Two Tips to Lower Your Stress Level

Stress can be a major cause of the onset of chronic health diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Many professional CDL drivers are at risk of such diseases due to the sedentary lifestyle of driving for long periods of time.  The Federal Motor Carrier Association conducted a study that suggested drivers a minimum of two consecutive days off the road at lower levels of stress, opposed to the drivers who took one day off or only took the ten hour mandated break and returned to the road.

Studies show that individuals practicing gratitude daily are more likely to eat healthier, exercise, and get the proper amount of rest each night.  This research suggest that applying gratitude to your daily routine allows for time to reflect on what is important to you. When drivers take time to reflect on what they have and what is well in their lives that they are less frustrated when stressful events appear.

Tip #1: Gratitude Journal: Just after completing the pre-trip inspection of your vehicle, take two minutes to jot down the reason why you are doing the job you are doing. Take this time to reflect on your family and all the important things in your life. This practice can support you at the start and end of your day. Your journal is your private space of reflection. Allow it to be your support when you are placed in frustrating and uncomfortable situations. Think of it as taking a dose of medication. If your doctor told you to take a pill to reduce your stress and improve your health, you would more than likely follow the doctor’s orders, so treat your gratitude journal as if it were your daily dose of medication to reduce stress.  This kind of medication is completely free and its only side effect is the contagious feelings of total bliss!

Mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation was developed by the University of Massachusetts Medical School Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn.  The practice of MBSR is one that develops and matures over time, hence the word “practice.”  This practice can be done daily for as little as 3-5 minutes a day or for as long as 40-60 minutes a day; this is completely up to the practitioner.  There are several different meditation exercises Jon offers to his practitioners. The one exercise I consistently offer to my CDL drivers is the 20 breaths meditation exercise.

Tip #2: 20 Breaths Meditation Practice: A good time to do this exercise might be while waiting at a rest stop or while waiting to pick-up or drop-off. This exercise is one that does not take much time; however, it has long lasting effects. The 20 breaths exercise is done seated in a chair with your feet planted flat on the floor, and placing your hands cupped in your lap. The meditation begins by simply closing your eyes and focusing on your natural breaths. The practitioner then begins counting from 1 to 10, at the end of each breath count continuously until you have counted to the number 10. Once you have reached 10, begin to count down back to the number 1. If time allows you might want to continue this exercise for 1 to 2 minutes. Setting a timer is a great way to monitor the duration of your meditation practice.

I have coached several professional CDL drivers over the past few months who were feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the day to day hustle of being on the road. Many drivers decided to implement gratitude and the MBSR practice into their schedules.  After a few weeks of applying the “non-medicated prescriptions” drivers reported that they noticed a difference for the better! A decrease in their overall stress level was noted, in addition to improvement in their quality of sleep during off duty times, an increase in energy, and a feeling of being much more focused and motivated both on and off duty.

By: Leonora Ellis