The trucking industry often gets overlooked in mental health discussions. While mental health is extremely important at all times, now more than ever, we need to focus on the well-being of drivers. Guidance during the pandemic has cut many drivers off from off-hours social engagements, be it with friends, going out to have fun, or anything else. Going from keeping long hours in the cab to spending time off under lockdown can take its toll. Fortunately, there are a few things truck drivers can do maintain good mental health.
1. Mental Health Starts with Sleep
If our brains are overworked, we cannot perform well at our jobs. Truck drivers need to be alert when they are behind the wheel. Today’s truckers are not just paying attention to the road, they are also processing information from on-board devices, smartphones, and even laptops. This requires the brain to function at higher levels, which means drivers need as much sleep as possible outside of their hours of service. Not getting adequate sleep can result in stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
2. Stretch Your Body
Sitting still and gripping the wheel during long hauls can cause fatigue and cramped muscles. Muscle tension can lead to irritability and can impact mental health. Taking time during breaks to stretch or do low-impact exercises can keep muscles loose, and the chemicals released by the body during stretches can go a long way toward improving overall mental health.
3. Eating Properly
Food options can be limited on the road, but what we eat can impact our mental health. Avoiding foods that are high in sodium and sugar is a good move. Sugar, salt, and caffeine can cause peaks and valleys in our moods, and the inevitable mental crash can lead to much worse things than “being cranky.” Look for fresh fruit and vegetables for a snack instead of a bag of chips.
4. Keep Your Brain Stimulated
When the mind is not engaged, it can lead to poor mental health. While it’s true that truck drivers have to pay attention to an enormous amount of information during their shifts, that in itself can become routine. Break up those patterns by reading books, playing games, and listening to audio books during off-hours. When your brain is engaged in something fun, it can stave off mental health issues.
Mental health affects everyone. By following these guidelines, truck drivers will be able to maintain a positive outlook and share tips with each other.