Some people may believe that trucking is a stress-free job full of blue skies and open roads, but those of us clocking all the miles and missing our families along the way know better. From rough weather conditions and jammed-packed roadways to tight deadlines and hours of sitting in one place, professional driving can be a mentally taxing career loaded with stress-inducing responsibilities. While some work pressures are totally normal and can even be beneficial, too much stress can take its toll on your body in alarming ways. Long-term stress can lead to headaches, heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, weight gain, muscle tension, anxiety, digestive problems, and depression. So how can you lower stress levels when your stressors are inevitable? It’s all about taking steps to manage and cope with stress in a healthy, mindful ways.
Here are 3 tips to help you manage your stress levels as a truck driver:
1. Get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep is vitally important for the body to function at its peak. Adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night, but 35% of Americans don’t get an adequate amount. Additionally, surveys show that 21% of adults who do not get enough sleep report feeling more stressed. Take steps to improve your sleeping conditions so that you can ensure you get uninterrupted rest. Set up a nightly routine (like using lavender-scented pillow spray, applying lotion, reading a book or magazine for a few moments before bed, etc.) to help reduce stress, and ensure your mattress is comfortable. Using black-out curtains will also help you sleep soundly by avoiding light pollution no matter where you shut down for the night.
2. Meditate often.
Meditation is a wonderful way to relieve stress. In fact, studies show that regular meditation can reduce stress levels over 60% of the time. The good thing about meditation is that it can be done anywhere and anytime! If you’ve never tried meditation before, you can download an app on your phone to help you along. Oak is a great free app for iPhone users that has several short meditation exercises that can help you lessen your stress. Mindfulness Coach is another great app that’s completely free and was created by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD to help veterans learn meditation strategies. You don’t have to be a veteran to utilize this app, though—it can be beneficial to anyone!
3. Get your blood pumping.
Exercise is one of the biggest keys to lowering stress levels. You don’t have to be a triathlete or bodybuilder to reap the benefits of exercise—just some simple movement can vastly reduce stress. In fact, only about five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects. Exercise can refocus your thoughts, increase your feel-good endorphins, and boost your mood. Simply doing some calisthenics outside of your cab, walking a mile or two around the truck stop while shut down, or jumping rope before you hit the hay can truly make all the difference.
Now that you know a few tips to help you manage your stress levels, you can get back on the open road and know that the next time a traffic jam creates rising tension, you have tools to help you recenter and find a state of calmness. If you are suffering from stress that just won’t dissipate, however, it may be time to see a professional. Consult your primary care provider if you are experiencing overwhelming stress that affects your ability to cope with daily life, causes you to withdraw from friends and family, changes your eating or sleeping habits, or manifests into physical health problems. A medical professional can help you get back to trucking along in a healthy way!
For more readily accessible health tips specific to professional drivers, please tune into our podcast Shift Into Better Health by clicking here.