You’re due at your destination in an hour, but traffic has slowed to a crawl. You just got cut off — twice. You’re already feeling worn out. And now rain clouds are gathering overhead. As a truck driver, you face these types of situations all the time. The more prepared you are to handle them, the healthier you’ll be.
Stress can cause serious mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. It can also lead to medical problems. But studies show that having an upbeat state of mind can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Don’t let stress interfere with your job or your health. Try this five-point plan for stress relief:
1. Plan your route. Plan how many stops you’ll make, including rest stops, and decide where and when you’ll take them. A proactive plan while also considering the time of year and road conditions will help you plan efficiently, ensuring enough time for proper pre- and post-trip inspections. This reduces the likelihood of an on-the-road breakdown. It will also help you feel less rushed throughout the day, lowering overall stress levels.
2. Exercise physically and mentally. Take your scheduled breaks and use them to keep your body and mind in shape. Exercise by stretching or walking around your truck. If you can find and use a gym on your route, use it. If not, you can try keeping portable exercise equipment (such as tension cables) in the cab. Also, use your breaks to clear your head. Try a simple breathing exercise: Inhale through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, then exhale. Repeat five times.
3. Watch your diet. If you have a microwave and fridge in your truck, use them. Cook meals in your rig instead of eating high-fat truck stop food. Swap out sugary sodas and energy drinks for water. Try to eat more fruits and vegetables. Rely on salads and lean deli meats for meals. Choose nuts or dried fruit for snacks.
4. Look for ways to connect. Truck driving can be isolating, so connect with family and friends whenever possible. Listening to an audiobook or podcast while driving will give you another voice in your cab and help you combat loneliness. You may even choose to adopt and travel with a dog or cat if your carrier allows it.
5. Prepare a sleep plan. Keep your cab cool and dark. Use window shades to simulate nighttime if you have to sleep during the day. Turn off all electronic devices. Plan for seven hours of sleep if possible.
Conditions like anxiety and depression are serious. If you can’t fight stress on your own, seek help. Ask your dispatcher for resources or see a medical professional. If you struggle with feelings of suicide, call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.