Stress can affect us all at one time or another, affecting how we feel physically and emotionally as well as impairing our judgement and reactions.
Stress and at-work driving are not a good combination for you or your drivers, so to help with staying calm behind the wheel, Ben, an independent charity which provides support for life to the people of the automotive industry, provided some tips on ways to minimise stress before driving.
Warning signs of stress
First of all, recognising the warning signs of stress is a great first step for your drivers. Stress could bring some or all of these:
- Becoming easily irritated with colleagues, friends or family
- Feeling distracted, forgetful or moody
- Having racing thoughts
- Not being able to ‘switch off’
- Becoming quiet and withdrawn
- Under or overeating
- Smoking more, drinking more alcohol or taking drugs
- Tense muscles
- Feeling sick
- Not sleeping well / insomnia
- Getting ill more often
Here are a few tips to give to your drivers on how to reduce stress before stepping into a vehicle:
- Go for a short walk around the block to get some fresh air and unwind from the stresses of the day.
- Wait until you feel calm, collected and well enough to head out on your journey. Driving itself can be stressful, especially in rush hour, so if you are already stressed this is likely to make matters worse.
- Try mindfulness and deep breathing before getting behind the wheel. You don’t have to be spiritual to benefit from mindfulness and meditation – anyone can meditate and it’s been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. If you’re new to meditation, try the Headspace app free trial.
- If you’re feeling ill from stress with headaches or sickness, make sure you feel well enough before you drive. Drink plenty of water and get some fresh air.
- Write down a list of the things that are stressing you out and set yourself some time to tackle them later on – sometimes writing your worries down and making time to sort them out helps clear your mind.
- Is stress causing you to struggle with addiction to alcohol, drugs or nicotine? Be aware that these could still be in your system before driving. If you’re struggling with addiction or substance misuse, then it’s important to seek help.
- If you’re having trouble sleeping due to stress then make sure you aren’t too tired to drive. IAM RoadSmart advises if you feel sleepy whilst behind the wheel, find a safe place to pull over and stop – not on the hard shoulder of a motorway. Research suggests that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related so don’t drive if you feel sleepy. See our tips on avoiding driver fatigue here.
- You can check your mood with the anxiety / stress checker tool on Ben’s website to see how you’re feeling and if you need some extra support.
- Tell someone you trust how you feel. Sometimes opening up about our problems to loved ones can make all the difference and they can even help you find solutions. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.
If you need more advice about how to handle stress, read Ben’s top tips on managing stress.
If you feel you can’t cope, call Ben’s free and confidential support line on 08081 311 333 or use its webchat by visiting www.ben.org.uk. Or you can contact The Samaritans on 116 123 or visit its website www.samaritans.org