Mental wellbeing for truckers

DIYMH

Mental Wellbeing for Truckers

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and accessing healthcare services can be difficult for people who drive long distances for a living. During the winters of 2015 and 2016 we were delighted to support our friends at Chippenham Pitstop to provide drivers with tips for looking after their mental health over the festive season.

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Driving through the festive season can be stressful. Here are ten top tips for looking after your mental health.  

1 Take time out for yourself
Short days and low light levels can impact on mod and energy levels. But don't hibernate in your cab. Instead, plan time away from your vehicle - meet a colleague for a meal or for a walk.

2 Build virtual bridges
When you are away for long stretches you can feel left out of your family's Christmas preparations. Use Skype and Facetime to keep in touch and make a point of discussing the preparations with them each day. Take advantage of gift-shopping opportunities along the way.  

3 Live in the moment
Don't place yourself under unnecessary pressure when you're away from home working. Although it's good to keep in touch there's no point worrying about things at home that are, temporarily, out of your control. Manage this with simple mindfulness exercises to focus your mind on the present moment. Learn more at www.bemindful.co.uk

4 Talk
If you have worries that you're struggling to put out of mind, talking about them will help. You may realise that some of them aren't so important after all and talking will help you focus on one or two things that are at the root of your anxiety. It can be difficult to start these conversations, but try simply asking a fellow driver or a member of truckstop staff how they are, then share a worry in return. You may be surprised at how many of your anxieties are shared by others.

5 Look after yourself
Keeping up a good personal hygiene routine can be difficult on the road but can also have a very positive impact on mental health. Use shower facilities at truckstops and service stations and change your clothes regularly.  

6 Limit alcohol, eat well and keep active
Alcohol is a depressant so limit your intake to within safe guidelines and avoid too much sugary food, which can leave us lethargic and feeling low. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and lean meat, and drink lots of water in between the occasional festive indulgence. A brisk 20 minute walk will release endorphins, helping you feel relaxed and happy, as well as boosting your immune system, helping you avoid seasonal viruses. At the Pitstop, stock up on snacking fruit at Draycot Store and try the drivers' outdoors gym.  

7 Sleep well
Plenty of good quality sleep is critical for drivers but difficult to get. For the best sleep possible, avoid using smartphones, tablets or laptops before bed as the light they emit disrupts your brain's ability to sleep - try reading or listening to an audiobook from the Pitstop library instead. Avoid high-caffeine drinks such as coffee, cola and energy drinks for a few hours before sleep; caffeine is a stimulant and can stop us sleeping but recent research has shown that it also resets our body-clock, postponing our sleep and subsequent wake times. A dark sleeping space is also important - try travel blackout blinds.  

8 Help others
Helping others or performing small acts of kindness is great for our own mental wellbeing. You could strike up a conversation with a lonely-looking fellow driver at a rest stop, buy another driver a coffee, help a broken-down motorist or listen to a colleague's Christmas anxieties. Try it - you'll feel good!  

9 Make Christmas a moveable feast
If you'll be on the road for the official Christmas there's nothing to stop your family moving Christmas and holding your celebrations on a date to suit you. And if you are working on the Christmas or New Year holiday days, why not plan to meet up with some fellow drivers for a bring-and-share festive picnic?  

10 Breathe
The simplest mental wellbeing trick of all. Concentrate for a minute or so on taking slow, steady, deep breaths, emptying your lungs as much as possible in between each breath. Breathe in for four counts and out for six, in through your nose, out through your mouth.

Last but not least, drive safely and have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

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