Amongst its emphasis on resolutions to physical health, January is also National Mental Wellness Month.
In the trucking industry, the conversation of bettering one’s overall health is an emphasis on alternatives of the processed meal options and combatting the sedentary lifestyle of drivers. However, mental wellness and health are just are important to holistic wellness as physical health.
In the unique industry of transportation, unpredictable schedules and daily stresses like traffic can all contribute to strained mental health. Stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems can affect a drivers ability to safety perform their job.
For example, chronic stress can contribute to a heart attack or stroke. Prolonged stress in tandem with alcohol use could lead to bloating, nausea or stomach ulcers. Anxiety may cause headaches or fatigue, while depression can bring about difficulty concentrating and a lowered immune system.
It becomes ever more important, then, the conversation of health for drivers is expanded to include mental wellness.
Poor mental wellness can look like having trouble falling and staying asleep, loss of interest in familial and other close relationships, lack of interest in hobbies, fatigue, overeating or total loss of appetite, unusual irritability and difficulty concentrating.
Since mental health not as easily treatable as going for a walk and a healthy dinner—although those are helpful!—here are four ways to stay mindful about your mental wellness this month and always:
Consider a four-legged companion
Dogs, cats and other pets are routinely recommended to individuals in later stages of life. This is because a pet instills routine and offers companionship. Regular exercise and feeding can add routine to a driver’s chaotic schedule while having a companion can bring comfort to what can be an isolating environment. At Continental Express, our dedicated and over the road drivers can bring their pet as a ride-along partner for long hauls.
Another way to keep routine on the road is to plan phone or Skype called with friends and family. Not only is this a way of keeping an accountability partner for making healthy choices, companionship again plays a role. Entrusting a loved one with details of your day and how you are feeling can make all the difference in regards to de-stressing.
…but limit smart phone device use before bed
For various reasons, it can be tough for a truck driver to stick to a set sleep schedule. One natural way to ensure better sleep is to rid yourself of blue light coming from smartphones and other devices before bed.
According to a study at Harvard Health, “Exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms. Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.”
The same goes for use of depressants like alcohol before bed. Although a drink may make you feel drowsy, it is a disturbance to one’s natural sleep cycle.
Clear your mind
De-stressing activities are unique to you. This could be listening to a podcast by your favorite comedian, reading, meditation/prayer, a walk outside and fresh air or hitting the gym. Whatever helps to clear and calm your mind.
Recognizing January as National Mental Wellness Month is a good way to refocus on mental health. Attributes to maintaining good physical health—like eating healthy, exercising and staying hydrated—all positively benefit mental wellness. However, companionship, quality sleep and stress-relieving activities can also aid stress and other mental health problems