5 Tips For Coping With Stress On An Oil Rig

Credit: Padurariu Alexandru

Working on an oil or gas rig comes with its own unique set of stressors. Whether it’s dealing with long shifts, night shifts, physically demanding and potentially dangerous work, or the difficulties of managing finances through seasonal fluctuations, the life of an oil or gas rigger is a challenging one. Here are some tips for coping with an oil or gas job that’s as demanding as it is rewarding.

1. Learn to Breathe

A big part of managing stress is managing its physical symptoms. As physical tension builds so, too, does our mental stress level. In other words, the more tense we get, the more prone we are to becoming stressed out.

Credit: Robin Benad
Credit: Robin Benad

Learning to monitor your breathing will significantly improve your ability to relax and keep your stress level down, even amidst the most hectic circumstances. The “Relaxation Response” was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson of the American Institute of Stress. By taking a few moments to concentrate on deep, slow breaths, the “response” can effectively slow your body’s metabolism and heartbeat while also reducing blood pressure.

2. Learn to Relax

When you do have a moment to take a break during a shift, it’s vital that you actually utilize this time to wind down. Find someplace safe and out of the way to sit down and coax your body, and mind, into a brief state of relaxation. You might even use this opportunity to close your eyes for a few minutes.

Credit: Ilham Rahmansayah
Credit: Ilham Rahmansayah

There is no shortage of advice for relaxing in five minutes or less, but it can be easy to forget these vital techniques when gripped by anger or anxiety. Fortunately, something as simple as chewing gum or munching on a healthy snack can impact your body’s stress levels profoundly.

3. Avoid Caffeine After a Shift

A hot cup of coffee might seem irresistible after a shift out in the cold, but caffeine will mess with the quality of your sleep and make you more prone to stress the next day. According to Dr. Mark Hyman:

Americans live on caffeine and Prozac. We use substances to manage our moods. In fact, the four top-selling items in grocery stores are all drugs that we use to manage our mood and energy: caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and nicotine.

Instead of going for that hot cup of joe, try an herbal tea or a cup of hot chocolate. They’ll warm you up just as well, and actually help you get to a good night’s sleep. If those solutions don’t fit your fancy, you might also experiment with a brief exercise routine or a variety of meditation techniques.

If you’re regularly working night shifts on an oil rig, you’re probably not getting the recommended amount of daily Vitamin D intake. The body mainly receives this essential vitamin from the sun, and Vitamin D deficiency can severely affect mood and energy levels. Fortunately, eating specific foods, such as eggs, oily fish, and fortified breakfast cereals can help you combat Vitamin D deficiency.

4. Unwind Before Bed

Even though your body is most likely drained after a shift, your mind will often still be reeling from the day’s work. This can make falling asleep particularly challenging, especially when coupled with anticipation or anxiety for the following day’s events. Taking at least twenty minutes to unwind before bed can significantly improve your ability to slip seamlessly into a relaxing and rejuvenating night of sleep.


Reading a book or listening to calming music are great ways to unwind before bed, but be careful to avoid screen time. The color and lights of movies and television tend to stimulate your brain in a way that actually disrupts REM sleep. In fact, watching television, playing video games, or surfing the Internet ramps up brain activity. This stimulation results in a release of the “fight or flight” hormone known as cortisol, which is directly associated with stress and “hardly conducive to sleep,” according to WebMD.

5. Make Time to Play

As much as a good night’s sleep is important for managing stress from one shift to the next, don’t sleep away your time-off. It’s also important to get out and connect with people who aren’t part of your crew and do things that don’t have to do with work. Otherwise, you’re simply resting your body, but not giving your mind a chance to escape the day-to-day stresses of working out on a rig or in the fields.

The importance of a healthy work-life balance continues to be a hot topic of conversation in the workplace, and many employers are actively investigating ways in which they can help their employees avoid catastrophic burnouts. Indeed, according to Organizational Psychologist Ellen Kossek and her colleagues at the Purdue University Krannert School of Management, a sustainable workforce is defined as “one whose employees have the positive energy, capabilities, vitality, and resources to meet current and future organizational performance demands while sustaining their economic and mental health on and off the job.”

Stress Management Resources

Oil and gas workers consistently deal with an incredibly physically challenging work environment and managing stress often takes a back seat to the importance of getting the job done. Fortunately, there are a number of online resources available that focus on teaching and practicing effective and healthy stress management techniques.

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