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Mental Health Awareness Week – Mental Health Awareness for HGV Drivers

Since 2001 The Mental Health Foundation has run Mental Health Awareness Week, a way to promote good mental health and raise awareness for mental health problems. This year, Mental Health Awareness Week runs between the 18th to 24th May 2020. 

In recent weeks, across the Blue Arrow communities we have been shining a light on mental health topics, providing industry specific information to help workers as well as highlighting the wider support network of mental health charities, organisations and professionals who are always there to help. 

Further down this blog post not only will you find tips for avoiding driver burnout, managing anger and frustration, coping with anxiety and essential COVID-19 safety advice for HGV Drivers, you will also find a list of some of our other Blue Arrow community blog posts. Do take a moment to have a read of the other posts and share them with family, friends and colleagues, they are packed full of excellent extra resources, hints, tips, facts and contacts that will be beneficial to everyone, no matter what their job may be. 

Mental Health Awareness for HGV Drivers

In England, 1 in 6 people report1 experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety) in any given week. Given the size of the UK workforce we cannot stress enough how important it is to be aware of how you feel, reduce work related stress and pressures and take the time to care for your mental health and wellness. 

Maintaining a good sense of mental health awareness will get you through some of the toughest times on the road. Long hours out on the road alone, driving the night shift, navigating the notorious UK traffic, working around other road users and trying to remain calm when you are under pressure to deliver on time, all of this can really take it out of you if you don't ensure you have coping mechanisms and stress relieving techniques to hand.

Avoiding burnout as a HGV Driver

HGV driving hours are there to protect you as a driver, to ensure your health is considered and maintained. Sticking to your hours and maximising your down time is so important for making sure you are awake and alert while you are driving. 

As good as the HGV driving hours rules are, they can also load an added stress on to the job. Making sure you are staying within your HGV driving hours while still feeling the pressure of getting to where you need to be can be a lot to take. You can only do so much and your safety must always come first. 

3 ways to avoid driver burnout

  1. Eat good, wholesome foods to keep your energy up and tiredness at bay. Avoid sugary processed foods.
  2. Maximise your rest periods by taking power naps and doing some gentle stretching exercises.
  3. Drink plenty of fluids but don't overload on caffeinated beverages. 

Managing with anger and frustration

Keep a cool head and try not to get frustrated by others on the road. Our road rage blog post and road rage infographic both provide some excellent tips for staying calm while driving including some excellent recommendations for podcasts and audiobooks that can help while away the hours.

5 ways to manage anger and frustration while driving

  1. Be vigilant to your surroundings.
  2. Anticipate other drivers’ behaviours & expect the unexpected.
  3. Take deep breaths.
  4. Practice mindful positivity.
  5. Listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks to occupy your mind.

Staying physically fit and healthy

Truck driver health and physical fitness are just as important to be aware of and maintain as mental health. There is often a correlation between how physical health and fitness can affect mental health, and vice versa. Comfort eating, lethargy, aches, pains, low self-esteem and feelings of insecurity can create a harmful cycle of behaviour that is increasingly difficult to break. We recently posted a blog dedicated to truck driver health and wellness that provided practical tips for mastering the 5 elements of a healthy lifestyle.

Handling industry uncertainty 

The driving industry in particular has been heavily affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and while you may all be enjoying the quieter roads and the freedom to drive without coming to a traffic jam just as you are getting going, the subsequent protective measures, business closures and pressure of shipping essential supplies to stores is taking its toll on  drivers and the industry in general Government guidelines did include a provision for HGV Drivers to have access to toilet and shower facilities, but this has relied heavily on the service stations having the correct measures in place to enable them to remain open for drivers. With limited access to resources such as service stations and rest stops long hours and extended time away from home is no doubt that working as a driver is more challenging now than ever before. 

While many people are staying and working from home the demand for UK HGV Drivers is there,view our driving jobs becoming available every day helping to keep the wheels of UK logistics turning. 

Staying up to date with industry news and information is a great way to feel in control of your career, signing up to our driving community newsletter is a great way to receive up to date, informative and helpful information straight into your mailbox.

Coping with anxiety and worry

The added pressures of the COVID-19 situation can lead to feelings of anxiety and worry for many people. Anxiety is our body's natural reaction to a perceived threat or danger; it grabs our attention and releases a rush of adrenaline. Everyone reacts to uncertainty differently, it is important to understand that how you are feeling is perfectly natural and it is impossible to compare yourself to others, our upbringing, circumstances, thoughts and beliefs all play a part in how we cope with pressure and react to changing circumstances.

Anxiety can display in many ways and being aware of how you feel is a big part of developing good mental health awareness strategies.

Signs of anxiety

  • Feeling tired, on edge, restless or irritable
  • Feeling a sense of dread
  • Being unable to concentrate or make decisions
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Feeling sick, dizzy, sweaty or short of breath
  • Feeling shaky or trembly
  • Getting headaches or tummy aches
  • Avoiding situations or putting off doing things you are worried about
  • Experiencing a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Having pins and needles
  • Having a dry mouth
  • Sweating excessively
  • Repeatedly checking things or seeking assurance from others 

There is lots of useful information on coping with anxiety, including an insightful video on the NHS website

3 ways to overcome anxiety

  1. Understand what makes you anxious. Write down your concerns and the thoughts you are having, challenge the thoughts and try to note down some actionable steps.
  2. Take time out from anxiety by practicing meditation, mindful positivity, controlled breathing techniques or even just doing some exercise can be really helpful.
  3. Get a mind plan from Every Mind Matters, take the quick quiz to get a free mind plan of tips to help you deal with stress and anxiety. 

Managing health and safety concerns

As the UK begins its phased approach to getting people back to work in the safest possible way, we all need to be looking to ways that we can maintain our own personal safety and that of those around us. Working within controlled measures and guidelines is not always easy and it is not going to be possible to negate all risks entirely, but there are things you can do to help stop Coronavirus spreading and to help you to feel in control of your own personal safety while you are at work.

Public Health England (PHE) recommends that the following general cold and flu precautions are taken to help prevent people from catching and spreading COVID-19:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

Additional safety guidance for HGV Drivers

  • Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves and face coverings when loading and unloading your vehicle or accessing rest stops and premises.
  • Avoid driver holding areas where the 2m social distancing precaution cannot be maintained.
  • Keep your cab clean, tidy and well ventilated.
  • Implement additional hand washing and disinfection measures if using public toilet and shower facilities.
  • Calmly challenge any situation where you feel that your health and safety is being compromised.
  • If you are in any doubt about your ability to carry out these health and safety measures, stay at home. 

Staying connected while you are away from home

For many drivers being away from home for periods of time is not unusual but under the current circumstances many drivers who are having to stay away on their rest days in order to protect vulnerable family members from COVID-19. 

Being away from those you love is difficult and can be extremely stressful, nothing can replace those you miss but there are ways to ease the burden a little and prevent loneliness from setting in. 

5 ways to combat loneliness while staying away

  1. Be active in the online driving community and connect with others in a similar situation to you. Our Facebook community is a great place to start.
  2. Distract your mind and fill your down time with interesting things to do or learn. Try Duolingo to learn a new language in your down time.
  3. Expand your online social circle and your mind Quora and Medium are excellent sites to turn your time sucking, social surfing habit into a knowledge building session.
  4. Stay connected and utilise video calling software to set up regular calls with family and friends at home.
  5. Feel close to home with some of your creature comforts, favourite jumpers, cosy blankets, drawings from the kids and family photographs can all adorn the inside of your cab. 

Mental Health Awareness blogs from the Blue Arrow wider community

Take a moment to share our mental health awareness posts with your family, friends and colleagues, you never know who may be struggling in silence. Together we are stronger, even when we are apart. 

It's good to talk

If you are feeling worried, anxious, concerned, depressed, lonely, fearful, or anything in between, it is OK. 

Speak up, let people know how you feel and give them the chance to help. If you feel that you would like to talk, there are many people waiting to listen. 

  • Samaritans - Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline). Website: www.samaritans.org
  • CALM - CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35. Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight). Website: www.thecalmzone.net
  • Anxiety UK - Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition. Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm). Website: www.anxietyuk.org.uk
  • Mind - Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems. Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm). Website: www.mind.org.uk

References: 

[1] https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/statistics-and-facts-about-mental-health/how-common-are-mental-health-problems/

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