Category: essential workers

Strategies to Reduce Stress on the Road

strategies-to-reduce-stress-on-the-road

As an over-the-road truck driver there are many enjoyable aspects of the job. You have the chance to see sights that other people can only dream of, you interact with people from different places and stages of life and there is time to catch up on your favorite podcast or audiobooks, all from the seat of your cab. Even though driving can be very enjoyable we are all aware that it can also be stressful.  As you are driving for extended periods of time to make sure you get to your destination on time many things can cause stress to build. Tight schedules, weather conditions and road construction are just a few of the everyday stresses drivers deal with. It is important to practice stress reducing techniques while you are on the open road for your overall well-being. Follow some or all of the following tips in order to be less stressed while you are out on the road.

  • Take deep breaths. When you start to feel stress and tension building, take a few deep breaths. Diaphragmatic breathing with inhaling and exhaling is a very powerful way to relax in order to calm the mind and body. Start by taking a deep breath in through your nose, making sure your diaphragm inflates with lots of air, helping your lungs to stretch. Hold your breath for about seven or eight seconds then exhale on count nine or ten. Repeat this five to 10 times in a row.
  • Adjust your position. Just by adjusting the way you are sitting and keeping your body loose can help decrease stress. When you find yourself gripping the steering wheel too tightly, loosen your hands and fingers. If you are hunching over the wheel, lean back or adjust the seat to become more comfortable. When stopped at a stoplight, stretch your arms in the air or stretch your neck from side to side to relieve any muscle tension.
  • Listen to music. Music can go a long way, especially when you are stressed while driving. Music can elevate your mood, lower stress, and calm the body. So create a playlist of your favorite stress reducing music so you can turn it on when needed.
  • Leave extra space. Knowing that another vehicle is right beside you, in front of you, or behind you can cause unwanted stress. Leaving extra space between you and that other vehicle can help ease the fear of getting into a wreck prepare you for the unexpected. When driving on the highway, allow room for cars to merge, and if you are driving at night or during bad weather, give yourself more room if you have to stop quickly.
  • Allow extra time. If you are feeling stressed even before you head out onto the road, allow yourself some extra time to drive. If you are driving to someplace new, give yourself some extra time to find the place or in case you get lost. Also, try planning your route ahead of time to avoid traffic or construction delays.
  • Pull over. If you start feeling overwhelmed and stressed, pull off to the side when it is safe or at a rest stop, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Stress can most likely affect your driving abilities, so for your safety and for others, it is best to be cautious and take a break to calm down, allowing yourself to clear your head.
  • Get adequate sleep. Lack of sleep is never any good and can lead to higher stress levels. Getting enough sleep is very important for your health and allows your body to refresh and prepare for the next day. If you are drowsy or groggy, your reaction time could be compromised, you might begin driving recklessly, or you might even fall asleep. All of these could put you and others in danger.
  • Eat Healthy. Although it may be difficult to eat healthy while on the road, good nutrition has been proven to reduce stress. Not only will healthy eating help reduce your stress, but it will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of chronic diseases.

There can be many things that cause stress while driving, including other drivers, weather, and construction. However, stress shouldn’t hold you back from getting to your destination on time and safely. Consider bringing a copy of this list with you the next time you are out on the road. When you are experiencing a stressful situation, pull it out and try one or more of these tips to help relieve any tension you may have.

 

Healthy Meals You Can Have in Your Truck

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Obesity has long been associated with driving a truck.  It’s a mainly sedentary job and despite the lack of physical activity, it can be exhausting. After a long stretch behind the wheel, drivers want to relax and rest up for the next shift.  Fitting in adequate exercise can be difficult so maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging.  

It doesn’t have to be that way.  With effort and planning, it is possible to make healthy meals while you’re out on the road.  One of the keys to healthy eating on the road is to keep your truck well-stocked with healthy choices.  If you don’t have them on hand, it’ll be harder to resist picking up truck stop food.     

Start by using the right equipment.  Space in a truck is always limited so think about the foods you’d like to make in your truck.  There are numerous cooking options such as a hot pot, microwave, toaster, small slow cooker, portable stove, and two-burner stovetop.  A fridge is a necessity and one with a freezer is best.    

When you make your own meals, you are in total control.  How many calories, how much salt, and  fat are entirely up to you.  Processed foods tend to be higher in all of these things, especially sodium, and if you are overweight and have heart issues or high blood pressure, it’s important to watch your salt intake.  

Breakfast

Protein helps you feel fuller for longer. Having a protein-packed breakfast will help keep you from reaching for snacks.  Some delicious ideas to start the day are:

  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter (lots of protein)
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Cottage cheese with fresh fruit
  • Whole-grain cereal 
  • Low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit
  • Omelets (throw in your favorite protein, cheeses, and veggies)

Lunch

  • Wraps are great for lunch because you can eat with one hand and fill them with anything you like.  Use lean meats like sliced turkey, or tuna, and add tons of fresh veggies.  Use a low-carb or whole wheat wrap to make it even healthier.
  • Soups (pick the non-creamy, low-sodium varieties)
  • Veggie pasta salad

Snacks

If you have a freezer (you should), stock it with healthy treats like frozen yogurt or fruit bars.  Other handy snacks: 

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Cheese and whole-grain crackers
  • Dried fruit (great snack that doesn’t need to be refrigerated)
  • Unsalted mixed nuts

Dinner

Meal prep is your friend.  Many websites show you how to make a week’s worth of meals in one day.  Make them the day before your trip and pack them in reusable plastic containers.  Meal prep often involves cooking a protein, like chicken, and then adding rice or noodles, various veggies and sauces and spices, varying them so each meal is different.  It’s an inexpensive way to give yourself some variety in your healthy dinners. 

Rotisserie chicken can be thrown in with some pre-cooked rice and veggies and a little soy sauce, made into a delicious chicken salad wrap, or tossed on a salad. 

Tuna casserole can be cooked on a stovetop or in a slow cooker.  Egg noodles, tuna, cream of mushroom soup, cheese, and frozen peas, and you’ve got a hardy meal.

Mac-n-cheese can be made in a crockpot with cheese, macaroni, milk, butter, and eggs.  It’s not the healthiest, but you’ve got to indulge every now and then.  

When you do eat out on the road, try for healthier options like food that is grilled instead of fried, skip the hamburger bun, and drink water instead of soda.

By planning and prepping your meals before you head out on the road, it’ll be easier to maintain a healthy weight, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll feel better about yourself.  

If you’re looking to start a career in the trucking industry, Trucker Search can help. Connecting truck drivers and employers is what we do.  It’s quick, easy, and it can get you that dream job on the open road. Get started today at TruckerSearch.com or call us at (888)254-3712.    

Truck Drivers: How You Can Avoid Back Pain

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Spending hours upon hours behind the wheel of a truck can be physically and mentally exhausting and dealing with back pain seems to be part of the territory.  Along with the long hours sitting there’s also the lifting that is often involved as well as the constant vibration of the truck. The movement may not seem that bad but when your entire body is vibrating for more than 8 hours every day, you’re bound to eventually have some injuries.  Sitting in the same position, sedentary for hours, causes poor circulation and your muscles and joints stiffen.  But you don’t have to accept it!  Back pain doesn’t have to be “part of the job”!  With some adjustments and changes, you can avoid back pain from driving a truck.

Look At Your Seat

Adjust your seat so you’re not only comfortable but that you also don’t have to strain to reach things.  Depending on your seat, it may be beneficial to get some added support in the seat area as well as good lumbar support for the lower back.  While driving, changing your position, even just a little, can prevent some of the pain that comes with sitting in the same position.     

Be Mindful of Your Posture 

Incorrect posture is terrible for the back.  Sit up straight, don’t slouch, and keep your chin parallel to the ground.  Letting your body relax in the seat all the time is only going to cause spinal problems.  If you keep your wallet in your back pocket, take it out when you drive.  It can cause you to sit with your hips higher on one side than the other.     

Stay at a Healthy Weight

Because driving a truck involves inactivity and unhealthy food options, truck drivers are often overweight.  In fact, a recent study appearing in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that 69% of truck drivers were obese.  Whether sitting or standing, carrying around excess  weight is extremely damaging to your musculoskeletal system that wasn’t built for it.  

Quit Smoking

The same study of obesity in drivers found that more than half (51%) smoked which is more than twice that of other occupations (19%).  People who smoke have higher rates of osteoporosis, lumbar disc diseases, and slower bone healing which can lead to chronic pain.  

Take Breaks

Because of strict schedules, it’s not always easy for drivers to get enough breaks throughout the day but it’s important to try to do so.  Get out and stretch your hamstrings.  Move around and get a little exercise if you can.    

Stretch

Find time to stretch while out on the road.  When you’re driving, stretch each leg, reach each arm out to the side and over your head, and move your head from side to side to stretch your neck.  When you stop for a break, bend over and touch those toes and reach up to the sky for a full-body stretch.  Do some more stretching in bed.  When you don’t use your muscles, they shorten.  Stretching actually elongates them, increasing your range of motion, and increases the blood supply and brings nutrients to your muscles.  

Get the Right Mattress

If you’re sleeping in your truck, it needs to have a good mattress, just like you have at home.  When it comes to a mattress for back pain relief, you have to be like Goldilocks―not too firm and not too soft.  You need back support but not rigidity that will prevent good sleep.  It’s also important to find the right sleep position that works for you.  Some tips on how to sleep to alleviate back pain can be found here.    

Get Help

Applying ice to your lower back for 15-20 minutes can calm nerves and provide short-term relief and a chiropractor may help as well.  Because of the prevalence of back pain in drivers, some truck stops have begun opening chiropractic offices with their other driver amenities.  

Driving a truck doesn’t have to destroy your back but it does take some mindfulness and extra steps to keep those back problems at bay.  

If you’re a driver looking for opportunities in the trucking industry, look no further than Trucker Search. At www.truckersearch.com, you can post your résumé (which is a short form application) as well as search the ever-expanding database of companies looking for drivers and job postings.  It’s a great resource for any driver starting in the trucking industry or looking for a new opportunity.

Sources:  

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ajim.22293

https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/smoking-and-chronic-back-pain

https://chiropractorofstlouis.com/blog-post/the-health-benefits-of-a-good-stretch

https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep/best-sleeping-position-for-lower-back-pain#pillow-under-your-abdomen

https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/what-helps-with-lower-back-pain#2

 

Driving a Truck In The Era of Social Distancing

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If there’s a phrase that best describes our current situation, it’s “social distancing”.  It’s an easy enough concept to grasp:  by staying home and remaining at least 6 feet from others when we go out for necessities, the coronavirus won’t be able to make the jump from one person to the next, stopping the spread of the virus over time.

In practice, however, it’s not so easy.  Not everyone follows the rules and some people forget so navigating a grocery store and maintaining a 6-ft buffer is a bit like walking through a field of land mines with none of the explosions but all of the anxiety.

For essential workers, this is an all-day stress-fest.  Truck drivers are used to some solitude but during the pandemic have lost those usual welcomed times of human interactions along their routes.  Some truck stops have been forced to close their doors while others only offer drive-thru services which most trucks can’t maneuver through and won’t serve people who walk up to the drive-thru window.  Some drivers now have to pack their own foods and eat in their trucks.

Safety for drivers as well as anyone around them is most important during these difficult times.

Social Distancing Tips for Drivers

  • Stay 6 feet away from everyone even in truck stops, gas stations and points of delivery.
  • Use disposable gloves when you’re pumping gas and dispose of them in a garbage receptacle at the pump immediately after.
  • Use debit/credit cards instead of cash.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Use hand sanitizer often.
  • If you develop symptoms, seek assistance where you are.  Don’t try to stick it out until you’re home.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Wear a mask when you’re in public places.  N95 masks are the best if you have one but they’re needed by medical staff and are in short supply in many areas so the CDC is recommending that they are left for them.  A cloth mask will do, or a bandana or scarf folded in layers.  Continue to maintain your 6-ft. distancing even when wearing a mask.
  • Use your phone to communicate with customers to avoid as much face-to-face time as you can.
  • Disinfect your vehicle often.  Keep disinfectant wipes in your truck so you can use them to wipe down door handles, the steering wheel, gear shift, and pay particular attention to shared items like clipboards, pens, and dollies.
  • Be mindful of what you’re touching when you use a public bathroom.  Once you’ve washed your hands thoroughly, don’t touch anything else.  Use a paper towel to open the door.

More guidelines for protecting yourself during the coronavirus pandemic can be found on the CDC’s website.

By following guidelines and taking appropriate precautions, drivers can be safe and minimize their chances of getting the virus or passing it on and be more prepared in the future.

If you’re looking to start a career behind the wheel of a big rig, Trucker Search can help. Connecting truck drivers and employers is what we do.  It’s quick, it’s easy, and it can get you that dream job on the open road. Get started today at TruckerSearch.com or call us at (888)254-3712.  Stay safe!