Features - Features
A person is going down the road screaming obscenities at passing vehicles, goes home and cannot eat supper, cannot make love to his/her spouse, yells at the kids, kicks the cat, cannot sleep, is late for work in the morning and wouldn't smile if a VW full of clowns suddenly appeared or they got a new truck. What is wrong with this person? Most likely burnout.
Trucking is a high stress job. Dealing with traffic, shippers, receivers and dispatchers is enough to stress out anyone. Add in performance pay, breakdown, poor food, inadequate rest, DOT, weather and family problems, and you have a volatile mix of stressors.
Stress is a major player in a driver's health and safety both on the road and at home. Stressed out drivers aren't as alert, exhibit road rage, have heart attacks and other health issues such as diabetes, mental problems, and drug and alcohol problems. They can become less productive as sleep patterns are interrupted, causing late deliveries and pickups. Attitudes change making what once was a very congenial and cooperative driver into a cranky, hard-to-deal-with non team player. Marriages break up, kids act out and finances go down the tube.
Too much stress can be identified by looking at one's behavior closely and is the first step in correcting the problem. If you notice any of the above symptoms or a friend or family member points your behavior out to you, pay attention to what is going on in your life.
TAKE AN AUDIT OF YOUR LIFE
Being burned out or overstressed is usually not just caused by one bad thing going on in your life, but by either a combination of things or an accumulation of several bad things. Some of these might be: a death in the family, fighting with your spouse, a child acting out, illness in your family or yourself, money problems, a bad employer, loneliness, depression, bad equipment or weather delays. At times, the final straw that sets you over the edge might be so insignificant that you miss it consciously such as a shipper that won't let you use the restroom. Not a big deal to those of us who are experienced drivers usually, but combined with anyone of the major stressors listed above it can be a trigger to the stress overload.
IF you find your job is really bothering you--your boss doesn't seem to care if your truck runs or not, doesn't pay you enough to pay your bills or runs you beyond your limits--start looking for a new job. Develop your options. Just knowing there are other opportunities sometimes bumps us up enough that we can ease the stress.
If you are having family problems, then do something about them. Find someone to help--a counselor, a minister, another family member or a lawyer. A counselor can help in the event of death or severe illness issues also.
If you are lonely to the point of isolation, find another driver everyday who is willing to visit, a few minutes at least, or join a dating site or join an activity group to attend when you are home. Make a few new friends and start a cell phone circle of people who you enjoy talking to.
MANAGE YOUR STRESS LEVELS
Learn what your excessive stress warning signs are. Watch for them to appear so you can take action before you reach the burnout level. For short term relief, take a break, eat a snack, call a friend, park and watch the sunrise or sunset...whatever relaxes you. Eat as well as you can, take vitamins and get some exercise outside of your job duties. Avoid alcohol (it doesn't help in the long term).
Many companies are recognizing that drivers stress out at high rates and are starting to encourage regular home time. Just getting out of the truck for a couple of days on a regular basis can go a long way to resolving many of the issues that might be causing you stress. Plan some fun activity for at least some part of your home time...forget about trucks or whatever else is bothering you for a few hours.
Stress causes us sometimes to act like dogs chasing their tails...we get in a rut and cannot think of a way out of stressful situations. Identify the stressors in your life, change the ones that you can, learn to deal in a positive manner with the ones you cannot change and understand that you are prone to stress-related problems. This will go a long way to allowing you to better deal with the stress you face.
The Serenity Prayer has it right:
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Finding serenity inside yourself is hard, but it is less hard than dealing with the reactions of burnout. Remember that burning out from stress is like burning out of a parking lot spinning your tires; it can cause irreparable damage and doesn't accomplish anything positive.
Ya'll be safe and I wish you peace and some serenity in your busy lives.