6 Tips for Overcoming Long-Haul Negativity
By David K. Henry
Nooo! What’s going on? Did that dock guy just dump all over me unfairly? And how about that four-wheeler in that Kia? He nearly had us both killed.
Little issues that can be dealt with when a person has a regular five- day-a-week job become magnified for the professional drivers who make their living grabbing gears far from home. It’s far too easy to dwell on the last bad experience for hours on end.
Life along the black asphalt ribbon can be hard on your relationships and mental health. Financial worries don’t help either. Small issues become magnified and it's very easy for truck drivers to fall prey to negative thoughts. It's like a vicious spin cycle. Stay in there too long and you'll make yourself sick — mentally, physically and spiritually.
I’m happy to report there are ways to get out of that downward thought spiral.
Recently, I interviewed Bertholde Carter, a counselor who deals with finding solutions to problems that get people “stuck”. She and her business partner Ed Bassis have operated Bassis and Carter Consulting, in Sudbury ON., for over 35 years. To me, she describes their business as being psychotherapists. He is a psychologist and she is a social worker.
She says that most people don't realize that they have the ability to change their minds and thereby escape the negative spin cycle. Carter uses the analogies of riding a bike, driving a car, and tying your shoes. You do all these things automatically. Like a computer, we have "automatic default" reactions to different situations. In the same way, when a bad issue comes up, we "default" to over-analyzing and/or stressing about it. The result is that just a single occasion where you are berated or treated unfairly can ruin your whole day. And, as you know, a stressed out driver is a safety hazard.
Has an office worker or dock worker ever taken something out on you that was undeserved? I can see most of you raising your hand. Unfortunately, this is all too common an occurrence.
Here are 6 ideas from Carter for overcoming that negative reaction:
1. Don't forget the matter — simply put it aside to deal with later. This isn't to give you time to cool down or get the emotion out. It's simply to give you time to deal with the issue properly with no other distractions. Set aside a block of time, say, after supper. Allow yourself 20 minutes to deal with it. Respect that you had a right to feel rotten. Analyze and then move on.
2. Now that you've put the matter aside to deal with later, do something else with your mind. Daydream; think of another totally-unrelated subject; problem solve on how to make your job/life better; whatever can occupy your mind without running you off the road. Truckers are awesome problem solvers. With the amount of free time we have, we find solutions that elude the highest-paid consultants. This can be fun.
3. Turn on your radio to your favorite program. If you're into music, sing out loud along with your favorite singer, imagining that you could be on stage yourself. If you like western stories, imagine you are cleaning up Dodge City alongside Matt Dillon. Whatever distracts your mind from the initial upsetting issue. Just do it.
4. Call a friend; hands free of course. Get someone to talk you down off the mental cliff. Talking to another person is a great tool, without even needing to talk about what's bothering you. The distraction of another voice is powerful.
5. Use whatever resources have worked for you in the past. This can be a favourite saying from your closest relative, a speech or poem from anyone or a kind word from a random person.
6. Do something nice for someone else. Buy coffee for the next person in-line. Wave at construction workers or honk the horn for children playing. It won't be easy but brightening someone else's life will also brighten yours.
It's not easy being a pavement pounder but as professional truckers, we show time and again how resilient and strong we are.
David K. Henry is an LCV driver for Penner International who also blogs about trucking on this website and at crazycanuckdave.com