlessness
- Longer-term general ill health.
Stress and depression
Continued chronic stress can lead to depression. Some warning signs of depression are:
- A constant feeling of sadness
- Feelings of gloom, guilt and hopelessness
- Pessimistic thoughts, inability to remember good times
- Persistent thoughts of suicide.
Burn-out caused by stress
Chronic stress eventually causes ‘burn-out’, which is complete physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Try to look after yourself because stress and depression hamper your ability to plan, prioritise, develop strategies and make rational decisions.
Suggestions on how to avoid burn-out include:
- Develop a workable business plan – it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family. Stress is often caused by feeling out of control
- Keep the lines of communication open. Talk with your family members about how you feel, and encourage them to do the same. You don’t have to solve a problem to feel better about it, you just have to share it
- Find out what relaxes you and do it on a regular basis. This could be meditation, sport, home renovations, craft, reading or whatever happily distracts you from your pressures
- Network with others in the community. Swap ideas on strategies for avoiding burn-out
- Eat a healthy diet
- Take time to exercise regularly. Being fit helps your body cope with the rigours of stress, while exercise allows your body to ‘burn off’ stress chemicals like adrenaline
- Try to organise time away from the farm to get a perspective on things and a sense of proportion.
Ask for help from your rural community
People in rural communities are generally proud of their self-sufficiency and independence, which can make it hard to ask for help. Suggestions include:
- If asking for help seems too hard, make a pact with yourself to help others when your situation improves
- Remember that chronic stress isn’t an agricultural problem, it’s a health issue. Seek advice from your local doctor or health professional if you have any of the symptoms of chronic stress
- Psychologists and psychiatrists aren’t just for mentally ill people – these professionals can offer valuable advice on stress management
- If you feel embarrassed about getting welfare support, Centrelink officers can sometimes make house calls
- If you are experiencing hard times, your neighbours might be too. Sharing your experiences can help
- Find out about the services in your local area. There may be more organisations willing to help than you realise
- Organisations such as the Salvation Army, Red Cross, the Smith Family and St Vincent de Paul offer food parcels and household items for families in need
- Many government and community organisations offer seminars and forums. These can be opportunities to gather information and meet people who may be able to help you.
Stress and relationship problems in rural areas
During hard times, rural communities and families tend to rally together and concentrate on survival. In many cases, relationship problems don’t surface until the crisis is over.
It may seem that the pressure of keeping the farm or business going is too much, or that the relationships have suffered from lack of time and attention. Many rural people are unable to access counselling services because of distance or the need to maintain privacy.
Suggestions for easing stress-related relationship problems include:
- Try to make time for your relationships, even if it means simply sharing one meal as a family each day
- Share your thoughts and feelings as honestly as you can. Encourage an environment where everyone feels comfortable and safe enough to say what they feel
- Whenever possible, keep up your social life during the hard times
- Some organisations have mobile counsellors that come to you, such as the Salvation Army. Meeting a trained person to help you take stock of what has been happening and what you can do to improve things can often produce new and useful ideas
- Phone counselling is a cheap and confidential option.
Stress and resilience
People who cope best with hard times tend to have one trait of resilience in common. The characteristics of resilient people include:
- High self-esteem
- A positive outlook on life
- Acceptance of those things that can’t be changed
- A flexible outlook, and the ability to change plans mid-stream
- Honest and open communication with loved ones
- The ability to ‘switch off’ worries and concerns
- The philosophy that hard times are a valuable learning experience rather than a punishment
- The feeling that they have at least a degree of control over their lives
- A sense of belonging to the wider community.
Where to get help
- Bush Support Line 24-hour service Tel. 1800 805 391
- Lifeline Tel. 13 11 14
- Mensline Australia Tel. 1300 78 99 78
- Victorian Bushfire Information Line Tel. 1800 240 667 (TTY for the deaf - 1800 122 969)
- MoneyHelp Tel. 1800 149 689 Monday to Friday, 9.30 am to 5.00 pm – a free financial counselling and debt advice phone service for Victorians (includes interpreter services)
Things to remember
- Stress is often caused by feeling out of control, so it is important to devise a workable business plan.
- Eat a healthy diet and take time to exercise regularly.
- Try to make time for your relationships.
- Seek advice from your local doctor or health professional if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of chronic stress.
You might also be interested in:
- Rural issues - coping with stress.
- Rural issues - stress management.
- Stress affects us in many ways.
- Stress can become a serious illness.
- Stress in everyday life.
Want to know more?
Go to More information for support groups, related links and references.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
(Logo links to further information)
Department of Human Services
Fact sheet currently being reviewed.
Last reviewed: April 2012
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your qualified health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residence and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a qualified health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.
For the latest updates and more information, visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au
Copyight © 1999/2013 State of Victoria. Reproduced from the Better Health Channel (www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au) at no cost with permission of the Victorian Minister for Health. Unauthorised reproduction and other uses comprised in the copyright are prohibited without permission.