Top tips for handling stress behind the wheel

It’s easy for the stresses of work or home life to carry over behind the wheel, and stressed drivers are never good drivers. Stress can affect how we feel physically and emotionally as well as impair our judgement and our reactions, which is not what you need when you are behind the wheel of any kind of motor vehicle – let alone a heavy commercial vehicle. 

To be a better driver, it’s important to make sure you are in the right frame of mind before you even buckle up. So if you’re feeling stressed before heading out on the road, road safety charity IAM RoadSmart and automotive industry charity BEN have come up with some tips to help you stay calm behind the wheel.

For professional drivers spending a long time alone on the road and away from home, it’s easy to feel stressed or anxious about things. Firstly, it is important to recognise when you’re feeling stressed. BEN lists the following symptoms as potential warning signs of stress:

  • 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  • Becoming quiet and withdrawn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
  • Headaches
  • Feeling sick
  • Not sleeping well
  • Getting ill more often

Here are BEN’s tips for what to do you if you feel stressed before driving:

  • Go for a short walk to get some fresh air and unwind.
  • Wait until you feel calm and collected before heading out on your journey.
  • Try mindfulness and deep breathing exercises. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • If you’re feeling ill from stress with headaches or sickness, make sure you feel well enough to drive.
  • Write down a list of the causes of your stress, this can help you clear your mind.
  • If you’re struggling with substance misuse then seek professional help. Be aware that alcohol and other substances can stay in your system for many hours, and still be present the following day.
  • If you’re having trouble sleeping due to stress then make sure you’re not too tired to drive. IAM RoadSmart suggests that if you feel sleepy behind the wheel to find a safe place to pull over and stop. Almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related, and about 40% of sleep-related accidents involve commercial vehicles.
  • Tell someone how you feel. Talking about your problems with loved ones can make a big difference.

You can check your mood with the anxiety/stress checker tool on BEN’s website. If you need more advice on how to handle stress, you can read BEN’s top tips on managing stress.

Call BEN’s free and confidential support line on 08081 311 333 or use its web chat by visiting

Michael Dalton
Michael Dalton
Michael graduated from university in 2016 with a degree in Human, Social, and Political Sciences, and is a former contributor to The Truck Expert.

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