How appropriate that April is Stress Awareness Month. With all that we are experiencing in our world at this time, how can a person not feel the effects of stress? This is the first time in our lifetime that we have had a global pandemic that has almost shut our economy down. Without people on the front lines such as truck drivers and health care workers, our lives would be much more difficult than they currently are. Stress can make a person sick and even shorten one’s life. Dealing with stress seems to be our way of life. Here’s the deal; while stress is real, there is good news: There are healthy ways to relieve stress that can be done at home or in the cab of a truck.
We are going to discuss several ways to handle stress that can leave you feeling better almost immediately. After reading through the different ways to cope with stress, don’t feel overwhelmed. Pick one or two of them and focus on those. When you master those, add another one into your routine and so on.
Deep Breathing – My favorite way of dealing with stress is deep breathing. The 4X4 Technique (the stress and anxiety relaxation technique) is a great way to regulate your hormone cortisol. This hormone controls the fight or flight response in the body. When our bodies stay in a state of stress, our brain thinks we are in a flight mode and it consistently releases cortisol. Over time, this can cause disease in the body. Hope Zvara, with Mother Trucker Yoga, shows us how to perform the breathing technique in this video. Breathe in for a count of four seconds and back out for a count of four seconds. In through the nose and out through the nose. Do this for several minutes. The technique is simple and effective.
Exercise – Yes, you knew that would make the list didn’t you? Any form of exercise is good. Take a walk while on break. Move your arms and legs up and down while sitting. Do pushups against the truck while you are getting fuel. There are different exercise programs available designed specifically for drivers. You can find a list of them on the SCF website. The key is to get the blood circulating and get the heart rate up. This decreases cortisol and elevates endorphins, which are the feel good hormones.
Say NO – Many things in life are out of our control but some are not. Learn to say, “No” when it is appropriate and possible to do so. We try to take on too much at once and juggle lots of responsibilities. This can cause undue stress. Much of our stress is due to what is going on inside of us. Take control of what you can and let the rest go.
Gratitude Journal – Take a few minutes each day and write down three things you are grateful for. Don’t have a pen and paper? Put them in your note section on your phone. When we shift our minds towards positive thoughts, the negative thoughts lose their power over us. This lowers our stress levels. The next time you are in the middle of a stressful situation, stop for a minute and picture something that you are grateful to have in your life.
Get a Pet – Studies have shown that having pet is not only good company, but physically petting an animal slows the heart rate and eases anxiety. According to the National Institute of Heath, interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (the stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood. If you don’t already have a pet as your “ride along”, consider getting one.
Cut back on Caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant and if often relied upon to stay alert or get us through our day. We think we need it! Studies have shown that stimulants actually increase our stress levels rather than decrease them. Cut back on the amount of caffeine you have gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms. The headache is usually the worst side effect of caffeine withdrawal.
Try Tapping – Another name for tapping is the Emotional Freedom Technique. Science has shown that the basis for Tapping therapy revolves around the function of a specific part of the brain called the amygdala. This is where the limbic system is located. It is responsible for emotions and long term memory. It also is where adrenaline and cortisol are produced and released. “Tapping has been shown to literally “turn off” the amygdala, disrupting the stress response and allowing the brain synapses to be rewired for a more appropriate emotional response to a given situation.”(The Tapping Institute) You can learn more about tapping at Tapping 101. You may think it’s weird the first time you see it but it works!
While we can’t eliminate all stress in our lives, we can do things to help alleviate some of it. Take a few minutes and practice one or more of these techniques on a daily basis. When you choose to deal with the stress, you choose to live your best life.
Yours in Health,
SCF’s Rigs without Cigs Coordinator/Wellness Manager