Truckers are facing a multitude of challenges in 2023. Freight volumes have dropped to their lowest levels in almost a decade, rates have returned to pre-COVID standards, and fuel costs are soaring to historical highs. Many truck drivers are struggling to adapt to these circumstances, with significant financial pressures adding to their concerns about the future.
These worries, combined with time away from home, long driving hours, and the regular stress and loneliness that truckers often experience can lead to burnout, which in turn can cause severe psychological problems. Unfortunately, the general public may not be aware of these issues. Therefore, May, Mental Health Awareness Month, is an ideal time to start a conversation about them.
What is Burnout?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It is characterized by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, and reduced personal efficacy. It’s worth noting that the WHO does not consider burnout to be a medical condition, but rather an occupational phenomenon, which could lead to mental health problems.
How to Recognize Truck Driver Burnout?
Apart from the mentioned general characteristics of burnout, there are also certain symptoms exclusive to truckers. For instance, truck drivers may avoid their trucks, feeling forced to do their job. This lack of motivation and willingness is a common symptom of truck driver burnout. Additionally, procrastinating or taking more frequent breaks can also indicate the same issue. The most concerning aspect of truck driver burnout is that sometimes, even after a good night’s sleep, drivers may still experience extreme fatigue, putting their safety on the road at risk.
How to Deal with Truck Driver Burnout?
Symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person, making it difficult to prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution for combating it. Nonetheless, we can suggest some helpful strategies.
Sleep properly - Your sleep schedule is of immense importance for your professional performance and overall mood. Truck drivers tend to fall asleep and wake up at different times, which can negatively affect their mental health. Make sure to determine a specific sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Apart from that, you should try to avoid screen time before going to bed, as the light emitted by your device can deceive your brain and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Don’t drive more than you can - Due to the issues that truckers face at the moment, many of them decide to drive extra miles in order to earn more. While that can seem like a reasonable way to overcome financial difficulties, it can place an enormous burden on both your physical and mental health. Thus, listen to your body and your feelings, take breaks, and don’t force yourself to work more than you can.
Take a vacation - If you haven’t had a break in a while, consider going somewhere to relax and clear your mind. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy trip; even a weekend getaway to a mountain retreat or a picnic with loved ones can do the trick. The key is to choose an activity that will distract you from work-related stress. When you’re on vacation, make an effort to be present and avoid discussing work.
Go for a walk - The benefits of walking are often overlooked in our fast-paced world. Just twenty minutes of walking each day can significantly lower your stress hormones and improve your well-being. Also, try to expose yourself to sunlight as much as possible. It has been scientifically proven that Vitamin D from sunlight can boost mood and reduce the risk of depression.
Be Open About Your Mental Health
Truck driver burnout, or any psychological problem, should never be ignored. Mental health is actually as important as your physical health and needs to be taken seriously. Continuously feeling tired, anxious, or sad can be an indication of a mental health condition, which can worsen over time.
Burnout affects individuals differently, so if the solutions mentioned above do not work for you, it may be necessary to find alternative ways to combat it. If you feel unable to shake off negative feelings, consider opening up about your problems or seeking professional help. It’s important to prioritize your mental health and well-being.