Stressed farmers should break down big tasks into manageable jobs, according to a leaflet on farm and rural stress published in association with the HSE.

Acknowledging that farmers have particularly busy times of the year, the leaflet advised against trying to “squeeze more work into a day than you can manage”.

The leaflet features a case study on 66-year-old farmer Seamus who has a small dairy herd, some beef cattle, and lives with his wife.

Having worked hard all his life, he is faced with the prospect of having to sell the stock and rent the land as his children have no interest in farming.

But despite being in failing health, he continues to work.

The thought of selling the farm, which has been in the family for generations, is breaking his heart. He feels let down and angry.

The leaflet points out that when a difficult situation goes on for a long time and seems to be beyond the person’s control, it can result in negative stress or ‘distress.’

Signs and symptoms of stress, the leaflet outlines, include: restlessness; feeling tired easily; difficulty concentrating or making decisions; irritability; headaches; muscle tension; and occasional pain in the neck, shoulders or jaw.

Others include: sleep difficulties; changes in behaviour or in relationships with family and friends; thoughts of fear or worry; negative thoughts; and feelings of desperation that things won’t work out.

People who are depressed may experience a number of symptoms nearly all day, every day for a number of weeks, making it hard to get on with everyday life.

Common signs of depression include: feelings of sadness; feeling slowed down; restlessness; loss of interest in work; eating too much or too little; sleeping too much or not at all; feelings of worthlessness; and negative thoughts.

It’s very important, the leaflet emphasises, to remember that depression is not the individual’s fault and is very treatable.

Helpful ways of dealing with stress include taking breaks; developing other interests; meeting friends and family; eating well; and sleeping well.

Others include: getting active; not relying on drugs, alcohol or smoking; learning to accept the things we can’t change; asking for help; and writing down worries.

The Farm and Rural Stress Helpline can be reached 24 hours a day on freephone: 1800-742645.