Another long route successfully completed, you’re finally heading home. The stress starts to drain away as you daydream about a warm bath followed by long, restful sleep. But for some reason, you’re still jumpy, still on high alert. Thoughts about scheduling the next drive are crossing your mind already. Why on earth won’t you let yourself unwind? Living the on-the-road lifestyle puts you in situations like this more often than you’d like.
As veteran drivers can attest, repeated long trips make it hard to relax when you get the chance. Your brain becomes so used to staying focused and alert that taking a much-needed break becomes difficult. Then, by the time you’re finally able to take it easy, it’s time to hit the road again!
Luckily, not everyone gets stuck with this catch-22, and there are solutions for those who do. We all have our own habits and everyone’s metabolism works differently, but there’s plenty of common ground to explore. Here’s some words of advice from people who’ve managed to regain their resting rhythm following a long trip.
Exercise Against Fatigue
Most drivers know that fatigue can be deadly on the road, and that exercise helps prevent it. But once you’re back from your route, it’s important to avoid turning back into a couch potato. You should try to maintain physical activity for a few days after returning home. It’ll help you get back into a stable sleep-wake cycle, which is often an issue of its own.
If you’ve gotten used to something as simple as stretching exercises or power walks, don’t cut it out suddenly. Instead, keep it up for a while and give your body time to adjust. It’s this process of reverse-training that’ll let you establish a functional rest routine while at home. And rest, obviously, is an essential component of your downtime.
On the other hand, since tiredness doesn’t always hit you all at once, returning drivers sometimes feel unusually energized. Feeling great after that first night of sleep in your own bed, you get right back into action! This sensation, sadly, does not last. Sooner or later, you’ll need to take it easy and recharge those batteries. Don’t overburden yourself based on a fleeting feeling of boundless vigor.
Relaxation Against Stress
Of course, we don’t mean to imply that physical is the only kind of fatigue there is. A long drive can be a drain on your mind as well as your body. And while a regular sleep cycle helps with the latter, the former is trickier to deal with. You might feel listless after returning, or inexplicably anxious. You might be unwilling to communicate with loved ones. All these and more are caused by accumulated stress.
There’s a vast number of relaxation techniques available to overworked people. None are universally applicable, but keep looking and you’ll find one that works for you. If you haven’t tried yoga yet, give it a shot – its more accessible today then ever before. Some swear by mindfulness meditation as a way to get rid of stress. Others rely on omega-3 supplements, or green tea, or breathing exercises.
If nothing else works, you can always go back to the basics. The support of friends and family members can get you out of a slump. Spending quality time with children or pets is also helpful in relieving stress. Whatever you do, do not get back on the road before you’ve found a way to relax.
Dealing With the Daily Grind
If you earn money as a driver, your downtime period might seem anything but relaxing. Under pressure to figure out where the next paycheck’s coming from, you might jump straight back into the grind. This is a common mistake, borne out of necessity, but try to avoid it nonetheless. Don’t deny yourself the break! Taking time off is a strategic decision which enables you to complete your next delivery.
The work can’t wait, we know, but it’s not always you who needs to deal with bidding and scheduling. Successful drivers share this burden, even in small outfits comprising no more than two people. So when you’re back from a long drive, let your partner plan and organize your next trip. Taking time off from this side of the business will do wonders for your joint operation.
On the other hand, maybe you’re not a full-time driver and have other obligations to take care of instead. This could be a regular day job or your standard housework routine. The principle still stands – you can’t afford to deny yourself the required rest. However pressing the daily demands may be, giving yourself a break is absolutely essential. The balancing act can be tough to manage, but whoever said this on-the-road lifestyle was easy?
Reviving Your Social Life
In between dealing with the fatigue and managing a business, is there even room for a social life worth a mention? With overworked drivers, it’s often the first thing that goes out the window. Some full-timers even say that the friendships they build on the road are more solid than off-road ones.
For most people, however, a localized social life is the very foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Some even see it as a measure of success. If hanging out with friends is what makes you happy, invest some of your free time there. On-the-road lifestyle makes time is a limited resource, however. There are always other issues vying for your attention.
For a long-distance driver, engaging in social activities helps with a major problem that isn’t getting enough attention: isolation. It can get lonely out there on the road, and you get used to it eventually. Just try not to get used to it too much. Growing alienated from people you care about is never a good sign. So the next time you’re back home, get in touch with a friend and make those schedules work. Go out for a drink or watch your favorite show together, even if you don’t feel like it. In the long run, it’ll be well worth the effort.
Getting Back Out There
Sooner or later, you’ll start feeling those itchy wheels again. Whether you’re driving to make money or just for the fun of it, the road will call to you. But should you rely just on that irrational craving? How can you reliably tell if you’ve had enough downtime? If your batteries are back at 100%?
For professional drivers, federal regulations and state laws have a lot to say on this matter. For drivers on the CitizenShipper platform, we strongly recommend sticking to the 60-hour rule. Put briefly, it states that you shouldn’t drive more than 60 hours over the course of 7 consecutive days. Once you hit that limit, take at least a day off and preferably two.
So yes, living the on-the-road lifestyle can be enticing, but you need to approach it responsibly. For the safety of everyone involved, make sure that you’re rested, relaxed, and fully focused.