3 simple steps to destress your commute

May 11, 2016

Even with all of the telecommuting, online meeting services and flexible schedules available to us, commuting to work is still one of the biggest stresses most of us deal with during the workday. 

In speaking with home health nurses and commuters with more than 25 miles to cover in San Diego rush hour traffic, I uncovered some tried and true methods for a less stressful commute. Here are three steps to transition from road warrior to zen driver.

Point A

It begins with how and, most importantly, when we start. Starting our commute in a calm fashion (as opposed to a frenzied dash balancing coffee, briefcase and lunch while running out the door) is the best way to ensure getting out of the car fresh and ready to begin the work day.

Being able to start calm, however, means we have enough time to run through our morning rituals. In other words, we get up on time. Everyone I interviewed agreed that dragging themselves out of bed just 10 minutes earlier made more than 10 minutes worth of impact on their overall morning routine.

So, if giving in to one less snooze means getting to the car without forgetting, spilling or tripping over anything and leaving on time, why not try it? That little bit of lost sleep will be more than made up for by the reduction in stress.

Straight line

Once we are on our way, the next biggest obstacle to arriving on time and ready to be productive is the obstacle course of traffic and idiots between home and work. When I asked the interviewees how they approached their actual drive time, to a person they said they slowed down.

Apparently, they had all realized at some point while stuck on the 5 that the difference between their fastest commute and their average commute was relatively small. So small in fact that it did not seem worth trying to drive fast (and recklessly as several of them put it), because driving like a raving maniac did not get them there that much quicker, and it increased their stress levels.

Further, despite what we may think, swearing or yelling at the drivers around us does not make them better drivers, and it does not help us get to work any faster.

Bottom line? Relax a little. Listen to a book, talk radio, some music or just the sound of silence. Find a way to keep what happens inside your car (or your head if you are taking mass transit) a little less focused on the challenging people racing by and more focused on something else more pleasant.

Point B

And what about arriving at work? Most of the interviewees had either talked to their boss or HR about the possibility of changing their arrival time. In some cases, it worked. In others, they were able to get support to attend morning meetings remotely.

In all cases, they agreed that having even one or two days a week where they did not have to battle traffic significantly reduced their stress.

But what if getting up earlier, changing our perspective on driving and adjusting our start time do not work? Well, at least the next time we are stuck in traffic or crammed into an overcrowded train, we can look around and see we are not alone in our misery.

By: Catherine Iste

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