Driving to and from work every day can put physical and mental strain on the body. Stop-and-go traffic and unpredictable drivers can make your daily commute nerve-wracking. Even commuting alone can take a toll on mental and physical health, says Psychology Today. Commuters who drive more than 10 miles each way experience higher cholesterol and blood sugar levels, Time reports, probably from the time spent sitting in one place. Blood pressure can spike as well. And to top it off, commuting for more than 30 minutes raises anxiety levels.
Here are five ways to lessen the anxiety and irritability your commute might be causing.
1. Listen to something interesting
Audiobooks and podcasts capture your attention better than hearing the same songs, rants and jokes over and over again on the radio. Listen to something enriching, not noise that irritates or burdens you.
2. Make Sure You’re Physically Comfortable
Long commutes can also aggravate the back, legs, neck and eyes. Here are a few simple modifications that can relieve discomfort:
- Sit on a cushion designed to provide lumbar and lower-back support.
- A cushioned seat belt strap ends irritating strap rub.
- Always wear sunglasses. Polarized lenses used during the commute reduces eye strain from the sun’s glare off snow and other reflective surfaces you may pass. They also help if your commute puts you in the path of sunrises and sunsets.
- Bring a change of clothing and shoes. If you have to dress up for your job, changing into something comfortable for a long drive can make a huge difference.
3. Change Your Route Home Once in a While
Try taking different routes home from work. Variety can be a useful stimulant and even if another route takes a few more minutes, it can take the edge off the usual routine. (If you’ve found a reliable, timely way to get to work, you may want to stick to that route.)
4. If Time Permits, Run Errands
If it’s possible, break up the commute by stopping to pick up a prescription or snack, or do your grocery shopping on the way home. Your body will surely appreciate the break from the driver’s seat and your mind will have something different to focus on than the same drive each and every day.
5. Consider Carpooling or Public Transportation
Very few people actually carpool. The U.S. Census Bureau says more than three-quarters of all people who drive to work are alone in their cars. Being alone for long periods of time every day can be an isolating experience, says Psychology Today.
If a regular carpool isn’t an option, ask around the office to see if there’s someone who lives along your route. Perhaps you can pick up or drop off this person once or twice a week. Having company in the car can be a huge benefit. Studies in Sweden and England found that commuters who used public transportation suffered less from stress and social isolation than those who drove alone.
If public transit is out of the question (and many American cities and suburbs have very poor transit), an occasional or regular passenger could be quite beneficial. Is there a better way to start the day than a cheery “hello!” from a new work buddy?