The open road, marked by miles of ever-changing landscapes and interjecting horizons, represents freedom to some. For long-haul truck drivers, however, this same road can bring feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, truck drivers are significantly more likely to experience mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, compared to the general population.
The factors that cause long-haul drivers anxiety are unique to their job and the stressors of daily trucker living:
- Long hours of solitary driving;
- Limited physical activity;
- Irregular sleep patterns;
- Health concerns;
- Unhealthy meals and poor nutrition; and
- Dehydration and too much caffeine and sugar.
Road to a healthier mindset
With challenges right and left, it can become difficult for truck drivers to adopt strategies to keep anxiety at bay. Many drivers have simply normalized anxiety as a hazard of the job and may not even realize that it’s an issue.
Here’s what you can do today to help reduce anxiety:
- Healthy eating habits: We all know what the basics of healthy eating are, despite fad diets. At the end of the day, it’s fairly simple: Eat real food. Over the road, that goal can feel daunting, but start small and simple. Think of one fruit, one vegetable a day, and focus on eating lean protein. When you’re not feeding your brain, your actions, feelings and ability to cope will suffer.
- Regular physical activity: Stop thinking exercise is the only way to move more. Break it down a bit. Each day, make sure you: squat, reach, bend and twist to check each box of the four essential movements everyone needs to do to age healthily.
- Maintain contact: Regular phone calls or video chats with loved ones can help reduce feelings of isolation. Social media can also help, but be mindful of who you follow or engage with on social media, as that can be a big source of stress and anxiety for many not knowing it.
- Prioritize sleep: Though sometimes challenging, maintaining regular sleep schedules can help improve overall mental well-being. And if you struggle to sleep, consider you need more movement during the day as the body is like a cup, empty it during the day so that you can refill it at night, and when you can’t sleep becomes an issue.
- Practice mindfulness: With so much information circling around in our heads nowadays, everyone could use a little instruction on mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness means living in the present moment. This is a great way to clear your mind of all the clutter. Consider a guided meditation, relaxing music in bed and guided breathing to help shift your mind away from the anxiety and stress and onto something else. If you feel like you can’t do this because your mind is too busy, that is why to engage.
- Professional help: If anxiety keeps you from enjoying life or coping with daily living, seeking professional mental health support through teletherapy services can bring about significant improvements. Look into telehealth and teletherapy to more efficiently manage life over the road.
As per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, only about 11% of truck drivers have reported seeking professional mental help. If companies, CDL schools and fellow drivers all work to share resources and normalize this type of support, more drivers may feel confident continuing their trucking career when life gets complicated.
Anxiety doesn’t have to be a big part of any truck driver’s journey. Through some of these small yet significant changes, trucking can again become the freedom of the road adventure drivers dream of rather than a source of unsettled health and anxiety.
After all, on the highway of life, there is much more to trucking than meets the eye.
Hope Zvara is the CEO of Mother Trucker Yoga, a company devoted to improving truck drivers’ fitness and wellness standards. She has been featured in Forbes and Yahoo News, and is a regular guest on SiriusXM Radio. Her practical strategies show drivers how they can go from unhealthy and out of options to feeling good again. Find out more at www.mothertruckeryoga.com.
Hope Zvara is the CEO of Mother Trucker Yoga, a company devoted to improving truck drivers’ fitness and wellness standards. She has been featured in Forbes and Yahoo News, and is a regular guest on SiriusXM Radio. Her practical strategies show drivers how they can go from unhealthy and out of options to feeling good again.