Use tire chains when driving in winter conditions. Photo:
Use tire chains when driving in winter conditions.

“I miss everything about Chicago, except January and February.” –Gary Cole (actor, b. Park Ridge)

Digging your vehicle out yet again, your mood may feel dark and icy as the weather, making the prospect of hitting the road for your daily commute that much bleaker. With the addition of shorter days and longer nights, wintertime can cause trouble for your health as well. Truck drivers, who spend days and weeks on the road, are more susceptible than most.

As Montway Auto Transport customers know, truckers have deadlines, so finding time to exercise or search for healthy food can be a challenge as well. Last week, we shared our truckers’ top tips for auto safety in severe weather, from cross-country to your commute. Drive away winter blues like our truckers do, with these reliable tips for staying cheerful while on the road.

Soak up the sun

Less sunlight results in your body producing less serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for supporting nerve cell function, including mood. Darkness actually stimulates the production of melatonin, which promotes sleepiness. Even a little sunlight is a reliable way to boost your mood. While digging out or driving, turn your face away from the slush, up to the sun. Brave the cold on sunny days, go for a walk or play outside. Those natural rays of sunlight will help transport your mood , get your heart rate up, and boost your cardio as well, important for another aspect of battling winter blues, exercise.

Get moving

You don’t need to be shipping cargo to risk a sedentary lifestyle–cruising the computer behind a desk expends no more energy than cruising the interstate. When it’s cold out it’s easy to lose motivation to stay fit, but even if you can’t make it to the gym, try to incorporate a yoga or dumbbell routine into your day. Even a brief workout boosts endorphins, giving you a natural high that will keep your spirits lifted.

Boost your energy and peace of mind with these stress-reducers you can do in the driver’s seat (at a stoplight or snowstorm standstill):

  1. Breath out and slowly pull your belly button in towards your spine, engaging your abs. Breath in, contract your lower abs tightly, then release.
  2. Hold onto the steering wheel at “10 and 2” and round your back. This stretches the area between your shoulder blades and mid-back. Take a breath and release your back.
  3. Tilt your right ear down towards your right shoulder. Relax your shoulders and take a few deep breaths. You’ll feel a gentle stretch the left side of your neck. Bring your head back up to face forward, then repeat on the other side.
  4. Keep a stress ball handy to activate muscles that can become chilled and stiff while gripping the wheel. Reduce tension, boost blood circulation, and strengthen hand and wrist muscles. You can even purchase a stress ball steering wheel cover.

If you’re up for a more intense workout , winter is the best possible time to lose weight. Your metabolism naturally speeds up to keep you warm, just another advantage of winter to keep you motivated and thinking positive.

Food rules

Eating healthy meals and high-energy snacks will keep you satisfied stronger and longer than the quick boost from junk food. Sugar has also been linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety. Combine lean protein and complex carbohydrates in your meals. Whole grains contain a higher percentage of vitamin B and tryptophan than other carbs, which both help boost serotonin production.

Water it down

Did you know one of the main causes of daytime fatigue is dehydration? In addition to your morning coffee, heaters, heavier clothing, and the extra movement recommended above all contribution to greater dehydration in the winter.

Prepare yourself and your  car for trouble free drive. Photo:
Prepare yourself and your car for trouble free drive.

Dress to kill (the blues)

What you wear is key to beating winter blues as well as its bite. First, being uncomfortable just adds to the misery, from not wearing warm enough to feeling bound or itchy in too many layers. Sitting in an enclosed car, sweating can leave you chilled and uncomfortable all day.

Wear comfy base layers made of fabric that wick moisture and dry quickly. Second, treat yourself to the things that help you feel pretty, not just puffy, when winter bundling. Remember, thinking more positively will improve your mood. Colorful and comfortable clothes can make you feel bright even on the darkest days.

Travel oasis

Improve the quality of time spent in your car by creating an inviting and bright environment. Pick out cheerful steering wheel and seat covers, decal your dash, enjoy a favorite air freshener–pine alleviates stress, citrus energizes, and vanilla elevates your mood. A common feng shui strategy is to surround yourself what you’d like to see manifest in your life, whether success, love or inner peace.

Decorate your car (but avoid your rear-view mirror, that’s actually illegal!) with sensory stimuli that will make you feel joyful and inspired while you travel. Last but not least, turn on your radio, fill your car with your favorite songs, and be sure to sing along!

A laugh a day

Laughter stimulates the cardiovascular system, enhancing alertness and memory, helping to reduce stress, and lift depression.  In addition to music, load up your MP3 player or CD collection with stand-up recordings, comedic audiobooks, or funny podcasts.  Practice telling jokes or try making up your own–you’ll keep a smile on your face and look forward to sharing them with family and co-workers when you reach your destination.

Your favorite things

Stick a smile on your face and stimulate your brain, just thinking about your favorite things. Focus on the winter wonderland–sunlight glistening on fresh snow, ice skating, hot chocolate, and warm woolen mittens. Truck drivers, who spend lots of time away from friends and family, recommend taking advantage of time alone in the driver’s seat to reflect and reminisce, keeping memories sharp and those who make you happiest top-of-mind. Meditation and inspirational reading can add to those happily thoughts that can lighten your journey through the darker days.

“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.” —Anton Chekhov