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Truck drivers turn to meditation to reduce stress on the road

By on January 1, 2016

On a sunny fall afternoon Linda Squire is stranded in Columbia, Missouri, waiting for repairs on her CNGfueled truck. She tries to laugh it off, but there’s a hint of frustration in her voice.

As a driver with JRayl for the past 10 years, Squire has dealt with unexpected delays and detours, as well as aggressive driving around her truck. It all adds up to a great deal of stress and anxiety.

“I tend to be a laidback person, but there have been times I’ve gotten angry when my life has been in jeopardy,” she says. “On the road you see so many accidents. You just hope and pray that you’re not the next one. And when your truck’s broken down, you can get tense and frustrated.”

Squire’s route takes her from Akron, Ohio, to Oklahoma every week, transporting ladders to a tire manufacturer. Finding time to relax and recharge can be difficult.

She signed up for meditation classes to learn how she could maintain a sense of calm and avoid unnecessary distractions. Gradually, she began introducing the techniques into her daily routine.

“When I get upset or scared, I focus on breathing and it helps me to relax a lot quicker,” she says. “If I find myself feeling uptight, I think about home and my farm instead of focusing on what just happened out on the road.”

She considers her truck a sanctuary, a place to experience the gorgeous scenery of her surroundings. Sometimes she stops at a rest area and sits at a picnic table to enjoy the outdoors.

“I can’t exactly pull over every hour or two to have a break,” she says. “It’s even hard to find time for meals because you’re always on the run, but I make a point to slow down and eat healthy.”

She is quick to quash the misconceptions that her fellow drivers may have about meditation. It’s not about sitting with eyes closed and legs crossed in a dark room with incense burning. You don’t need to book a retreat or buy expensive clothing. Meditation simply involves clearing your head and collecting your thoughts.

“The stress is still there, but I can manage it,” she says. “I’d encourage people to open their minds and try it. Through meditation, I can take control of how I’m feeling.”

Untangling Your Mind

Meditation coach Eden Kozlowski on Squire’s approach to meditation and the lessons that all drivers can learn

Many people have a mistaken image of meditation that may keep them from learning more about it. Eden Kozlowski,
founder of Just Be, LLC, focuses on teaching meditation for people of all ages, professions and backgrounds.

After speaking to a group of truck drivers, she realized that the men and women who do this job are especially in need of a relaxation method.

“Trucking is a high-risk occupation where drivers are often experiencing lack of sleep, isolation and financial pressures, among other stresses,” she says. “What’s so interesting is that you’re continually running against the clock. It’s a very fast-paced life. Staying alert and being present is necessary — and that’s what meditation does.”

Kozlowski offers these tips for successful meditation:

Find your comfort zone

Why: Meditation allows people to bring unique focus to a particular situation — as long as they choose their own path. “It’s highly personal,” she says. “So it’s paramount that someone find what works for their own experience.”

Start slowly

Why: Introducing new habits on a gradual basis allows you to feel comfortable with incorporating lifestyle changes into your daily routine.

“When you start to implement these practices, you want to be fully engaged in the moment. If you’re having that small period of time where you’re alone with your thoughts and it’s just not working, try again the next day.”

Be mindful of all you do

Why: Reducing stress is not just good for a person’s emotional well-being. It has significant health benefits as well. Taking that same calm and thoughtful approach to mealtime, for example, will lead to better choices.

“The practice of meditation will allow drivers to see how food provides nourishment for the body and the soul. Linda is doing the right thing by paying attention to what she eats and taking the time out to have a healthy meal.”

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