Do you find yourself in the winter months of November to February wondering what’s wrong and that you don’t have any energy? Or maybe that your get up and go done got up and went? Are you with me when the time changes and you see it’s still dark at 8:00 a.m. you roll over, cover your head back up, and hit snooze a few more times?
“Wintertime blues,” as researchers call it, is a real condition caused by reduced sunlight in the shorter daylight months. It interrupts your body’s circadian rhythm and messes not only with your sleep pattern, but your mood as well. Upon researching, I was unable to find a clinical diagnosis but experts at the National Institutes of Health say it is real and does exist. They say it’s not a diagnosed medical condition so it is hard to get an accurate number of just how many people it affects. NIH estimates that anywhere from 10-20% of American adults experience seasonal mood changes on some level.
The problem can make truck driving much more difficult in the winter.
For those who experience SAD (seasonal affective disorder), it also increases previous depression. NIH suggests those individuals not brush off the blahs through wintertime. SAD affects between 1% and 9% of Americans and is usually based upon the region you live in and how severe the winter months are.
I know for me there are several little things that add up to prove I don’t like the time change each fall. There are times of just feeling down, sad, less energized and not interested in doing the things I normally enjoy. My sleep pattern stays funky for about four months during wintertime. It makes me dread the winter weather that we truck drivers face on the open roads even more.
Jacqueline Gollan, PhD, professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago says, “when people feel blue, it’s a signal that something in their life needs attention.” She has given us some great ways to get through the “wintertime blues” and I am going to apply these to our life as truck drivers:
- Lace up your running shoes and get moving.
Ok, in all honesty mine would be walking shoes. And, I am guilty of not doing this enough.
I try to convince myself that walking from the back of the truck stop is “moving.” But, I don’t think that is quite the meaning here. Exercise always makes me feel better and we should all increase our movement no matter what time of year it is!
- Set your alarm clock and stick to a sleep routine.
This is a tough one for those of us driving trucks. But I find sticking to the same amount of hours of sleep per day works best for me.
- Queue up a stream of laugh-out-loud films/music.
Most of us listen to music, podcasts and audio while driving so this is a great way to keep things light and happy. And if you enjoy streaming movies we all know we have our favorite comedies. Maybe save the tear jerkers for Spring time!
- Give yourself a manageable task to accomplish.
I know it’s not like you don’t have enough to juggle in your life on the road. But take some time to do a deep winter clean and reorganize after you’ve recovered from a bad snowstorm. The feeling of accomplishment can’t be beat the next time you sit down in your driver’s seat with a huge sigh of relief. It’s always a great spirit lifter to have the inside smell and feel clean.
- Phone a trucker buddy, a friend or your family.
We have many friends out on the open road and most of us spend a lot of time on the phone with one, or many. Pick up the phone and call a friend! You don’t have to share your “wintertime blues” if you don’t want to. But I promise you that more than half of every friend, family member or co-worker experiences times like these. You won’t be alone!
6. Take some time OUT of the truck.
Does anyone else get “Truck Tired?” For a night, a short weekend or a 34-hour reset, get yourself out of the truck! There’s alway somewhere you can get a good meal and maybe a big comfy bed. Try a movie theater or a trip to a nearby mall just to people watch. Do something for you!
7. Spend as much of your day as possible in the daylight.
I know schedules are tough enough to keep when we’re trucking. But try to find as many opportunities to see the sunrise and spend your awake hours during the day in it.
8. Last but definitely NOT least, seek professional advice when you feel you can’t get a handle on life
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for advice and guidance during the dark days, dark days of sunshine or dark days in life. Know you are never alone! As cliche as it may sound … It will get better! Getting through the “wintertime blues” might be all you need to do it. But don’t ignore any ongoing blahs! You can always shoot me an email [email protected] and let’s catch up!
If you or someone you know is having a difficult time, don’t wait, reach out 24/7/365 to any of the following links. There are many more, just Google:
The National Crisis and Suicide Lifeline
Can be reached by dialing 988
CRISIS Text Line
Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a volunteer Crisis Counselor
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Until next time, from me to you … drive safely, be somebody’s smile and don’t forget your prayers!