Managing Trucker Stress with 5 Ideas from Stoic Philosophy

Leverage ancient stress-reduction and decision making techniques in your life as a modern day truck driver.

managing trucker stress



  1. You can’t control everything that happens to you, only how you respond.
  2. Turn lonely times into time for reflection.
  3. When stressed or anxious about something, consider how your perception is shaping it.
  4. Sometimes envisioning the worst can help us appreciate what we have.
  5. You’d be surprised by how much happiness can be experienced by remaining focused on the present moment.

The life of a truck driver is stressful.

The hours are long, the pay scale varies, and there are a wide array of variables you need to constantly consider.

When “Man up!” is not exactly helpful advice.

And even though there is somewhat of a macho culture within truck driving in which drivers are encouraged to manage their stress by “manning up” or bottling up their emotions, the consequences of doing so can be drastic—ranging from problems with your mental health, physical health, relationships, and even daily decision-making. 

But what if we were to tell you that some of the most noteworthy personalities in history—ranging from Roman Emperors to Navy pilots and prisoners of war used ancient philosophical ideas to help manage the stress, anxiety, and depression in their lives? In fact, some modern mental health procedures are based on some of these ancient ideas. 

Would it be interesting to hear that some of these concepts and exercises could also help you manage the stresses and anxieties in being a truck driver?

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Stressors

The practice to which we are referring is known as Stoicism—a brand of philosophy that encourages focus on the items in life that are within one’s control, accepting the things that are not, and living in accordance with that nature. 

While this sounds almost overly simplistic or impractical, the ideas found in Stoicism have helped manage the stress and guide the decision-making of those ranging from the most powerful man in the world at one point—Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius— to James Stockdale, an American Navy pilot who was a prisoner of war for 7.5 years during the Vietnam War. 

In this guide, we’re going to present five ideas and exercises from Stoic philosophy that you can apply to your life as a truck driver—to manage stress, make decisions you feel good about, and find tranquility on the road. 

1. You can’t control everything that happens to you. You can, however, control how you respond.

Weather, traffic, delays, mechanical problems—these are things you can’t usually control. They’re either going to go well or not. 

While this is true, you have full control over how you respond when these things happen and possibly ruin your day or week. 

Sometimes, simply identifying something as a variable on the road beyond your control can help you to remain calm, accept them, and roll with the punches.

"The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control." – Epictetus

epictetus  - stoicism for truck drivers

2. Turn lonely times into time for reflection. 

The road can be a lonely place. However, it can be useful to use quiet periods alone to yourself as times for self-reflection. 

  • You can ponder your goals for the future and what steps you can take to achieve them. 
  • You can consider what your personal values are and how you can better uphold them. 
  • You can think about what you’re grateful for or how you can put some wisdom you’ve recently learned into action. 

"Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul." – Marcus Aurelius

marcus aurelius - stoicism for truck drivers

3. When stressed or anxious about something, consider how your perception is shaping it.

Just because something is stressful doesn’t make it inherently negative. In many instances, you’ll find that your own thoughts could be making a mountain out of a molehill. 

You may be worried about transporting a delicate load of cargo. Sure, taking road conditions, weather, speed, and safety into consideration can result in a stressful driving experience, but you can leverage these stressors as fuel for focus instead of fuel for anxiety. 

Are certain instances difficult or stressful? Sure. Are they always bad? Not necessarily. The difference may be how you shape them in your mind. 

"We suffer more often in imagination than in reality." – Seneca

seneca - stoicism for truck drivers

4. Sometimes envisioning the worst can help us appreciate what we have. 

If someone told you to purposely visualize the worst possible outcomes in life, you’d probably think they were a little off their rocker. 

Who would want to imagine getting fired, experiencing a collision, their house burning down, losing a spouse, or receiving a terminal diagnosis? However, the ancient and modern Stoics would routinely engage in the practice of negative visualization—imagining how their lives could go drastically wrong—as means of appreciating their substantially better existence. 

You may have inadvertently experienced the benefits of negative visualization in the past with a bad dream. Perhaps you lost something or someone in this dream. After waking up to reality, how happy were you to have that job, that home, that person, or your health? Perhaps you realized how you had been taking such things for granted in the past. 

A practice of intentional negative visualization can become a great tool for adjusting one’s perspective on life and lifting one’s spirits. 

“Remember that all we have is ‘on loan’ from Fortune, which can reclaim it without our permission—indeed, without even advance notice. Thus, we should love all our dear ones, but always with the thought that we have no promise that we may keep them forever—nay, no promise even that we may keep them for long.” – Seneca 

5. You’d be surprised by how much happiness can be experienced by remaining focused on the present moment. 

As a trucker, your life can feel like you’re perpetually shifting between waiting and hurrying up. There is a space between these two called “now.” 

And despite the potential stressors waiting for you on the horizon or some negativity you’ve experienced before, you may be surprised by how refreshingly good any given moment is. An immense amount of suffering can occur when we relive painful experiences of the past or worry about something that hasn’t happened yet. This is a pity because, most of the time, the present ain’t so bad.

So, the next time you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed, take a deep breath and gauge whether or not you’re living in the present moment. 

"The past is a memory, the future is a dream, and all we ever have is the present moment." - Alan Watts

For Continued Information on Stoicism

If these ideas and exercises resonate with you, consider diving into Stoicism a little more on your own to make your next haul a little more enlightening. There are several books, audiobooks, and podcasts you can listen to on modern and ancient Stoicism to help you manage stress, and anxiety, as well as enhance your outlook on life as a truck driver on the road. 

You Can’t Change Everything, Just Your Truck

In accepting that you can’t change everything, realize what you can control—and that may be your semi truck. If you’re in the market for a new or used commercial truck for sale, your friends from My Little Salesman can help. Since 1958, My Little Salesman has been connecting sellers, buyers, and drivers of commercial trucks and heavy equipment just like you. 

Find your next new or used commercial truck for sale today.

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About Ken Lane
Ken’s affinity for the heavy equipment industry was fostered as a curious youngster—becoming happily lost on his grandfather’s tractor sales and service lot (his favorite color is still Allis-Chalmers Orange). Since then, he’s perfected the art of turning black coffee into helpful buyer resources and marketing materials for My Little Salesman.
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