14 Ways Truckers Can Reduce Stress While Driving
June 9, 2022
Truck driving is one of the top 20 most stressful jobs in the country, so it's no wonder that many truckers want to know how to reduce stress while driving.
There are many strategies and tactics drivers can use to lessen the pressure they feel while on the road. But first, let's explore what creates stress in the first place and why it's an essential physiological and psychological reaction.
Stress and How It Affects Your Body
Stress isn't always a bad thing, actually. It's a healthy physical and psychological reaction to the demands of life—and who doesn't have demands? According to the Mayo Clinic, a small amount of stress can be helpful and motivate individuals to perform well. Stress activates the part of our brains that are hard-wired to deal with threats. It tells your body to release hormones that will increase your heart rate and blood pressure. This worked out pretty well for our ancient ancestors when they were in a "fight-or-flight" situation with a neighborhood lion. Then, once the lion was gone, the body would return to its normal, relaxed state.
The problem with modern life is that there's always a lion—except today, it takes the form of frequent phone alerts, traffic, inconsiderate drivers, deadlines, and other intense conditions. In the face of all these triggers, our alarm systems don't get the chance to shut off. That constant flood of stress hormones is what can cause chronic conditions.
Causes of Stress While Driving A Truck
While most people experience stress, truckers experience more than their fair share while on the road, striving to meet tight timetables and while away from home and family.
In 2017, the Transportation Journal interviewed truckers to study the leading causes of stress. The journal then grouped their responses to find the top three causes of stress, which include:
Truckers cited isolation and loneliness as a critical reason for emotional stress. The majority of professional drivers work alone, and long-haul truckers often spend extended periods of time away from loved ones.
Lack of Respect
In the study, many respondents said they felt under-appreciated—especially by aggressive and disrespectful car drivers. The drivers also said that unprofessional customers, supervisors, and other industry insiders increased their feelings of being disrespected.
Finally, the truckers said that rules such as weigh stations and limits on work hours caused considerable anxiety.
How Stress While Driving Can Impact Truck Drivers
All of these feelings of stress can manifest as physical symptoms such as:
- Upset stomach
- Elevated blood pressure
- Chest pain & shortness of breath
- Sleeping problems
- Anxiety and depression
With symptoms like these, it's easy to see why many truckers want to reduce their stress while driving. So, without further ado, here are 14 ways to relax and destress while on the road.
14 Ways to Alleviate Stress While Driving
1. Move and Stretch as Often as Possible
One of the best ways to reduce stress is to get your body moving. Now, it can be challenging to work in movement when you're eager to reach your destination as soon as possible and want to keep driving. Still, it's essential to take breaks because your body isn't meant to remain in one position for hours at a time. Here are a few ways to get some movement, depending on how much time you have:
- No time at all: At a stoplight, stretch your legs and back or shift your weight a little to help break up the pressure placed on your body.
- Two minutes: Get outside for a quick walk and get some fresh air.
- Five minutes or more: Try out a video from Mother Trucker Yoga, a simple program with short, 3-5 minute videos made especially for truckers. There's no mat required and no fancy moves—just competent instructors showing you what to do and how to do it in your own environment.
2. Tune into Something You Love
Many studies have shown that listening to music can reduce stress and improve health. So, prepare for your next journey by making sure that you have tunes downloaded and available. Don't only rely on streaming services, as they can become unavailable, and that can cause stress. If you're able to stop for a bit, try listening to this playlist of the "Most Relaxing Songs Ever." But really, wait until you're at a stop. In a study, the song "Weightless" by Marconi Union was so effective that many participants became drowsy.
3. Learn Something New
It may seem a little counterintuitive, but focusing on learning can help reduce stress, according to Harvard Business Review. Picking up a new skill or learning new information can buffer stress. To learn while on the road, try listening to a podcast or audiobook about a topic that interests you. For discounted deals on audiobooks, check out chirpbooks.com.
4. Yuck It Up!
Another way to reduce stress is laughter! Seriously. Laughter can enhance your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulate your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increase your brain's release of endorphins. It also reduces your stress response, can stimulate circulation and help relax muscles. So, cue up a set from your favorite comedian on your next ride.
5. Get Adequate Sleep
Remember that ad from the '80s that showed a fried egg and said, "This Is Your Brain on Drugs?" Well, sleep deprivation can cause the same kind of damage to your cognitive levels as excessive alcohol or drug intake. In fact, staying awake for 18 hours straight can impact your driving in the same way that a blood-alcohol level of .05 would. Lack of sleep can also result in higher stress levels, trouble concentrating, mood changes and memory issues. So, catch some Zzz's to keep your body and mind running strong.
6. Plan Your Route
One major cause of stress for truck drivers can be an unclear route or weather conditions. So, before you get out on the road, get clear on how you'll get to your destination and what potential obstacles could get in your way.
As a shameless plug (you are on our website after all!), the Highway Weather app can help you plan even better by checking the weather throughout your entire trip. The app also includes features such as outdoor cameras, severe weather alerts, and rest stop incorporation. In addition, it features a map view and live weather radar, so you can see forecasts visually and in real-time.
7. Break a Sweat
In addition to adding some gentle movement into your everyday routine, incorporating an on-the-road workout is just as crucial to reducing stress. Exercise has been shown to increase endorphins, relieve daily tension and irritation, and improve mood.
A variety of exercises can help reduce the negative effect stress has on your body. Here are several options that are tailored to truck drivers:
- 3 Workout Routines You Can Do On The Road: Check out this article for three different workouts recommended by a physical therapist that are created especially for truckers.
- 6 Easy Exercises For Truckers: This post includes some simple, effective workouts truckers can do on the road, including workouts in the cabin, driver's seat exercises, and stretches.
- Bike During Your Break: Bring a folding bicycle with you on your next trek to get some cycling in during breaks. Most of these bikes can fit in the cabin and take up less room than a regular-sized bicycle.
- Take a Jog: Sneakers take up even less space than a folding bicycle, and running, walking, and jogging are great exercise activities.
8. Eat as Healthy as You Can
Poor nutrition and stress can create an endless loop. First, you may feel stressed and want to eat something comforting to alleviate it. But then, that treat can cause a cascade of physical effects that only increase stress. On the other hand, proper nutrition is proven to reduce stress levels. For easy on the road nutrition tips and meals, check out cdlmeals.com, which offers a pre-packaged, healthy meal delivery service. Beyond the balanced meals made from scratch, the box delivers a "driver healthy handbook," with nutrition and fitness information tailored for truck drivers.
9. Stay In Touch
Loneliness can easily trigger stress. Human beings function best when they have groups and close relationships. However, being on the road for long periods of time can make it difficult to connect in person. What's good to know is that regular phone calls and texting can reduce feelings of isolation and make drivers feel emotionally connected. Make texting, phone calls, and video chats a regular part of your journey to stay connected.
10. Use Ergonomic Techniques
Being in pain can cause stress. One of the top five reasons a person will see a doctor these days is due to back pain or related ergonomic issue. To alleviate this, truck drivers can use ergonomic techniques while driving. For a quick lesson in "Truck Driving Ergonomics 101," check out this link.
11. Spirituality and Stress
According to the Mayo Clinic, spirituality has many benefits for stress relief and overall mental health. It can help you feel a sense of purpose, connect to the world, release control, expand your support network, and lead a healthier life. There are several resources that are conducive to cultivating spirituality while on the road. For example, truckerschurch.com is an online church for truck drivers that offers podcasts, bible study, teaching, worship music, and weekly messages, which are all available on-demand. Other truck drivers have found benefits from meditation.
12. Reset Your Mindset
Another way to reduce stress is by changing your mindset. This begins with taking time to assess how you are feeling and seeing if any feelings or thoughts are stressful. Then you can address each idea or feeling individually. Some common mindset adjustments include:
- Label and Let Go: Sometimes, it's impossible to ignore inconsiderate drivers! If that's the case, try a new tactic and label them "an idiot." Labelling is a way to let emotion go and reduce stress. It allows you to accept that there will always be a few people who don't drive as you think they should and re-focus your mind on the road ahead.
- Adjust Your Attitude: Try adopting the mindset that you cannot control the vehicles around you, but you can control how you react to them. This can create a keep a calm, positive, and detached attitude and help minimize stressful emotions such as anger. If you find yourself driving while emotionally stressed or upset, it is vital that you pull over, take a few deep breaths and calm down, before something happens that would be a cause for further regret.
13. Join A Healthy Challenge
If competition gets you going, then joining a healthy challenge can help you destress and feel like a winner! Every year, healthytrucker.com kicks off a Healthy Fleet Challenge. Individuals from across the industry are invited to join, including drivers, mechanics, office staff, and anyone in between. During the 2019 Healthy Fleet Challenges, participants lost a total of 2303 pounds
14. Get Some Toys
Now, we're not advocating for unsafe driving, but there are many handheld toys that can help you destress. From the classic stress ball to fidget spinners, there are many options that can help you relieve anxiety through your fingers. Just make sure to use them safely!
There you have it! More than a dozen ways to reduce stress while driving, especially for truck drivers.