Mental health month may have ended, but at Brite Logistics mental health is a year-round priority. The walls of stigma are falling off the subject of mental health, so it is important to look at how mental health issues affect truck drivers. For too long it has been commonplace for truck drivers to struggle through and ignore when they may need a little extra help or to take a break. They are truck drivers, right? Well, drivers are still people, and you are still susceptible to issues like depression and anxiety. When drivers adopt this kind of attitude it very quickly leads to burnout and a snowball effect of exhaustion.
Being on the road while dealing with a negative mental state can surely exacerbate the problem. This is due to extended isolation, lack of communication with others, poor diet & hygiene, bad sleeping habits, and little to no exercise being the average practices of most drivers. It might be called ‘mental health’ but how you treat your body plays a huge role in it. Here are some of the things that affect truck drivers’ mental health while OTR and some tips to help combat them by being kind to your body and taking care of yourself.
Isolation and Lack of Communication
Unless you’re a team driver, you undoubtedly spend a lot of time alone in your truck. If you are more susceptible to feelings of loneliness, then extended periods of isolation can be detrimental to your mental health. If the only conversations you have are with your dispatcher and are work-related then you can add stress to that equation as well.
Tip – A great idea many truck drivers have adopted to combat loneliness is bringing a pet or another person along for the trip. Many companies have adopted ride-along and pet-rider policies to accommodate drivers’ lifestyles. It not only gives you someone to interact with, but it’s also a perfect stress reliever to have someone you care about sitting right next to you. Do your research to find out what companies allow for extra passengers and furry ones too.
Burnout, Exhaustion, and Stress
It is way too common for truck drivers to work themselves until they are physically and mentally exhausted. They think this is what is expected of them and try to go above and beyond when they physically cant. You can only keep up an act like that for so long in this industry. The truth of the matter is that this is a physically and mentally demanding job. You should allow yourself some grace now and then.
Tip- If your company offers time off benefits or sick days, TAKE ADVANTAGE! Don’t be afraid to take time off when you need it. You won’t be of much use anyway if you let yourself get to the point of total burnout. Pace yourself at work, and don’t bite off more than you can chew.
With so many different snack options in truck stops and fast-food restaurants to stop at on the road, It’s no wonder that truck drivers don’t exactly eat balanced meals every day. Convenience often takes precedence over eating healthy, but the consequences can be monumental.
Mental health is linked to physical health, so keeping your body running efficiently should be your top priority. Not only can your mental health start to deteriorate from having a poor diet, but the health issues that bad eating leads to will increase your stress level which will, you guessed it, have a negative impact on your mental health. All these things are linked together and when one thing goes wrong, it very quickly creates a cycle that will help produce and worsen depression and anxiety.
Tip- Many truck drivers keep portable skillets, crockpots, and hotpots in their trucks. Also, many trucks are made with mini-fridges pre-installed in them. Drivers use these to store healthy ingredients and cook while in their trucks. This keeps them from stopping for fast food and unhealthy snacks as often.
Bad sleeping habits and hygiene
It would go without saying that getting enough sleep is essential for your mind and body to function properly. As for hygiene, it’s well known that poor hygiene is a symptom of depression and low mood states of mind. If you find yourself going days (maybe weeks) without showering or grooming yourself, it may be time for a mental check-in.
Tips- It is implied that drivers should be using their resets to sleep. If you’re not getting enough sleep, look at how you spend your time during 10-hour resets. Sleeping during your reset should be the priority! Also make sure you utilize truck stop shower facilities, when you have time, to get yourself cleaned and groomed. At Brite, we have private showers and bedrooms in our drivers’ lounge for our drivers to utilize. Not only is bad hygiene a symptom of depression it also worsens it. If you’re not even motivated enough to shower, how will you stay motivated to do your job? Take care of yourself regularly while over the road.
Lack of exercise
Recently, combating the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle has become a focus for many work environments. Many companies offer standing desks or yoga ball chairs for their employees who sit at a desk all day. Unfortunately, there are no such options for drivers. In order to drive the truck, you have to sit in it. This means drivers spend the majority of their time simply sitting in one spot. This means they have very minimal time to move around.
Tip-During Loading/unloading, or while you’re tank is filling up, Use the opportunity to get up and move around! Do some jumping jacks, push-ups, or any other exercises you can think of. Studies show that exercise and increased heart rate cause your body to release endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals Yes, exercising WILL actually make you feel better! So one of the best things you can do for yourself is to get up and get moving!