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Stress & Anxiety

By on November 1, 2019

How Companion Animals Help


You already know about the avalanche of mandatory regulations truckers have to deal with daily. With as many truckers as I’ve interviewed during DOT exams, I’ve become very familiar with what they’re thinking and what keeps them awake when they should be sleeping. One recurring issue that is seldom discussed by most, if not all Certified Medical Examiners (CMEs) during annual or bi-annual physicals is chronic anxiety. While the exam does ask about anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues (#14 on the required long-form exam questions), most of the time the way anxiety issues are revealed is by looking at the medications list or from drug screen results.

CMEs are required to ask about issues such as sleep, poor diet and stress but are not required to document the conversation. All that we do is put a simple checkmark by the questions on the long-form indicating we asked about these issues. During these conversations, I find that I can really “drill-down” into what bothers a driver. If chronic anxiety is there, I’ll find it. As happens during these talks, I’m able to create bonds of trust with the drivers I see that keep them coming back year after year.

Consider a Companion Animal

When I identify a driver with anxiety issues, I often recommend considering a companion animal for the home. In some cases, this works for OTR drivers if company policy allows and they can manage a companion animal without being distracted while driving. Dogs make the most sense, especially for OTR drivers. Small breeds that typically have calm natures are best.

Recommending a companion dog might seem a little outside of my wheelhouse. Why do I do this? First, companion animals create a sense of unconditional friendship. We all need a non-judgmental friend. This is unbelievably calming. Also, caring for your “pet friend” directs your attention away from the issues creating your anxiety.

I learned about the benefits of animal companionship after I left medical school (it certainly wasn’t included in any of my classroom lectures). At the hospital where I trained post-med school, I noticed a dog assigned to each patient floor. I had no clue why, so I asked a floor nurse why there were dogs in the hospital. Her answer was they make the patients smile! When sick people smile, they feel better. Over the years, my appreciation for the benefits of animal companionship has grown as I observed many of my warfighting brothers and sisters with PTSD were helped by a loving companion animal.

The list of healthful reasons why companion animals are good for patients is long. I’ve learned many of these from the journey through my medical career as I continually looked for drug-free ways to help patients. The following benefits appeared in a “Medical News Today” article published in 2012 that suggests interacting with animals may:

•  Encourage more positive interactions with other people

•  Release hormones like oxytocin and dopamine which reduce depression and improve mood

•  Reduction of cortisol levels, which is one of the body’s primary stress hormones and is associated with the body’s “fight-or-flight” mechanism

•  Lower heart rate and blood pressure

•  Reduction of reported fear and anxiety

My Personal Experience

As a reluctant scientist, I can confirm what the mind benders say about the natural and very positive things that happen to your brain and body when you take ownership of a pet and invest your heart and soul into its wellbeing. I believe so strongly in the benefits of animal companionship that I have two beloved dogs at home. They are Harley and Gypsy. One is a fearless defender of our home, and the other is our rescue dog. Gypsy spent six years in a cage as a breeder at a puppy mill. She had six litters before I was able to save her from her horrible living conditions.

You can guess which dog is which. They are the best things that happened to me after our six children grew up and left home. I noticed I had nothing to look forward to except working hard and taking care of truckers. While I still enjoy doing both, I love going home to my dogs, and I also enjoy traveling with them too. I have always smiled a lot but now I am smiling even more and love what my dog “children” do for my family and me. 

Life is stressful no matter what you do for a living. Driving a truck is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Relieving stress and anxiety with pills is not the way to go. Good eating habits, exercise, and a pet companion are more fun and won’t lead to any harmful addictions.

Based on my observations, you Kings and Queens of the Interstates can take away two things: you need better alternatives to medical care than a pill regimen and better access to the medical system. One of our children takes in several rescue dogs at her ranch every year. If you’re interested, I might be able to help you bring an animal friend into your life. 

For 24/7 access to doctors for your day-to-day acute health problems (coughs, colds, cuts, scrapes, flu, and so on), Dr. John’s Medical Solutions can connect you to family telehealth for 26 cents a day. Call the following number, and I will call you back. 800.257.9214

About Warren Eulgen

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