mental health

Being Aware of Your Mental Health

By: Brandon Baxter - Staff Writer
Posted: May 6th 2024

Driving a commercial vehicle can certainly be a lonely job, and it can be all too easy for mental health hurdles and challenges to creep up on a driver as the miles roll by. Extended time away from family and friends and long periods without human interaction can be detrimental to anyone's psyche.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and with renewed emphasis being placed on folks and their mental health these days, here are some ways drivers can help maintain their own mental health while over-the-road and on the job.

Just Like on the Road, Watch for Signs

Depression can often be associated with sadness, but that's not always the case. Silent warning signs can include things like a lack of interest in spending time with family or friends or feeling the need to be alone.

Some drivers, like those who may have faced a traumatic situation such as a crash, could be experiencing flashbacks or constantly expecting the worst of any given scenario while they're routinely scanning to see where potential dangers reside.

These issues can become problematic when drivers regularly wake up distressed, feeling overwhelmed, and experiencing heart palpitations. Often, drivers can live in a constant sense of stress and heightened tension due to past experiences.

Exercise Care for Mind and Body

Psychological, biological, and social factors all have a role to play in mental health. Biological factors, for example, include sleep, movement, and exercise. That's why carving out an hour of one's time to go to the gym, or even just walking for 20 minutes a day, can help with staying mentally fortified.

Eating at regular times is also majorly important, because skipping meals can put the brain into a type of distress mode. Staying hydrated is extremely important, too. Focus more on water, and less on coffee or soda (pop).

Get your sleep! Turning off your phone an hour before going to sleep, thus avoiding additional visual stimulation, and using something that generates white noise can help improve the quality of sleep in a noisy truck stop or rest area.

No Need to Man-Up

It's no secret that the majority of truck drivers are men. Often, there is a preconceived stigma around men reaching out for help and discussing their feelings. Men should be able to recognize that it's okay to not only have those feelings, but that it's also okay to talk about them. It takes courage to reach out for help, and there are many clinical practices that specialize in men's mental health.

It's Okay to be Alone, but You Should Always Check In

Some people are happy to maintain a smaller social circle, while others prefer to have additional connections in their life. Those who are routinely isolated from these connections, however, can sometimes experience symptoms of depression or anxiety.

There might be several underlying reasons for this type of symptomatic onset. Some drivers, for example, display these symptoms because of biological or genetic factors. And one way to alleviate this isolation is to reduce the number of days over-the-road. Other options to address such loneliness could be to consider team driving, or to set aside scheduled times to call family, friends, and colleagues while away from home.

Help is Always a Call or Click Away

Mental health resources are available through government programs and non-profit agencies, as well as your family doctor. Some clinical practices even offer a sliding scale of fees to help in covering session costs. Plus, drivers can also find clinical practices that recognize cultural sensitivities and hotlines that are specific to their individual issues.

You owe it to yourself to protect and maintain a positive mental health outlook, so do it for you. And if you won't do it for yourself, do it for someone who cares about you. Because you may not think the world means much to you, but you may mean the world to someone else.

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