In a world where we are always being pushed to do better, accomplish more, and cram more work into less time, we are all facing the stress that life throws at us. For drivers, this stress is multiplied as they have to cope while alone and on the road for up to weeks at a time.
It’s no easy feat, and the health of our drivers is suffering as a result. The health implications of stress are massive, including high blood pressure, heart disease, increased cortisol levels and obesity. Additionally, stress can cause drivers to have difficulty focusing on the road, potentially leading to distracted driving and poor focus, which is a huge safety concern for the driver themselves, as well as those on the road around them.
So what’s a driver to do? It’s not realistic to expect a driver anyone to simply drop the stress in their lives. Imagine if we could do that… I wouldn’t even need to write this article.
What’s more important than ridding your life of stress is learning how to properly manage it. That may sound idealistic and like something you have heard time and time before, but it is important to really take a minute to think about how you (and your body) react to stress and how you can adjust it.
When you find yourself in a stressful situation, ask yourself 3 questions:
- Am I or my family in physical danger or legal trouble?
- Do I have control over what is stressing me out?
- Can someone else help me with the issue?
If the answer is no to all of the above, then you may feel helpless and like there are no immediate steps you can take, but it is important to begin some stress reducing strategies as soon as possible. Try these tips:
- Deep breathing. Stress can bring about increases in blood pressure and the hormone cortisol, and long-term high levels of cortisol can cause weight gain. To reduce your blood pressure and cortisol levels almost immediately, take 3 very deep, mindful breaths. This can be done at any time during the day, whether or not you’re feeling stressed, such as when you first get into the truck, while sitting in traffic, before getting out of the truck and carrying on with your day, and before bed. It may sound silly or like it won’t have much effect, but give it a try and you’ll be surprised at how much more relaxed you feel. Remember, it’s about controlling your body’s response to the stress, not solving the world’s issues.
- Talking it out: Most of us tend to keep our stress to ourselves, not wanting to feel embarrassed by it or place a burden on others by involving them. However, talking to a friend, coworker, spouse, or even a counsellor is a great way to release the thoughts that are brewing in your mind. Explaining your situation to someone else can help us find clarity, can bring helpful advice, and can prevent us from feeling alone. You will also build and strengthen your relationships by opening up.
- Finally, prioritize everything that is contributing to your stress and determine what needs immediate attention, what can wait until later, and what will require help from others. Focusing on one issue at a time will give you clarity and possibly make the issue seem smaller than before. Need to get to an appointment on time but stuck in traffic? That gets your attention, and the bills you’re behind on can wait. Need dispatch to re-route you? Let them know right away, and then take your mind off of it. It sounds simple, but it’s important to make a point of doing this when you’re stressed and can’t think straight.
Other ongoing stress management techniques include adjusting your radio to something a little more upbeat and positive, rather than sad or stress-inducing. Also, fully winding down at the end of each day with a book, funny show or movie, or even some simple stretching can go a long way. Creating a to-do list or schedule for your next day can help you clear your mind before bed, and can help start your next day off on the right foot.
Ready to take it to the next level? Meditation is king when it comes to stress management. Download the free app called “Insight Timer” and choose a guided mediation to listen to each morning or night. Even just 5 minutes will go a long way. Yes, meditation is for truckers too!
Everyone will always have stress in their lives to varying degrees, but by learning to adapt just a bit better, the negative implications can be reduced, resulting in happier, healthier, safer drivers on the road. Now, take 3 deep breaths and see how you feel!