An estimated 1 in 10 adults in the United States report that they are affected by a form of depression (Centers For Disease Control And Prevention), and “according to a 2008 study almost 13% of truck drivers exhibit some degree of depression – almost all (91%) receive no treatment (Dockerty).”
These statistics are no real surprise. Drivers are always working long and hard hours while dealing with stressful time constraints. Typically, truckers find themselves exhausted and under constant pressure from both work and home. Extended periods of time away can cause turmoil in relationships, and the uncertainty of a steady income could easily become a source of anguish for a person out on the road. The obstacles of the day-to-day grind can also take their toll, build up, and eventually lead to an emotional downward spiral for a driver that is prone to depression. Drivers are constantly dealing with stressors whether they’ve found themselves stuck in traffic, late for a load, or dealing with an unsatisfactory dispatcher. Even the subconscious effects of witnessing displays of road rage, tragic traffic accidents, or their aftermath could be a trigger for depression.
Even less surprising than the fact that drivers are more susceptible to depression, is that 91% of those suffering from it receive no treatment. Finding time to get to a doctor or psychotherapist would be next to impossible – let alone paying for the appointment if a driver isn’t working for a company that provides health insurance. If those obstacles are overcome, there is a good chance that keeping a CDL may not be permissible if there are restrictions regarding the medications typically prescribed for such a disorder. (*Please note: This isn’t to say that a driver shouldn’t seek help if they need it, just that sometimes seeking/receiving medical assistance can be much easier said than done.*)
However, there are some things that you can do to help keep your spirits up.
1.Keep in regular contact with your loved ones. Being away from home can be hard on everyone – whether you’re the driver, or the one that’s left behind. Set aside some time each day, or every other day (whatever you can agree on) to call home or Skype if you have access to a laptop/smartphone and an Internet connection. Regular communication will put the mind of a worrier at ease, and will help to maintain strong relationships with the people you love.
2. Treat others the way you wish to be treated. It seems so simple, but it’s not always easy to do when you’re under stress or lacking sleep. When you communicate with anyone, whether it’s your spouse, your dispatcher, or even the police officer that clocked you going a few miles over the speed limit – treat them with the same respect that you desire to be treated with – even if you feel disrespected. More often than not, your good attitude will help to improve the situation.
3. Set small goals and milestones for yourself. It may seem a little foolish, but sometimes it’s helpful to set personal mile markers get yourself through the days or weeks until your next opportunity for home time. Try to determine the halfway point between the beginning and the end of your next trip out. Set that day as your goal, all you have to do is make it to that day, and then it’s all a downhill drive from there. Setting goals like this can make time feel as though it’s passing quickly, and the next thing you know – you’ll be home!
4. Don’t allow social media to become a source of anguish. If there is something or someone on Facebook (or any other form of social media) that is causing you stress, there are steps that you can take to prevent that from happening. The chances that you have some toxic Facebook friends that cause you irritation, anger, or jealousy are pretty good. Whether it be an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend, the past/present significant other of a spouse/ex-spouse, friends that voice unwanted political opinions, or someone you’ve had a falling out with – you may want to prevent them from having an effect on you and your account. The first step is to de-friend them, every profile has a button on the right-hand side of the page below the cover photo – if it’s checked, uncheck it. The next step is to prevent them from inadvertently bothering you by commenting on one of your friends’ profiles/statuses. This can easily be done without their knowledge by blocking them from your account. To do this, go to the downward arrow and the top of the right-hand side of your page and select it > select “Privacy Settings” > “Manage Blocking” to the right of “Blocked People and Apps” > type in the name of the user > “Block” > select their username > “Block”. Their name should be added to your block list below in blue. Voilà! Out of sight, out of mind.
5. Try to get enough sleep and eat as healthfully as possible. With a little planning, a lot of discipline, and some luck you should be able to get into a routine that can help to prevent you from becoming fatigued or malnourished. Sleep and nutrition are key factors when it comes to mental and emotional stability, so it’s important to do all you can to take care of both your mind and body.
6. Be proactive about taking steps to prevent social isolation. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can be huge contributing factors of depression. Drivers spend enormous amounts of time on their own, and can be particularly susceptible to feeling isolated. Although it can sometimes seem difficult, make an attempt to reach out to others. Strike up a conversation with another driver at a stop, or join an online community like CDLLife to stay socially and mentally stimulated.
7. Give Phototherapy a try. Phototherapy, or Light therapy has been found by some to be effective towards treating forms of depression such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as SAD). This form of depression isn’t ordinarily much of a problem for sufferers until the fall and winter months (SAD “is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year (Mayo Clinic)).” Light therapy is a proven treatment method for SAD, this form of therapy entails sitting a few feet from a light box that emits rays which mimic sunlight. This light causes a brain chemical change, which is known to elevate mood, ease symptoms of SAD, and can be used to regulate the sleep cycle. These light boxes are a bit of an investment initially (usually $100 – $500 for a light box), but if effective, could be very well worth the purchase. These boxes are usually quite small, and something that could very easily be used in a truck with an inverter or run simply off of battery power. Learn more about choosing a light box that is right for you.
8. Stay positive. Entertainment sources such as talk radio can sometimes be a bit of a downer. Try listening to positive or motivational material such as audio books or Ted Talks.
9. Pursue your passions. Try to make time for the things you love to do. Everyone has a passion whether it’s music, sports, art, writing, cars, antiques, building, reading, or any other genre of interest. Be sure to set aside time for yourself to get out there and do it. If it’s not something you can bring on the road with you, try to expand your interests into different mediums – take a camera with you, find an online community for your interest group, or use idle time to plan the time and the process for your hobbies while you’re home.
10. Get your blood flowing. Not many people enjoy exercise, but there is something to the theory that it can help to improve your mental state. Take small steps towards making an effort to elevate your heart rate. Whether that means parking at the far end of a parking lot and walking a little further, or taking a stroll around the area you’ve stopped for the night. Relax, take deep breaths, stretch your legs, and you’ll surely be feeling better by the time you’ve made it back to your truck. (*Be sure to take precautions to stay in well lit areas, and be aware of your surroundings – never risk your safety.*)