Taking Care of Drivers Mental Health

You may think drivers have it easy.  Sat in their cab or seat all day, driving around, listening to their favourite tunes and meeting interesting people. Some of this may ring true, but drivers are often under extreme financial pressures, feel isolated and lonely, and can become victims of violent attacks and payment disputes. It’s often a male-dominated environment and the nature of the job means there is little chance for meaningful interaction with another person, or to build relationships and friendships.

Truckies

truck driver mental health

A sobering thought is that approximately 1 in 5 truck drivers will suffer from a mental health issue at some point in their careers. Being a truck driver is a risky business and has the highest fatality rate of any industry.  Long hours spent driving a 20+ tonne truck means any kind of accident has a higher chance of being a fatal one. Loneliness on long interstate highways and country routes mean a lot of time to get into your own head and this can trigger anxiety, depression and in extreme cases suicide.  Financial pressures and the reduction of new truckies coming into the industry also means very long hours and haphazard sleep patterns and shifts for some.

Cabbies and Carshare Drivers

taxi driver mental health

Drivers can end up in the red before they even start out. They need to pay for their car, the upkeep and other fees, so there is usually a few hours of driving to be done before the bank account sees a positive balance. If drivers choose the late shift for more regular pickups, they can be at risk of drunken behaviour, non-payment of fares and violence. This can trigger anxiety and PTSD in extreme cases. There are also the high blood pressure inducing city pick-ups and drop-offs. Drivers need to keep their cool on hot days, trying not to let road rage take over, or absorb the anger and frustrations emanating from their passengers.

Removalists and Man In A Van

removalist mental health

The removals business is a stressful one as they are usually sole traders or small enterprises. Often, if not properly insured, an injury can mean you drivers are off the road without pay and immediate worry and stress about where the next pay cheque is coming from. If your living job to job a major breakdown of your van can also trigger stress and depression.

How Can The Driving Industry Tackle Mental Health Issues?

First of all, take a look at yourself, or a loved one to see if they could be struggling and in need of help. Often, people suffering from mental health issues don’t even realise it, so take a look at the following symptoms and if you have more than one, book a visit to your GP. Drivers mental health and wellbeing is key to staying safe on the road and happy at home.

  • A racing heart, feeling panicked or anxious
  • Loss of regular sleeping patterns, insomnia
  • Bloated, stomach pains
  • Feeling down, but the mood does not pass quickly
  • Generally feeling not quite right
  • Snappy, angry, quick to fire up

The very first thing you should do if you even if you just suspect that things aren’t quite right is to go to your GP and have a chat. They are the experts and will ask some qualifying questions to assess how you are feeling.

There are ways to prevent any triggers to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues which any driver can start today! These tips are aimed at keeping your mind and body operating at their best, and coping tools for when things start to spiral.

Eat Well

eat well for depression

We all know this is vitally important, but when caught up int he day to day, and on a big driving job choices are limited and usually less than healthy. Steer clear of anything processed and look for high protein and plenty of salads where you can. If you’re stuck in a place which only has fast food, ditch the meatball sub and grab a healthy Subway of turkey and stuff full of salad instead. Look for whats available, usually, there is a healthier option, check the kilojoules if they are displayed and avoid the high blood pressure inducing fatty, processed meals. If you can meal prep the night before and take a meal or protein-packed sarnies in your cooler bag, that’s even better! You’ll notice you’ll save a few dollars a week too!

Start the day right with a protein shake and a healthy breakfast. If you start out making the right choices, you are more likely to commit to them in the day. Pack nuts and seeds, maybe some carrot sticks for the cab or car to snack on during the day if you get hungry and swap your full cream mocha for a long black with skimmed milk. You’ll get the same caffeine hit with less fat and try and stick to just one in the morning. Give it a week and you’ll start to feel less bloated, have better sleep patterns and might even have to tighten another hole on your belt buckle!

Use Technology

apps to help depression

Being a driver can often be a lonely business, but there are Apps out there which you can use to check in with yourself, with others, and find tips and tools for when you start to notice your anxiety rising, or depression looming.

Apps such as Daybreak, Headspace and Moodkit are all available and easy to use. Pull into a park on your break and sit quietly, check in with yourself, just breathe for 5 minutes and you’ll feel reset for the next part of the day.

Avoid The Booze

alcohol and depression

It’s Aussie culture to hit the pub after a big day and vent about it. But, if you are beginning to feel the pressure, alcohol will not be your friend. You could even lose your livelihood if caught driving over the limit, so avoid the pub until you have a weekend or a few days off. Drink in moderation and remember that alcohol may make you feel better temporarily, but no-one ever feels better the morning after, in fact, it can be a trigger for feelings of fear anxiety, and depression.

Get Into A Sleep Routine

switch off screen time before bed

A good nights sleep can do wonders for the soul. Switch off your phone two hours before bed and try to get 6+ hours a night where you can. Avoid staying up to watch late night movies, and make yourself a herbal tea before bed. Hitting the hay immediately after do doing 3 hours worth of invoices late into the night will mean you can’t switch off. Give yourself one hour to ‘prep’ for bed. Glass of water, herbal tea, read a book. Try and keep away from a screen in if you can. It really makes a difference to your circadian rhythm and you’ll start to see the benefits after a few days and feel more energetic and alert out on the road.

Be Kind To Yourself!

family and depression

Talk to your partner at home about any troubles you may have, or a work colleague. Chances are, they will be having the same issues and you can talk about them. Plan what to do on your days off so you have something to look forward too. Doing something with the kids, booking tickets to see a movie, dinner with your partner instead of takeaway at home. If you are feeling worried or depressed, you may just want to hide under the doona covers, but by planning something and getting outside, you can actually shake the worrisome feelings and it can be a great mood lifter.

If this article has triggered any feelings of anxiety, depression, or recognition that you may need help. Reach out to the experts at.

Beyond Blue

Lifeline

Black Dog Institute

Drivers mental health is extremely important to us at Ecoloads, share with your drivers mates, and check in and ask if they are ok.