A few years ago, my place of work was only 12 miles away (as the crow flies) from my home. In the mornings, I got on the road pretty early and enjoyed my morning commute–sipping coffee and listening to a radio morning show. There wasn’t much traffic at that time of the day, so I usually made it to work in around 25 minutes.
The afternoons, however, were a mess. It would often take me over an hour to get home, and by the time I walked through the door, I was so drained from sitting in my car that any plans for productivity I had went out the window and microwave popcorn sounded like a very reasonable dinner idea. Plus, I found the voices of all the afternoon radio hosts really grating.
Though telecommuting is on the rise, there are still plenty of people making similar awful commutes each day. And that commute is more than just unpleasant. It can have some serious negative impacts on physical and mental health.
According to Scientific American those impacts can include, “…headaches and backaches to digestive problems and high blood pressure. Mental ills include sleep disturbances, fatigue and concentration problems. “
If working remotely is an option for you, that might be the solution to your commuting woes. However, not everyone is able to do that. If you can’t totally get rid of your commute, what can you do to make it a little bit better?
1. Pack a healthy snack
You’ve probably heard the fairly modern term, ‘hangry.’ While the word may be new, the emotion it describes certainly isn’t. When we are hungry, many of us are more quick to get angry at others around us. This is not a good thing when you are also sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. So, pack a snack to help tide you over until you get home.
Since poor eating habits are a consequence of long commute times, try keeping something healthy–like a bag of nuts, a cheese stick, or an apple–in your bag or car.
2. Embrace silence
This one may not be so easy if you commute using public transportation, but if you find yourself alone in the car, enjoy the silence. How often do we really get a chance to sit in silence? Silence has been shown to relieve stress and it allows the brain to restore its resources (Huffington Post “Why Silence is So Good For Your Brain).
3. Use the time to catch up with friends or family
Studies have shown that long commutes negatively impact friend and family relationships. Use your time in the car to chat on the phone with a friend who lives out of state, your mom, or your grandpa. It will make the time go faster and allow you to catch up with someone you may not have spoken to in a while. Just make sure to follow your state’s laws about cell phone usage while driving.
4. Celebrate the little things
The monotony of a commute day in and day out is just terrible. Therefore, mix it up a little. I had a co-worker who brought her own coffee from home to work everyday. However, every Friday, instead of making coffee at home, she would stop for coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts instead as an end of the week treat. How can you mix up the commute throughout the week to break the monotony?
5. Get on the podcast train
Find a podcast that you enjoy listening to. Maybe it’s funny, maybe it’s educational, or maybe it’s inspiring. Whether you commute in a car, or on a train, or a bus, you can use that time for a little “me time” with your favorite podcast. It will give you something to look forward to about your commute and keep your mind off of just.how.long.it.is.taking.
6. Change out your work clothes
Or, at least your shoes, for the ride home. Greatist points out, “switching [your shoes] at the end of the day is not only comfier, but it also helps signal to your brain that the stress of the day is over.”
7. Re-evaluate your point of view
It can be hard to see a commute, especially a long one, as anything but a terrible bane. However, if you change your perspective on it a little bit, the commute can actually become a time where you are in a free limbo–done with work for the day, but you can’t yet get started on the chores that await you at home. “Whether your commute is stressful or relaxing is entirely dependent on the conceptions and thoughts you have about how you’re going to use that time” (Huffington Post, “Commuting Stress: 6 Ways to Enjoy a More Relaxing Daily Commute“).
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