Tips for the Trucking Industry: How to Improve Resilience When Facing Stressors

By Dr. Jack Singer

Remaining resilient in the face of stressors is an important skill no matter what your occupation is. Using my experience as an applied sports psychologist, my practice focuses on teaching financial advisors how to develop the mindset of a champion. However, you’d be surprised how many other groups can benefit from this same message. For example, I recently had the honor of being the keynote speaker at an event organized by the California Trucking Association and my presentation “Actionable Steps to Quickly Develop the Mindset of a Champion of Commerce” resonated with the trucking industry as well.

Members of the trucking industry are burdened with daily stressors just like any other profession. For trucking companies, one of the main stressors comes from the competing realities that (1) customers want lower costs, but (2) shipping costs are increasing. Having to reconcile these differences and satisfy customers while setting reasonable prices is one of the top daily stressors for this group. Another stressor unique to the trucking industry is the driver shortage. As older truck drivers retire and fewer young people seem interested in this profession, trucking companies worry about their ability to survive in the long term.

These problems may seem foreign to those in the financial services industry, but the takeaway message remains the same. Once again, it is not the specific problem that you are facing that causes your stress – it is how you react to the problem that causes your stress. This means that no matter what your specific problems are, you need to work at how you internally process these problems in order to avoid stress – and the process is the same for everyone, regardless of occupation.

(1) Understand Your Default Settings

How we handle problems is developed like any other habit – time and repetition. If you are prone to stress, you likely default to pessimistic thoughts when an event occurs. For those in the trucking industry, a conversation with Customer A about costs may explode into a range of pessimistic thoughts about not being able to please customers in general, not being able to make enough profit, and the worry about going out of business.

To get out of this trap, you must first realize that you are caught in the trap to begin with. Try to understand your ‘default settings’ when you encounter a potentially stressful event and the type of negative thought processes that result. This will help you recognize when you’re falling down your ‘default’ thought processes so you can restart under a different mindset.

(2) Reprogram Your Settings

If you can catch your negative mental habits while they happen, you have a chance of reprogramming them by refocusing and attacking the problem from a different angle. Optimistic thoughts can be hard if you tend to rely on pessimism, but optimism can also become a mental habit if you take the time to practice it regularly.

  • Stop thinking in extremes. Your business isn’t going to suddenly fail when you hit one speed bump. Whatever the problem is, it’s not the end of the world and you can think of good solutions if you don’t dwell on the negative.
  • Stop criticizing yourself. When you’re stressing about a problem you are likely highlighting your weaknesses and flaws. Stop with the negative self-talk. Give yourself a break so you can focus on the problem itself.
  • Approach the problem head on. This means thinking about the problem itself (not the potential consequences) to come up with creative solutions for handling it, including smaller steps that will help you achieve loftier goals.
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At the California Trucking Association event, I talked a lot about refocusing your attention from pessimistic thoughts to optimistic thoughts in order to maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity. I also gave tips on developing mental toughness  that I know have worked for athletes and financial advisors alike.

In the end, the members of the trucking industry who attended the California Trucking Association event were eager to learn my trucking industry stress tips and full of compliments when my speech ended. It warmed my heart to know I was able to help members of an unsung industry that ‘moves America forward’ every day. The specific struggles of trucking companies are very different from those in the financial services industry. However, both groups can improve resilience when facing stressors by following my tips for mastering stress and changing your mindset.