Dealing With Stress at Work
Stress affects all of us. It can be caused by the guy who cut you off in traffic or by long-term concerns, such as a serious illness in the family or financial strain. Fortunately you have many ways to manage stress.
One of the best ways for trucking companies to help drivers cope with job stress at any time is to have a stress management and training plan in their safety programs. Following such a plan can help employees identify workplace stress, its sources, and its effects on their safety, health, and wellness. It should also show management and employees how to prevent and control stress. Effective job stress management can improve employee health and wellness, equipment operation, attendance, productivity, employee retention, morale, and job satisfaction.
Companies can also help their workers deal with life’s stressors in specific ways. Support for flexible work schedules can decrease conflicts in work/life balance. When possible, allow employees to control their schedule, both the time spent at work and how they allocate their time while working. Encourage frequent exercise breaks for those with sedentary jobs and rest breaks for those who do physical labor.
Co-workers can add to stress or help one another cope. Recognize that your team member may be under stress and do what you can to help.
As corny as it sounds — smiles are contagious. Pass them around.
Truck drivers must always be ready to take quick, sensible action at any time behind the wheel. A wrong response to an emerging traffic hazard or other dangerous work condition can cause serious injuries, death, and costly damage. But keeping a constant high level of readiness can be a challenge when job stress diminishes a driver’s mental and physical health. As the coronavirus outbreak interrupts established work routines and expectations, it can quickly increase previous levels of job stress among truck drivers.
Medical research shows that chronic job stress under normal everyday driving conditions can raise the risk of psychological, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal health problems. It can also worsen preexisting medical problems. A driver having these problems may pose a risk to themselves, their co-workers, and other motorists. The risk may grow if fear and anxiety caused by COVID-19 (coronavirus) intensify job stress.
Sleep Apnea - The diagnosis that can change your life
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which a person stops breathing during sleep - sometimes up to several hundred times a night. Episodes are followed by fragmented, restless sleep. This can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and can lead to serious health conditions including congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, or stroke.
Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can cause a person to fall asleep while performing work activities such as driving. It's a dreaded diagnosis among many truck drivers, one that they assume will change their life. They may be surprised to find that the diagnosis can change their life for the better.
Dennis, a long-time truck driver, shares how this diagnosis has affected his life. "Before my diagnosis with sleep apnea, I thought it was just part of the job to feel tired all the time. I never knew what a good night's sleep was. Now that I sleep with a CPAP machine, I feel good, rested and ready to attack the day." Dennis noted that his symptoms also included night-time acid reflux and snoring.
Some common symptoms of sleep apnea include: loud snoring, labored breathing during sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, or difficulty concentrating. Although obstructive sleep apnea seems to be more common in obese men, 40% of the people diagnosed are not obese.
According to the MedLine Plus library:
"A person with obstructive sleep apnea usually snores heavily soon after falling asleep. The snoring continues at a regular pace for a period of time, often becoming louder, but is then interrupted by a long silent period during which there is no breathing. This is followed by a loud snort and gasp, and the snoring returns. This pattern repeats frequently throughout the night."
If you have any of these symptoms, or have been told by your sleep partner that you do, see your doctor immediately. You could be a danger to yourself and others on the road.
Treatment for sleep apnea can be fairly simple and ranges from lifestyle changes to sleeping with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine (you'd be surprised how many people do.)
Recovery can be life changing. You may not remember ever feeling better.
Recent research findings
Long-Haul Truck Drivers: Obesity can take you off the road. Click to view infographic developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (451 KB PDF).
Biking to stay active on the road. Click to read article from TruckerNews.com.