Friday, November 20, 2015

A unique look at relieving stress

In the October issue of Land Line, we ran a special column written for us by TruckerTherapy.com’s Buck Black, LCSW, LCAC. A licensed therapist, I knew who he was before I got to know him through the St. Christopher Fund. We are both on the Board of Directors. I asked him to write something for us on stress and by the response from our readers – it was a topic that hit a nerve. 

Here’s Buck on stress in the lives of truckers.

Stress is something that cannot be avoided. We all know that feeling of having too much to do or simply feeling like we cannot relax. Some stress can be positive, because it helps us to wake up on time, to respond to important tasks, and to better ourselves and our families. When stress becomes overwhelming, it slows us down, increases the rate at which we make mistakes, and even makes us sick and unproductive.

It is my fear that truckers will develop stress-related problems at a greater rate as more and more regulations are imposed upon them. It is understandable there is a need for regulation in the trucking profession. However, when rules and regulations go too far, this causes stress, which becomes counter-productive.

It is important to point out that feeling powerless is also a stressor. Many of my clients are describing the feeling of powerlessness and high levels of stress as they worry about current and future regulations.

Change = Stress is the equation.

This has been the case for as long as there have been humans. In 1967, psychologists Holmes and Rahe developed a stress scale listing 43 stressful life events that can contribute to illness. Change in financial state, change to a different line of work (or move to a different trucking company), change in responsibilities in work, trouble with a boss, change in working hours or conditions, and revision of personal habits places a person at a moderate risk of physical illness due to stress. These stressors may seem to be a random list. However, they are very likely to be the symptoms of new regulations imposed upon current truckers.

One way to reduce stress is to have consistency in life. What is constant in a truck driver's life? By default, they are travelers, with no two days the same. They have limited access to medical care and quality food, and their relationships with friends and loved ones are over the phone. These are all examples of stress-invoking situations. When drivers can have more control in their life, or feel that they are taking an active role in the regulations or any other policy that affects them, stress will decrease.

It is important to note that some people are more likely than others to succumb to stress. Not all will be negatively affected by changes in regulations. However, it is also essential to realize that as more trucking regulations are implemented, this will compound the existing stresses of the truckers. Remember, truckers are not living in a vacuum. By this, I mean that truckers are people who have plenty of stress in their lives as a result of possible relationship, financial, health, work, and various other facets of life problems.

I urge truckers to embrace the need for rules and regulations for the good of the profession. However, there is a need to be active in the organizations of their choosing in order to turn this stress into positive change in the profession. Remember, if there is only a focus on the negatives, truckers will have harmful levels of stress that will hurt everyone in the profession.