Tens of millions of commuters start and end their workdays with 30 to 90 minutes of noise, exhaust fumes, and slow-motion frustration, surrounded by others who are under just as much stress as they are.
Unfortunately, a grueling commute can have a huge negative impact on your well-being and raise your stress hormones sky-high long before you get to the office. Ease the strain with these tips from Meni Koslowsky, Avraham N. Kluger, and Mordechai Reich, authors of the book Commuting Stress: Causes, Effects, and Methods of Coping:
Start by getting up at an hour that leaves you plenty of time for your morning routines, including a nice leisurely breakfast and some family interaction. Waking up late and dashing out the door with a travel mug of coffee and a half-eaten donut is no way to start a stress-free day.
Relax behind the wheel
Before you turn on the ignition, take a few deep, slow breaths. Picture the tension flowing out of your body with each exhalation. Repeat this whenever heavy traffic or some insensitive road hog starts getting you hot under the collar. If your neck and shoulders begin to tense, consciously contract those muscles, then release them.
Sit close enough to the pedals to keep your lower legs bent at a 45-degree angle to your thighs and your elbows comfortably flexed. Set your seat as upright as possible; try a back support if your back gets tired.
Keep a safe distance
Leave adequate space between your vehicle and the one in front of you—in general, one car length for every 16 km/h you’re driving. Tailgating is a sure prescription for accidents, and it only adds to the stress of the drive. When you’re on someone’s bumper, you have to constantly brake and speed up to avoid a collision. When someone’s tailgating you, just move out of the way.
Stop being a 9-to-5-er
More than half of all companies now offer flexible working arrangements that can help you avoid at least a few maddening rush-hour journeys.
If you absolutely must drive, try taking a new route along a side road that won’t clog as much as a main thoroughfare. Bring along a book on tape or a CD of your favourite music to help take the edge off the traffic jam.