Is the Road Driving You Crazy In the Long Haul?
If you are a truck driver, you know how tough the road can be on you, mentally. It is estimated that one-third of American truckers struggle with mental health issues. Recent studies show that drivers are at high risk for depression and suicide. Long-haul drivers are even more vulnerable.
It’s easy to get so road-weary, you don’t even spot warning signs that could be indications that your mental well-being is at stake. Some of the top things to watch for are:
- Feelings of loneliness
- Anger and rage
- Extreme sadness
- Turning to alcohol or drugs for comfort
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Not caring
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Loss of interest in people and activities
- Thoughts of self-harm
Top Ten Contributing Factors
Truck drivers, especially those who are in it for the long-haul, are exposed to many elements that are known to set the scene for mental issues such as:
- Traffic frustrations
- Financial worries
- Dealing with stringent deadlines
- Being away from family
- Job security concerns
- Lack of physical movement
- Contributing health factors
- Temptations to medicate with drugs or alcohol
- Lack of social support network
Most truck drivers experience one or more of the ten factors above due to the nature of their jobs. Any one of them is reason to send an individual spiraling into a less than desirable state of mind. The situation is often complicated by additional stress factors such as deregulation within the trucking industry, job replacement threats by drones and auto-driven vehicles, violent protests blocking the routes, dangerous weather, poor road conditions, and COVID-19.
The Road to Recovery
When the highway is deemed dangerous, it is closed down. Time is taken to make the necessary repairs. After it undergoes reconstruction and is safe once again, it is opened back up for traffic.
The process of restoring your own mental health is much the same. You may need to take a break so repairs can be made. If you can’t afford to do that, it will still be imperative to find some time to devote to your mental stability.
Seeking the help of a professional is the best route. It’s the same concept as taking your truck to a mechanic for repairs under the hood. You aren’t expected to know how to fix all the mechanical problems under the hood and neither are you expected to know how to fix your mental health. Turn to someone who does.
There are a number of proactive steps you can take on your own as well. Over 30 percent of truck drivers report feeling lonely much of the time. Take measures to make social contact when possible. Chat with other truckers at truck stops. Call family and friends. Reach out on social media channels. Zoom, FaceTime, or video chat to add a more personal approach to talking to friends and loved ones.
It is imperative to take good care of yourself. Studies indicate less than 15 percent of long haul truckers get more than five hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep plays a key role in depression take whatever action you can to get more sleep. Also, be sure you are eating properly and that you are getting enough physical exercise.
Stress is a mental health culprit. It also leads to medical issues like heart attacks, digestion problems, and so much more. While there will always be stressors on the road, search for constructive ways to deal with adversity. Talk about what’s bothering you. Keep a journal so you can release some tension. Exercising has been proven to help your body eliminate stress so “walk it out” when you take driving breaks.
Most truck drivers have a self-imposed reputation of being “tough guys”. Drop your guard and allow yourself to be human. If you are lonely, you’re lonely. It’s ok. Seek solutions. If you are angry. You are angry. The only shame in having such emotions is the failure to do anything about it. Recognizing and admitting how you feel is the first step in recovery. Dig it up and begin the repairs.
Change Routes When Necessary
In the event that long haul driving is proving to be too much for you mentally, you may want to consider local driving. If the company your haul for is a problem, go independent. MJ Truck Nation is available to help meet your needs if you are ready to make changes. We’ll do our best to get you in a truck so you can do what you need to do to take care of your mental health. Give us a call at (561) 220-9992.