When you slide into the driver’s seat after a long day on the job, it’s likely you’re still in “work mode” even if you had a good day. You’re thinking about long-term projects, mentally prioritizing tasks, and maybe even re-arguing the inevitable workplace conflicts. You may be making phone calls to tie up last-minute details while you’re on the highway. Facing bumper-to-bumper traffic doesn’t help your mood when you’ve already got so much on your mind.
How can anyone relax during the rush hour drive home?
Less Stress, More Sanity
Though commuters spend nearly an hour getting to and from their jobs, very few of them would call it a pleasant experience. The usual traffic congestion combined with the occasional road work, accidents, and bad weather make commuting an unpredictable and stressful grind.
Finding a way to relax on your commute isn’t just a question of calming down so that you’re not a growling bear when you walk into the office in the morning or into your home at night. Multiple studies have shown that driving to work more than 45 minutes a day can affect your health and happiness in a number of ways, including:
- An Increase In Weight
- Sleep Disturbances
- Elevated Stress Levels
- Shorter Life Span
- Increase Likelihood of Divorce
More Acceptance, Less Anger
Short of changing your commuting route or means of transportation–say, deciding to take a bus or train rather than drive, or vice-versa–there’s very little you can do about the frustrations of traffic, bad weather, or road blockages. Consciously accepting that you cannot control these factors can go a long way to reducing road-rage.
Managing your frustration is a process. You can help it along with these tips:
- Avoid Obsessively Checking Your Watch During The Commute
- Avoid Checking Your Speed And Odometer If You Drive
- Try Deep-Breathing Techniques When Frustrations Arise
- Build Extra Time Into Your Commute To Avoid Scheduling Worries
- Download Commuter Apps That Give You A Heads-Up On Traffic And Transportation Snafus So You Can Plan Accordingly
- Focus On Satisfying Ways To Fill Your Commuter Hours
Change Your Mindset, Change Your Mood
Many commuters feel that time spent on the road is wasted, unproductive time. You’re not checking off items on your to-do list, engaging in exercise, enjoying a passion, or spending quality time with your family and loved ones. Challenging this mindset is the first step to transforming your commuting experience.
Consider reframing your opinion of that “wasted” time. Think of it as a free period of the day when you are not under the demands of work or home. Even considering the limitations imposed by the need to drive or wait for public transportation, you can give yourself permission to enjoy those hours in any way you choose.
Consider these suggestions to fill the hours of your commute:
- Listen To Audiobooks To Read Classics Or Keep Up With Bestsellers
- Learn A New Language Using Apps On Your Phone
- Be Zen By Filling Your Car With Birdsong Or Meditation Tracks
- Call (Hands-Free) An Old Friend You’ve Fallen Out Of Touch With
- Listen To Your Favorite Talk Radio Show
- For Bus Or Train Commuters, Play Word Games, Puzzles, Or Social Games Like Words With Friends With Gusto And Without Guilt
- Be Mindful Of Your Surroundings, Take Stock Of Natural Beauty, Humor, Interest, To Share With Your Coworkers And Family
A twice-daily dose of commuter stress is never good for your health or happiness, but if stress and anxiety are seeping into all areas of your life, consider contacting a mental health professional whose mission is to offer up solid, practical ways to cope.