May is mental health awareness month and as a company dedicated to improving LIFE, it is important to help address mental health among truck drivers. We aren’t going to say we have all the answers to these issues, but we will commit to raising awareness and starting conversations to help combat lifestyle issues you may experience on the road, to DriveLIFE & MIND.
Mental Health Among Truck Drivers
According to a 2018 study, “Professional truck drivers are exposed to stressful working (and living) conditions and can be vulnerable. They report physical and mental health problems and psychological distress more frequently than the general population and their problems can affect safety on the roads.” In general, financial worries, lack of social support and job stress are the main factors in affecting people’s mental health. Unfortunately, mental health among truck drivers is more common than most would think. Truck drivers are exposed to stressful factors on a daily basis. It is important to identify factors that are causing stress and work to combat these stress factors to maintain a healthy mind.
Most people don’t want to talk about their feelings and, let’s be honest, no one wants to admit they have a problem. However, being open and honest about how you are feeling and how you are dealing with the day-to-day stresses of life on the road can be beneficial to combating mental health issues. Loneliness is one of the number one factors to mental health disorders. And life on the road can lead to loneliness if you let it.
Try one of these (or all) to combat loneliness on the road:
- Make a friend at the travel stop: Talk to the driver next to you. Ask him/her how they are doing. Offer an encouraging piece of advice or share a funny story!
- Bring a furry friend along: Do you leave a pet behind at home? Take your pet on the road with you next time. Pets have proven to reduce stress and decrease loneliness.
- Take a friend with you: Maybe you have a family member or friend who has never experienced life on the road. If they have the flexibility, let them haul a load with you and tell them about your life on the road.
Research shows that being outside can do wonders for mental health. In fact, some doctors have even started to prescribe “outdoor time”. Going for a walk has shown many benefits for reducing anxiety and stress. Taking a break, getting fresh air, and walking can reduce heart rate and blood pressure which can lead to generally feeling better overall. Next time you are waiting on a load (and are able to), get out of the cab and take a walk around your truck or loading dock. If you don’t have time to talk a walk, roll the window down, take a back road to avoid traffic and let the fresh air blow your worries away.
Sleep deprivation and mental health are closely related. We know, getting a full 8 hour night of sleep is asking a little much. But sleep deprivation is one of the most common symptoms in mental health disorders. (Add in kids, an overactive bladder, or stress and you can count on almost never sleeping 8 hours straight again.) However, there are things you can do to increase the quality of sleep when the quantity of sleep is near impossible.
- Avoid caffeine 6 hours prior to bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine and alcohol. Alcohol, although it makes some people sleepy, wears off within a few hours and interrupts the normal sleep cycles. Nicotine is a stimulant and increases your heart rate which causes difficulty relaxing and falling asleep.
Next time you’re on the road and find yourself unable to sleep, take a few minutes with the lights, phone, and TV turned off to close your eyes and relax or meditate.
When the days and roads are long, don’t forget how important you and your job are to everyone around you. Truck drivers are the lifeline to America. Stay positive. Stay safe and #DriveLIFE.
For more information on mental health among truck drivers or if you have been dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health illnesses, contact 1-800-273-TALK or visit Mental Health America.