August 30, 2023
Ways to Keep Your Mental Health Strong on the Road
Being on the road isn’t easy for a variety of reasons. But there are ways you can keep healthy in body and mind as you work. Maintaining your mental health is one of the best ways to find success in your work and at home, and this post shows you how to do that.
Build in Time to Stay Connected
When you’re on the road, you still have family obligations and social connections that need your time and effort. Plus, staying connected helps you feel less isolated. There’s a bevy of research that shows the effects of loneliness do worse things to you in the long run than smoking, having diabetes, or being obese. So, it’s crucial to keep your social life alive despite being in a rig. Thanks to technology, doing this is easier than it’s ever been.
For example, don’t underestimate the power of hearing someone’s voice or seeing their face. Connecting with someone over a scheduled Zoom call, when you are not driving, or using the phone like it’s 1999 for a phone call boosts your mental health more than texting someone. Plus, as long as you’re using (hands-free) Bluetooth while you drive, phone calls break up long stretches of road.
This Motor Carrier HQ blog shows how connecting on the road helps your community know when you’ll be back for an in-person catch up, which encourages consistent connection.
Here are more ways to stay connected:
- Create a digital photo album of your travels and update the link every few days. Send the link to a core group of people.
- Schedule consistent video or phone calls with people you care about.
- Mail a postcard to someone.
- Make a list of new and old friends you haven’t heard from in a while and call a name on the list while you are out on the road. From here, you’ll find out who enjoys long phone calls and who you can keep in your rotating phone log.
- If you enjoy writing or want to dabble in it, start a blog about your time on the road and share the link with family, friends, and industry connections.
- Connect with industry experts and hear their stories, as this Haulin Assets Episode 106 explores. Feeling connected to fellow drivers helps you feel like you’re learning from others on the road.
- If you have older friends, they’re like gold here: they’re usually retired, have more free time than your friends, and might already be lonely.
Making time for those special events, like a wedding or a birthday celebration, also help you stay connected to those who matter most. It takes an extra bit of scheduling, but it’s a key way to be present for the big things. Plus, it gives you something on the road to look forward to, and the anticipation boosts your mood and productivity.
Prioritize Healthy Sleep Habits
As this Motor Carrier HQ blog mentions, if you have a choice between more coffee or more sleep, choose sleep. It’s the body’s more natural way to rejuvenate itself and helps you feel less sluggish. Plus, too much caffeine in the evening hours interrupts your sleep cycle.
When you’re on the road, it’s best to recreate what you love about your bedroom at home. Make sure you have a good mattress or mattress topper. Whether you’re sleeping in the cab or have indoor lodging somewhere, bring something familiar like your favorite pillow or a white noise app to increase the quality of your sleep. But pay attention to when you don’t feel rested because you may need to make an appointment with your health provider. They could find that you need a sleep apnea machine to help with better breathing, for example. Or, you might need to get custom ear plugs to block out noise for a better night’s rest. Without a doubt, you’ll see the effects of your ‘sleep hygiene’ come out in your performance on the road. Better sleep habits equals better driving – and most importantly helps keep you and others safe.
Make Time to Flex Your Brain
A healthy brain is a challenged brain and you’ll know what challenges it the most. For some, it’s completing a large jigsaw puzzle or messing with a Rubik’s cube. For others, it’s a daily dose of Sudoku or a crossword puzzle. Studies show that learning something with body coordination, such as playing the piano or dancing, flexes different parts of your brain and builds it up like a muscle. These benefits – better concentration and increased interest – transfer to other tasks in your life and help keep your brain healthy as you work.
Some activities are easier for the road, such as learning a language through an app or learning more about a certain topic through an audiobook. Whatever you choose, get at least one ‘brain sharpener’ in your toolbelt before you start the next haul.
Look For Healthy Ways to Unwind
After a long day on the road, your body and brain need a rest. This looks different for everyone. But one of the best ways is to bring your favorite hobbies or relaxing activities with you because they’re already a value in your life.
If you can unwind outside somehow, that could benefit your mental health the most – especially since you’ve spent most of your day inside a small cab looking outside but not actually being in nature. Studies show that it’s easier to access positive emotions when you take a walk or sit on a bench in a park. Even five minutes a day in it improves your mental health.
You could also bring a new book with you each time you get a new job, watch an episode of your favorite show to signal that the day is done, get into meditation, or keep a diary to clear your mind.
Notice When Your Mental Health Changes
Your doctor will tell you it’s smart to know the warning signs of depression and anxiety because these are usually the most common mental health challenges out there. If you’re not familiar with the signs, here are some to watch out for:
- You lose interest in hobbies or activities you enjoy.
- You want to sleep a lot or can’t sleep at all.
- You don’t feel like yourself.
- You find yourself withdrawing in social situations.
- Your body feels fatigued or you feel sick.
- Your heart feels like it’s beating faster and you can’t breathe well.
- You find it harder to concentrate and feel like you’re in a fog.
- You feel nervous or on edge.
- Your daily mood starts to impact your day.
Get Help From the Professionals
You’re an industry professional and you wouldn’t trust just anyone behind your rig. It’s the same thing with a mental health professional: it’s important to know how and where to access one when you need one. You can ask your general doctor for a referral, visit the Psychology Today website to find someone to talk to, or call the 988 helpline if you’re in a serious mental health crisis and need a trained professional to talk to.
This job is rewarding but it can be hard. Just remember that you show personal strength when you ask for help with your mental health.