By Hope Zvara
We all know that truck driving is one of the most challenging and stressful jobs, but with the right tools, you can fight stress and keep on truckin'.
The following are four ways to fight stress on the road.
1. Get Enough Sleep
It is essential to get enough sleep. The recommended amount of sleep varies from person to person, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours per night. If you don't get enough rest, your body will be tired and stressed out all day. You'll also find it harder to concentrate on driving safely if you're exhausted.
But as a driver, getting that recommended amount can be challenging. Let's focus on the quality of sleep rather than quantity. With an erratic schedule, sleep can vary, so having a sleep routine is essential for any driver, especially if you live over the road. Consider turning off the electronics 15-30 minutes before bed and listening to relaxing music to calm the nervous system; even add aroma therapy like lavender to help the body relax. Your sleep routine can include breathing exercises like deep abdominal breathing, as well as meditation, journaling, or reading to help the mind and nervous system relax. And finally, add a bit of movement like stretching or trucking yoga to relax your mind and muscles to help you fall asleep and stay asleep faster and longer, reducing stress during waking hours.
2. Stretch and Breathe
Stretching and breathing exercises are two great ways to reduce stress over the road. Stretching helps you release muscle tension, which can help you relax.
You don't need complicated exercises or routines to benefit from stretching, yoga, and breathwork. Consider the following:
Arm circles: Make large circles with both arms at shoulder height while keeping them straight out from your sides, then repeat smaller circles until they meet again above your head (you should feel this in your shoulders). Repeat 10 times on each side. Reclined hamstring stretch: Lying on your back, lift one leg and clasp behind the hamstring, or use a belt and draw the leg in until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds until the tension fades, and repeat on the other side.
Add deep abdominal breathing to your nightly routine. Work on breathing deep into the belly and simultaneously scan the body for tension, using your breath to dissolve that tension as you relax. Try a simple breath count like a three-count inhale and six-count exhale, and work your way up to a four-count inhale and eight-count exhale. Set a timer for 2-5 minutes or until you fall asleep.
3. Eat Right
Easier said than done! Instead of promising yourself you will never eat sugar again or only cook on the truck, pick one thing you can do starting today to improve your diet. Eat a veggie daily, drink one less soda, and eat a salad at lunch or dinner, no matter what. It all adds up, and when you start small, you trick the brain into letting go of those bad habits faster than if you choose the all-or-nothing health mindset.
And don't forget about water. It may be hard to get your water in during the day, so consider getting that glass in first thing when you wake up and park for the night. If you are not a water drinker, start small and commit to one more water bottle each day until you don't have to think about it, and work your way up. Every extra sip counts and your body will thank you for it. And when you are hydrated, things like night cramps, charlie horses, and joint aches occur less often because your body has the proper hydration.
4. Keep Yourself Healthy and Fit
First, stop telling yourself you don't have time to move, stretch or exercise. Our bodies are meant to move; without movement, we are more prone to stress, depression, anxiety, and decreased health.
List three to five ways you can get more movement in each day. This is not about going to the gym or getting out the weights (although even just a rep of bicep curls is excellent); this is about creating a new routine around fitness. Just a few minutes of mindful movement can boost endorphins in the brain and help reduce stress. Add movement throughout the day, and you might be less stressed and a few pounds lighter.
Hope Zvara is a yoga, movement, and lifestyle expert who is also a nationally recognized speaker, best-selling author, and the CEO of Mother Trucker Yoga. She also hosts a radio show titled “A Daily Dose of Hope” that focuses on truck drivers’ well-being, implementing programs that speak to both the body and mind. Providing drivers with a more fulfilling lifestyle by improving their health, mobility, and mental point of view. For more information visit www.mothertruckeryoga.com.