It’s almost summer! School is out. Pools are filling up. Windows are rolling down. And more importantly, it’s peak traveling season! This also means more drivers on the road, both experienced and new. With that in mind, now is a great time to talk about how to effectively manage stress, especially while on the road. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a month dedicated to providing information and resources to help people understand how their mental health affects their personal and professional lives. Whether you are occasionally stressed out or have daily struggles with depression and anxiety, there are countless tips and tools to help.
On the Road Factors
Being on the road with increased summer traffic can frustrate even the calmest veteran driver. So how does one keep their cool and not give in to road rage? One easy way to help reduce the irritation is to pay attention to what you’re listening to on the radio. Does heavy metal music pump you up or calm you down? Is talk radio soothing or upsetting? Do podcasts clear your mind? Everyone is different. Find something to listen to that will mellow you out and safely switch it on when you’re feeling frustrated.
Another option is to download the Calm App. This app has both a free version and a paid version, but the free version is very robust. You can choose to listen to soothing white noise, narrators reading short, positive stories, or you can take advantage of one of their meditation sessions. If you’re feeling frustrated, pull into the next rest stop and give yourself five minutes to just breathe and enjoy the Calm App.
It’s also important to keep in mind how everyday habits affect mental health. According to the Mayo Clinic, daily exercise not only increases your physical health, but your mental health, too. In fact, exercise is scientifically proven to increase your endorphins (the feel-good chemicals), reduce negative side effects of stress, and lessen symptoms of mild depression and anxiety.
Sleep also plays a significant role in a person’s mental health. Adequate sleep directly affects a person’s daily moods and decreases irritability and anxiety. For those with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and drug and alcohol abuse, sleep issues can actually worsen their condition and cause major setbacks in mental health maintenance. Making sure you’re getting enough hours of quality, deep sleep can drastically affect both short-term and long-term mental health.
Mental Health Care
Whether you struggle with mental health daily, occasionally, or rarely, it’s important to be self-aware and proactive about your mental health. One positive thing that came from the COVID-19 pandemic is simpler access to mental health care. Most therapists offer telehealth options, making it easier to speak with someone when you are working from home or working on the road. Ruan's Employee Assistance Program (EAP), EmployeeConnect by ComPsych, provides professional, confidential guidance to help you and your family navigate difficult situations at work and at home. There is 24/7 unlimited telephonic support along with online resources at no charge. Individuals may also qualify for up to five face-to-face sessions per issue per year with a counselor.