Best ways to destress on your commute
We’ve all been there – trapped in the commute from hell. It’s either trying to get to work after a poor night’s sleep and a miniscule breakfast, drumming our fingers in a frustrated fashion on the steering wheel as the traffic inches along in dank, grey drizzle, or it’s the even-more-irksome congestion come home-time, which means you’re losing precious minutes with your loved ones (or even, the takeaway pizza menu). Anyway, commuting can be a dreadful chore, but here are some key tips on how to destress for your journeys to and from work…
- Start the day calmly – accepting that the evening commute home will come after a day at work, and there’s very little way ANY of us can control how good/bad a day at work is, then you need to at least make sure the morning commute is as stress-free as possible. One way of doing this is to prepare everything you need the night before – lay out your clothes for the next day, set out the breakfast bowls and mugs last thing at night, prepare your packed lunch in the evening and stuff it in the fridge. That way, by the time you get to your car the next morning, ready to do battle with commuter traffic, you should at least be feeling as zen as you can be before you set off.
- Stretch your neck – you know when you’re tense, your shoulders tighten up and you can feel a ‘pain in the neck’ (hence where the age-old phrase comes from)? Yeah, well, stress will do that to you. Morning or night, if you’re trapped in a stodgy commute, try stretching your neck by inclining your head towards your right shoulder, holding it for ten seconds and then repeating the trick on your left-hand side. You should feel cricks and aches easing away, which will make you feel a little bit better. And less stressed.
- Breathe deeply – sounds a bit ‘placebo’, this one, but when you’re stressed out, you breathe in a shallower, faster fashion; it’s part of the old ‘flight or fight’ response keyed into our DNA. So, take the time to exhale and inhale slowly and deeply, and to sometimes hold a big intake of breath, because the more oxygen you have in your body, the more relaxed you’ll feel.
- Listen to music – in what might seem like contradictory information, you possibly don’t want to put on a loud ‘banger’ like ‘Breathe’ by The Prodigy (RIP Keith Flint), but something soothing and gentle. Your favourite chill-out tunes should do the trick, although if you’re a bit of a hippy in your outlook then you could try the sounds of birdsong or the sea coming in. And while the jarring notes of The Prodigy might be a bit much to calm you down, you can go for faster, upbeat tunes, because they cause the body to release endorphins, which in turn de-stress you.
- Turn off the tech – the alternative to the above is to just switch off the radio, disconnect your phone from the Bluetooth system and sit in some peace and quiet, having a little ‘headspace’ to gather your thoughts and tune out to the endless queue of brake lights in front of you. Yup, going ‘cold turkey’ on the tech isn’t easy for us, in this day and age, but it could make getting to and from work more enjoyable for you.
- Take the long way around – the most congested routes are often the shortest, most direct ones, so why not plan out a route that avoids the worst of the rat runs? You can sometimes find that travelling 15km extra at a constant 50km/h is more enjoyable than edging along at 3km/h to do 500 metres.
- Avoid rush hour – easier said than done: not all of us have flexible working hours and, furthermore, the concept of a rush ‘hour’ is looking more and more laughable these days, as more and more traffic snarls up our roads. But, if you’ve got flexible hours or a really, really understanding boss, why not try working 7am-3pm, or 10.30am-6.30pm? That way, you’d avoid the worst of the congestion and have a more enjoyable run into/away from work.
- Eat things with lots of Vitamin C and anti-oxidants – these two nutrients are said to lower stress levels. Thus, munching on a satsuma or a load of walnuts could make the stop-go-stop nature of travelling at rush hour more bearable. Of course, not all of us want to chow down on such things in the morning, so this is probably one for the commute home.
- Carry a stress ball – yup, remember those?! Pink, squishy things that are impressively malleable and supposedly unbreakable (we’ll see about THAT!). You’re bound to be able to get them online, from some sort of ‘retro business toys’ outlet, but please, please, please only use a stress ball when you’re stopped in traffic; say, at traffic lights.
- Give up work and driving – if all else fails, this is your last resort!