The last year and a half has been filled with ups and downs for many in the trucking industry. Truckers have been and continue to be on the front lines, making sure people across the country get the food and supplies they need. As a trucker, you’re dealing with longer wait times and fewer amenities at shipper and receiver facilities since the pandemic hit. You also have to think about protecting your own health as you travel through state after state. All of these factors add stress to what already can be a stressful job. Unmanaged stress can lead to fatigue, digestive problems, weight gain, high blood pressure, headaches, anxiety and depression. 

We recently interviewed Hope Zvara, co-founder and CEO of Wisconsin-based Mother Trucker Yoga, to find out how she helps truckers incorporate movement into their day-to-day and deal with stress on the road. For the last three years, Hope has been providing yoga instruction and stress reduction techniques to truckers and carriers all over the country. Check out Hope’s 10 ways to fight fatigue, reduce stress and boost your mood.

1.  Make Small, Simple Changes

“I never tell drivers that we’re going to create an exercise program that you have to do every single day or you have to eat specific foods because that’s incredibly unrealistic for a driver,” Hope said in a recent interview. “Our whole approach is small, simple changes. Instead of telling a trucker that they need to walk 5 miles every day and do 50 pushups, I try to teach drivers how to add more movement into their days. There are safe things that truckers can do to help with back pain, keep blood flow in the legs and help with fatigue. I give them things to do in their sleepers on their breaks, while they’re getting fuel and outside their trucks.”  

2. Begin with Movement

“When we are moving more and we’ve got endorphins flowing to our brains, we feel good and we are much more likely to make healthy choices,” said Hope. “What I’m always teaching drivers is that you start by moving more and it has this great trickle effect. Once you’re out of the truck and feeling better physically, you’re more likely to want to get some extra steps in or when you go into the truck stop, you’re not thinking that your body and your life is awful. Instead, you start to make healthy choices and it becomes a lifestyle change.”

3. Squat, Bend and Reach More in Your Everyday Life

“I start with the basics with drivers, so I want them to be squatting, reaching and bending more in their everyday lives rather than just telling them they need to do 50 squats today,” Hope said. “I really trying to take them back to the basics. We lose our flexibility as we get older. I show truckers simple stretches that they can do to help decrease stiffness and feel better.”

“I start with the basics with drivers, so I want them to be squatting, reaching and bending more in their everyday lives rather than just telling them they need to do 50 squats today,” Hope said. “I really trying to take them back to the basics. We lose our flexibility as we get older. I show truckers simple stretches that they can do to help decrease stiffness and feel better.”

4. Reduce Stress Triggers 

“If you’re not moving your body, all of your systems — the lymphatic system, hormonal system and respiratory system — are sluggish and not working properly, which then triggers stress,” said Hope. “So now you’re stressed and depressed because you don’t have oxygen going to your brain and muscles, and the good chemicals that come from movement aren’t going to your brain. Now you’re feeling crappy about yourself, so then you eat crappy food and that makes you feel bad because you know you shouldn’t be eating crappy food. Then you gain weight and are mad at yourself for gaining weight. It’s a vicious cycle. We have to change our mindset about movement and move more in our everyday lives to feel better about ourselves.”

5. Don’t Live on the Edge of Dehydration

“When it comes to boosting mood, first thing first, you need to be drinking water,” Hope said. “So many drivers are dehydrated. There’s a saying that I hear among drivers: I’m living on the verge of dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, your cells in your body can’t do what they need to do, which impacts how you feel and your mood. A lot of truckers when I first start working with them, they worry that they’ll have to stop for bathroom breaks all the time if they drink more water. That’s very temporary. Once your body adjusts, you won’t have to stop as much to use the restroom.”  

6. Stretch, Yawn To Fight Fatigue and Back Pain

“Even just stretching your arms above your head when you’re driving or making yourself yawn to bring in more oxygen can make you feel less tired and feel better about yourself,” said Hope. “I also recommend something called pelvic tilting to help with back pain, which is common for truckers, and to improve blood circulation. When it comes to boosting your mood, all of these little things add up.”

7. Practice Yoga 

“Yoga is a lifestyle and I don’t mean wearing yoga pants, meditating for two hours a day and even owning a yoga mat,” Hope said. “What I try to start off drivers with is understanding that yoga teaches us what we need for everyday life. We need to be breathing. We need to be moving and we need to be putting good things in our body. Most people equate yoga with some skinny girl with her foot up behind her head, but yoga is an opportunity for you to practice self-care and for you to honor your body.”

“Yoga is a lifestyle and I don’t mean wearing yoga pants, meditating for two hours a day and even owning a yoga mat,” Hope said. “What I try to start off drivers with is understanding that yoga teaches us what we need for everyday life. We need to be breathing. We need to be moving and we need to be putting good things in our body. Most people equate yoga with some skinny girl with her foot up behind her head, but yoga is an opportunity for you to practice self-care and for you to honor your body.”

8. Pay Attention To What You’re Listening To

“Music is a form of meditation,” advised Hope. “Science has proven that music can alter our moods and our brain waves. If you’re feeling down or lonely, which a lot of truckers do, pay attention to the music that you’re listening to when you’re in that mood. Listen to music that shifts your mood and brings your energy up instead of listening to something that is depressing or angry. Put on happy, positive music. Don’t listen to talk radio if it ruins your mood.”

9. Get Outside

“You’ve got to get outside and get some fresh air, even if it’s just at the back of the parking lot because there’s some trees back there,” said Hope. “Truckers are always posting photos online of scenery and nature. If you take pictures of the places you travel to, you can go back and scroll through those and appreciate what you saw that day. It’s an opportunity to really see the good.”

“You’ve got to get outside and get some fresh air, even if it’s just at the back of the parking lot because there’s some trees back there,” said Hope. “Truckers are always posting photos online of scenery and nature. If you take pictures of the places you travel to, you can go back and scroll through those and appreciate what you saw that day. It’s an opportunity to really see the good.”

10. Feed Your Body Something Good

“I don’t think anyone after eating a Snickers bar or an Arby’s five for five thinks, ‘I am so awesome. I’m so healthy. I feel so good about myself,’” Hope said. “If you’re feeling depressed or down and stressed out, eat an apple, buy an orange or drink a bottle of water. When you do something good for your body, it makes you feel better.”

To learn more about Hope and Mother Trucker Yoga, visit https://www.mothertruckeryoga.com