Although commutes do a fine job of getting us to our jobs, they're not that great for our mental health. Forty percent of people who have long commutes are more likely to separate from their spouses. People who have experienced a heart attack are three times more likely to have been stuck in a traffic jam within an hour of the attack.
Pretty sobering, right?
1. Have a calm morning.
It's not going to be a good commute if you're already frazzled by the time you get behind the wheel. Don't rush around wondering where your a) socks, b) coffee mug or c) lunch is. Prepare the night before and give yourself plenty of time. Attractive as more sleep is, it really is ultimately more soothing to get up and proceed calmly.
2. Stretch your neck.
When we're stressed, we often feel it in the neck. (Hence the expression "pain in the neck" about people or events that cause stress.) If you're stuck in traffic or waiting at a red light, there is a simple neck stretch that will help. Incline your right ear toward your right shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
3. Listen to music.
Listening to music can lift stress immediately. You can try relaxing music, like a CD of bird songs or waterfalls. Or try energizing music, which gets the endorphins pumping.
4. Try meditation.
A commute can be ideal for spending time being mindful and meditative, especially if it's long "“ longer commutes are shown to cause spikes in blood pressure. Headspace is a great mindfulness program that can be used via the app or online. Be sure to test it out before using it on a commute, though.
5. Pack de-stressing snacks.
Foods with Vitamin C tend to reduce stress. So pack cut-up red peppers, broccoli and even oranges if you can swing it. Don't want vegetables in the morning? Hey, there's an evening commute too. Interestingly enough, walnuts also lower stress levels because of the anti-oxidants in them. So vary the Vitamin-C carrying vegetables with all the walnuts you want.
6. Squeeze a stress ball.
These are squishy balls often sold as exercise equipment or, yes, de-stressers. You can't do this in heavy or complicated traffic, obviously, but if you're stopped at lights "” go for it! It's basically a stretch for your hands. Any stretch of the extremities is going to relax you.
7. Breath deeply.
When we get a lot of oxygen, our bodies relax. If you're tense about your commute, you may be breathing more shallowly than usual. Counteract it by making a point to take deep breaths, hold them, and take them again.
8. Use aromatherapy.
Many people are familiar with using aromatherapy in their homes. A nice scent can be very soothing. It's why people burn vanilla candles, cinnamon or pine! Well, although candles are out in your car (don't even think about it), you can get aromatherapy oils or holders that will work in a moving vehicle. Lavender and peppermint are good de-stress scents.
9. Enjoy tech-free days.
Although music and meditation exercises are delivered through technology, sometimes it's just relaxing to have quiet. Remember quiet? If you practice it, you may find that you haven't really enjoyed quiet in the long time. Pick some days to just be tech free, at least for the duration of your commute.
10. Avoid rush hour.
If you feel like you're jockeying along with everyone else during your commute "¦ could be you are. After all, almost everyone begins work at 8 or 9 a.m., and the great majority of people leave at 5 p.m. If you have a job where you can swing it, try to adjust your schedule to avoid rush hour. If you set up a 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule or a 10 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. shift, you'll be seeing many less cars on the road.
Use the 10 methods as they work for you. You don't have to go for all of them every day. But deployed a few at a time, over a period of time, they will work to de-stress you. You'll live happier, longer and better.