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STRESS is an increasing factor of our lives. Everything is happening quicker, there are more demands on our life, both at work and at home.

While stress at work can be healthy – it gets things done, we respond quicker to tasks – the charity Mind suggests that not coping with stress correctly can lead to mental health issues.

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) says that more than 11 million days are lost at work a year because of stress at work.

Stress can affect how we feel physically and emotionally as well as impair our judgement and our reactions. This could be potentially dangerous if you carry your stress into your business motoring.

So how do you handle stress during your business motoring?

The first thing to do is understand the signs of stress. These come in a variety of forms but you should consider if you are becoming easily irritated, becoming moody or unable to switch off from work.

Physical examples of stress can include eating too much or too little, headaches, tense muscles, lack of sleep and a propensity to becoming ill more often.

Ben, an independent charity which provides support for life to the people of the automotive industry, along with the IAM RoadSmart, has provided some guidance if you feel stressed before getting behind the wheel.

How to de-stress before getting behind the wheel

  • Exercise is a good place to start – keeping fit is a good way to de-stress because exercise releases endorphins which have a physically calming effect
  • Go for a short walk and get some fresh air before jumping in your car
  • Wait until you feel calm, collected and well enough to head out on your journey. Business motoring can be stressful – especially with the volume of traffic putting pressure on your time between client visits. So try to de-stress before driving otherwise matters can escalate.
  • Try mindfulness and deep breathing before getting behind the wheel. You don’t have to be spiritual to benefit from mindfulness and meditation – anyone can meditate and it has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. If you’re new to meditation, try the Headspace app free trial or a lesson from the Free Mindfulness Project.
  • If you’re feeling ill from stress with headaches or sickness, make sure you feel well enough before you drive. Drink plenty of water and get some fresh air
  • What’s stressing you out? Write down a list of the things and set yourself some time to tackle them later on – sometimes writing your worries down and making time to sort them out helps clear your mind
  • Is stress causing you to struggle with addiction to alcohol, drugs or nicotine? Be aware that these could still be in your system before driving. If you’re struggling with addiction or substance misuse, then it’s important to seek help
  • If you’re having trouble sleeping due to stress then make sure you aren’t too tired to drive. IAM RoadSmart advises if you feel sleepy whilst behind the wheel, find a safe place to pull over and stop – not on the hard shoulder of a motorway. Research suggests that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related so don’t drive if you feel sleepy.
  • Share your problems with a family member, friend or colleague. Sometimes opening up about our problems to those close to us can make all the difference and they can even help you find solutions. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved

It’s important that your business motoring is a safe as possible. If you keep stress out of your car, it will make for a safer – and more relaxed – driving environment.

If you need more advice about how to handle stress, then Ben has further tips on managing stress.