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How to Manage Stress as a Truck Driver

Updated: May 31, 2023

Stress is a part of life, but as truck drivers, we deal with a unique set of circumstances. Whether it's navigating through a congested city, stopping traffic to dock at a customer, or getting a routine inspection by the DOT at some point, there can be pressure and anxiety associated with trucking. How we respond in these moments will contribute to our success and peace of mind, or dissatisfaction, if we allow it.

So, here’s my quick and simple formula for managing stress, I hope it helps:


Accept

Acceptance allows us to recognize that we are choosing to focus on one emotion, yet we are capable of choosing another. Life is going to throw us curve balls, and we don’t need to worry about things outside of our control. Don’t waste valuable mental energy ruminating over something that can’t be changed. Remember that we’re human, and it’s okay to have an impulse to give in to anger and stress. Often we behave in patterns, and creating new patterns of behavior and trying to condition ourselves to have new initial reactions, takes practice. It’s a skill.


Take responsibility for your emotions. Anger can sometimes be the result of a victim mindset if our perception is one of injustice. Life is happening “for us,” not “to us”. This segues nicely into the next step.


Select

We should ask ourselves, how do we want to respond? Are we responding in haste, thoughtlessly, or otherwise limited? There is an infinite number of responses we can have. How often do we consider one response, or even two? I strive for wisdom, grace, and tact, but as a human, I find it challenging sometimes. There’s one thing that we do have supreme control over, and that’s how we choose to respond to situations. Learning how to take charge of this power should not be undervalued.


Selecting is understanding that our thoughts create our emotions, and becoming aware of different perspectives is the same as becoming aware of different thoughts. A quick example to illustrate my point is as follows:


Someone cuts you off in traffic. One response may be, “What a jerk, this guy is being reckless and inconsiderate of other vehicles on the road”. Another response could be, “There might be an emergency, possibly a hurt child or pregnant woman”. Even a third response, “That guy must really have to use the bathroom”. Notice how each one of these could influence our behavior and temperament.


Embrace

So something happens, we have an impulse to respond, we’ve considered multiple different responses, and have settled on what we feel is the best perspective. Now it’s time to embrace our choice. We may need to set little reminders for ourselves, until sitting in a new emotional state becomes a habit. I have set reminders on my phone asking, “How do I want to respond?” or maybe a post-it note, or jewelry, that reminds you of this incredible power.


Get creative, and if you want more information on why this is so important consider these implications:

  • The negative health effects of stress. People say “Don’t stress, you’ll give yourself an ulcer”. That goes deeper than we know. Our thoughts can make us sick, but is the opposite true? People say “laughter is the best medicine,” and don't realize that this is truer than we know. Emotions are hormones and chemicals in the body.

  • “Research has found a link between an upbeat mental state and improved health, including lower blood pressure, reduced risk for heart disease, healthier weight, better blood sugar levels, and longer life.” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018)

I’m convinced that if more people knew how this worked, everyone would be shifting their emotional states to reap these benefits. Thanks so much for reading and remember, how do you want to show up today?


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018, November 1). Positive emotions and your health. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2015/08/positive-emotions-your-health#:~:text=Research%20has%20found%20a%20link,sugar%20levels%2C%20and%20longer%20life.

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