Sometimes, some of the smallest things in life turn out to be major stressors.
This is especially true when it comes to commuting. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, in 2019 the average American commuter spends 42 hours per year stuck in rush-hour traffic. And all that time sitting behind the wheel is not good for your health, particularly your mental and psychological state. Yet, commuting is often a necessary evil if you’re unable to work from home.
Instead of letting the stress from bumper-to-bumper traffic affect your health, take on one of these tips to make your commute more enjoyable.
1. Mentally prepare for the day.
If you’re the type of person who likes to get a head start on the day, you can use the commute to prepare. Have a big presentation in the afternoon? Use your time in the car to put the finishing touches on your speech. Have an important meeting? Think through what you will cover and your position on the subject matter.
Preparing for the day is not just exclusive to work. You can also use the time to plan out the rest of the day outside of the office – whether it’s deciding on dinner, where you’re going for a run, or what you’ll do with your kids this weekend. Spending this time well will help to minimize distractions relating to after-work responsibilities once you arrive home.
2. Learn new skills
For many of us, reading books – particularly those focused on developing skills – are hard to complete, with other priorities taking precedence. Listening to audiobooks is a great way to get the benefits of reading while driving into work. Audiobooks can help you get a better grip on marketing, understand how to minimize office politics, or learn a new language. Plus, audiobooks are about 12 to 16 hours long, and can be typically finished within two weeks of commuting.
3. Listen to music you love
While using the commute to develop your professional skills is a great way to spend your time, there’s nothing wrong with starting the day with some good, upbeat music. You don’t have to be productive all the time during your commute. Take the time to relax and enjoy yourself. Belt out your favorite songs and do those weird dance moves with your hands (you know what I’m referring to). Your good mood will not only carry on when you arrive at the office, but it’ll also be contagious to your coworkers.
Channeling your inner peace may sound like an oxymoron if you’ve ever experienced sitting in traffic around major traffic zones like Los Angeles or Washington, DC., but the stress caused by gridlocked traffic is probably the exact reason why you should give meditation a shot. Meditation may help you pivot away from a frustrating situation towards a positive frame of mind. If you’re unsure where to start, don’t fret. There are several podcasts, audiobooks, and free apps, like Calm, designed to help you relax.
5. Pause and self-reflect
Life is busy, and it often feels like every minute is spent balancing demands from work and personal responsibilities. Similar to meditating, it’s important to take a step back and reflect. You are the driver of your career. While other responsibilities are important, time should also be spent aligning personal and professional goals, and evaluating their achievement. A commute can be a perfect time to reflect critically on your own personal wellbeing, and plan what steps you need to take to improve yourself physically or mentally.
Commutes can often feel like a drag, but it doesn’t have to be. By trying these options, you can make the time spent traveling to work an enjoyable experience.