May is Mental Health Awareness Week, and whilst it may still be a taboo subject especially in the transport industry, it’s important to not just talk about your wellbeing, but take precautions to keep your mental health in check too.
Not prioritising your mental health can impede your ability to concentrate on your work and lead to risky decisions or negative behaviour. HGV drivers are especially susceptible to mental health issues due to time spent on the road. According to a survey by the mental health charity MIND, 30% of illnesses in the transportation and logistics business are mental health-related, and because these instances were self-reported, the number might be far higher.
However, there is help at hand. We are incredibly supportive of our drivers. Not only can you always reach out to us for support, we have also listed our 10 top tips to help drivers improve their mental health whilst on the road and help you to keep on trucking!
HGV Driver Mental Health Tips
1. Staying connected with friends and loved ones
HGV driving can be an isolating job. Technology, thankfully, allows us to keep in touch with our loved ones no matter how far apart we are. When you take a break from driving, try and:
- Engage in Video chats, phone conversations, and text messages
- Bring photographs or sentimental things from home with you
- Send postcards to relatives and friends if staying away for a few days
2. Get enough sleep
It’s no secret that getting enough sleep is essential for good physical and mental health. In the short term, sleep deprivation might make you irritated and exhausted, but it can also have major long-term health repercussions. We would advise:
- Establishing a bedtime regimen to prepare your body for sleep
- In the evening, avoid coffee and heavy meals
- Avoid using electronics before going to bed
3. Stay active
Whilst it might be hard to get moving whilst driving long hours, its important when making a pit stop to take a few minutes to get the blood flowing again. Why not:
- Try taking some time to take a walk and stretch your legs, as sitting down for long periods of time can be uncomfortable?
- Giving your muscles a good stretch, do core and posture exercises to prevent muscle spasms and tightness?
4. Make good use of your breaks
Planning what you are going to do with your “break-time” is important. This time can be used to rest your thoughts after a long period of driving. Taking five minutes to meditate while listening to peaceful music can help you to relax and get your mind ready for the rest of the day’s, or night’s work.
5. Keep your mind active
Maintaining focus whilst being an HGV driver is key, especially for long journeys. Keeping your brain active during your road breaks with exercises can help maintain concentration, boost your memory, and improves problem solving skills. Little brain exercises can be:
- Crossword puzzles
- Jigsaw puzzles
6. Have a good balanced diet
When on the road, it can be easy to stop off at fast food places or pick up some chocolate and sweets at the shop. Yes, these options are good for a quick rush of energy, but after a while begin to make you feel groggy and tired.
Food is fuel and selecting the right fuel for your body is key. We’d recommend you:
- Select a food option with whole grain pasta, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables as these foods will fill you for longer whilst giving you energy throughout the day
- Eat clean, which will prevent you from feeling sluggish and tired throughout your journey
7. Stay hydrated
Stopping for a fizzy energy drink may seem like the smart decision. However, the quick energy rush and the lack of hydration that comes with these sorts of drinks isn’t good for someone on a long journey. Therefore, water is an essential when trucking! Dehydration can cause a variety of issues like loss of alertness and tiredness. So, for a driver, staying hydrated is vital. HGV drivers should consume around 2 litres of water each day to stay hydrated and maintain focused.
8. Clear space, clear mind
When being in your cab for long periods of time, it’s easy to gather rubbish and dirt along the way. Finding time to clean your truck may be challenging, but it’s crucial to put in the time and effort to maintain a clean and orderly environment. Small things such as clearing away rubbish, organising items, and wiping surfaces clean can really improve your happiness, health, and perhaps even your driving performance.
9. Know the signs
Understanding and recognising when you’re having problems is one of the most critical aspects of maintaining or improving your mental health. Recognising the indicators of stress will allow you to use relaxation techniques or seek treatment faster, so do keep reading up on what those warning signs may be.
10. Reach out
Finding someone to talk to about issues you may be experiencing with your mental health is the first step in improving your wellbeing. If something feels “off,” it’s never too early (or indeed, late!) to seek support. Even if what you’re going through or feeling is within the typical range of emotions, having someone to talk to is always useful.
Here are just some of the organisations that we’d recommend for more information:
- Mind | https://www.mind.org.uk/ | 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans | https://www.samaritans.org/ | 116 123
- OCD UK | ocduk.org | 0333 212 7890
- Anxiety UK | anxietyuk.org.uk | 03444 775 774
- CALM | thecalmzone.net | 0800 58 58 58
- Men’s Health Forum | https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/beatstress.uk
- NHS | https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines
At Barnes, we care about our driver’s mental health. if you have any more thoughts or ideas on tips to better your mental health whilst on the road, please share with us on our Twitter.