It's The Holidays! Don't Stress Out!
Truck drivers are under stress every day of their working lives. Traffic, schedules, regulations, other people’s attitudes, and the driver’s health all combine to create stress; when a driver goes home, the stress changes to getting everything done before it is time to leave. Holidays add even more stress and some may feel overloaded.
There are many types of stress that occurs during the holidays. If a driver has family, they want to be home when the family gathers to celebrate. Unfortunately, in trucking, being home on any specific day is chancy at best. If a driver is single and/or has no family left, the feelings of loneliness intensify both in thoughts and when the driver sees other families together. If one is going home, finding time to buy gifts, trying to figure out what people want that the driver does not see often, or in a lot of cases, money is tight and the gift the kids want most is too expensive this year can cause more stress.
Then there is family dynamics, it seems that tempers flare and bad moods abound during holiday get togethers. One tends to focus on whether Uncle Joe will drink too much and say out of line things, or Aunt Sally will yell at the kids weeks in advance of the actual holiday. Many families designate whether a family get together was successful as saying ”˜no blood was shed!’
Not getting home for a major holiday is not easy to deal with. There is a specific day when the family gathers, at times the only time in a year that everyone will be there, miss the day, you miss seeing everyone; there is no alternative. This is the worst type of stress for a trucker concerning the holidays, worse still if the driver has children still at home. One way to still be a part of the gift giving or get together is arrange for a Skype call with webcam. Gift buying can be done earlier during a hometime and the gifts put away.
There are several options for getting gifts for holidays, birthdays or anniversaries. Truckers often stop at places that offer gifts from that area. For instance, Native American jewelry or crafts can be found throughout the Southwest. Online shopping can also be done and many online stores will send purchases gift-wrapped.
Some celebrations can be rescheduled to the weekend before or after the actual holiday. While Christmas is a religious holiday celebrated on a specific day, Thanksgiving is not, so it really does not matter if that is celebrated on a different day as long as everyone can make it. In my family, we celebrate Thanksgiving the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day and we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, though we have pushed it to the weekend following at times. This allows my siblings who are married to spend the actual holiday with their spouse’s families. Surprisingly, the kids like it; they get two Christmas days and two Thanksgiving days.
Loneliness when not being able to get home for the holidays is a very real factor in the amount of stress felt by a trucker. It has happened to me. I learned to look around the truck stop and remember that I am not the only one who did not or could not make it home. When it came time for a meal, I would see if there was another driver that was alone and ask them to join me for the meal. Some would do so, some would not.
Staying isolated is not a real answer to dealing with loneliness during a holiday season. If one cannot get home, then see if you can get close enough to another, more distant, family member, or a friend’s, and go there. Call your family more often, but remember that they are dealing with you not being home too, so keep the conversation lively, not depressing. Some churches have holiday services, and if you check ahead and call the church, some will come to the truck stop and take you to the church for the service then bring you back, you might even get invited somewhere for dinner. If you are so minded, and laid over for a day or so over the holidays, you might contact one of the local homeless shelters and volunteer to help cook or serve their holiday dinner.
Brooding, whether it is because you are not going to get home, or whether you are worried about Uncle Joe or Aunt Sally’s behavior is counterproductive. Not only will you make your mood worse, you can become distracted and that is not a good thing. Holidays bring people out onto the roads that only drive interstates or away from town during holiday seasons. They too are distracted by thinking about what gifts to buy, screaming tired kids, the crowds in the stores and yes, their own versions of Uncle Joe and Aunt Sally. Then there are the holiday cheer partakers, drunks on the roads. Your brooding will delay your reaction time and you do not want to add a wreck to your stress load.
To counter act the tendency to brood, or feel sorry for one’s self, buy yourself a new, exciting audio book, or a new recording of your favorite performer. Stay away from depressing talk radio instead listen to old time radio, sports, or a comedy channel. Find some random act of kindness to show a stranger; perhaps hold the door for another driver, or buy a stranger an anonymous cup of coffee then secretly smile when they look around to see who did it; it does not have to be much. Calling your elderly relatives and start a family history during your down time works well too to focus your attention away from yourself; and you may make them feel less lonely too.
The main thing to remember is that driving truck is a public service as necessary to the country as firemen and police officers; without us there would be no gifts in the store or much food on the tables. Remember that you are not truly alone or singled out to not get home, the waitress in the cafÃ©, the cashier at the fuel desk and thousands of other truckers and other service providers are not home either. You are giving everyone a great gift, the gift of your labor on the holiday so they can enjoy theirs’, be proud of that gift, not sad; maybe next year you will be at home while someone else will be on the road. It is something to look forward to at least.