Professional truck driving can be a taxing career. With long days on the road and extended periods of time away from home, the demands of this profession can take a toll on truck drivers’ mental health, leading to increased stress, anxiety and other health issues.
It’s important for drivers to prioritize their mental health both on and off the road. Here are some effective strategies to promote a healthy lifestyle and positively contribute to emotional wellbeing.
1. Get your Z’s
Getting quality sleep is essential for mental wellbeing, but it is especially critical for truck drivers because of the long hours spent on the road. Studies show the long-term effects of sleep loss can include increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack and stroke.
Establishing a consistent sleep schedule and routine can go a long way for drivers. This starts with going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even during home time. Professional drivers should also avoid consuming caffeine or nicotine before bedtime as they can throw off that sleep pattern.
A good night’s rest should include at least seven hours of sleep.
2. Stay connected
According to a recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General, about half of adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness, which can lead to anxiety, depression and more. This highlights the importance of staying connected with friends and family as much as possible.
Using technology can help drivers stay connected during their downtime. While on the road, use the time you are not spending to text and video call loved ones. When at home, make sure you’re also making plans to spend time with family, whether it be catching up over coffee, gathering around the table to share a meal or simply spending time together to watch the latest trending show.
3. Exercise regularly
Long days on the road could mean you are not getting consistent exercise. We know this is detrimental to our physical and mental health in the long term.
During breaks or downtime, getting up and moving is important, even if it happens in short stretches of time. Going for a walk or bringing portable exercise equipment on the road are ideal. For those times when light to moderate activity can seem challenging, stretching can be just as beneficial. Here are some stretches to help get you started.
4. Practice mindfulness
Taking a few minutes to practice mindfulness during rest periods on the road can be highly beneficial to disrupting the mental noise of daily life.
Mindfulness can look different depending on the individual. However, if you’re looking to explore what works for you, some practices to try include: listening to an audiobook or calming music, engaging with a mindfulness app on your phone, or even sitting in silence for a few minutes and focusing on your breathing. Find what best helps you reset and prioritize making time for this activity.
5. Eat a healthy diet
We know eating healthy on the road can be challenging, but it’s important to consider gut health as a contributor to mental well-being. Consuming high-nutrient meals can also provide the fuel your body and brain need to keep going strong.
If you have a fridge or bring a cooler onboard your truck, pack healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables and look for snacks like nuts or seeds at rest stops. These foods will help you naturally keep your energy levels up and prevent brain fog.
Though the above practices can help tremendously, we know sometimes you may need more support. Below are some great resources for drivers struggling with mental health.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – In addition to providing some great online resources, NAMI has a free helpline Monday through Friday, from 10 A.M. – 10 P.M. ET. Call 800.950.6264, text “Helpline” to 62640 or click here to chat with someone online.
- Mental Health America (MHA) – MHA provides several online resources for helping to screen your mental health and make decisions regarding the next steps for care, including a stress test and guide for talking to your doctor.
- Healthy Trucking of America (HTA) – HTA provides educational resources as well as a line for free health coaching at 800.800.1198.
Life on the road can sometimes be challenging and isolating. Professional drivers must prioritize their mental health and raise a hand when they need help. Please let others know if you or someone you know needs additional support.