April 24, 2014
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Commuter Stress

Road rave: 7 strategies for learning to enjoy your commute

Road rave: 7 strategies for learning to enjoy your commute

If your commute is an unavoidable part of your day, why not make the best of it?

Enjoy the "me" time. Despite the bad reputation of commuting, a lot of us actually do enjoy our commute! For some, the commute is the only time alone all day. Consider it not lost time, but found time - to think, to read (if you're on public transit), to slip on your headphones and daydream (again, if you're not the one driving!), or listen to an audio book. It's also a good time to transition between work and home so you don't take your stress through the front door with you.

Set a stress-free soundtrack. What you listen to on your commute matters. Turns out, you don't just listen to music, you internalize it. Research has shown that when you listen to music you enjoy, your blood vessels may dilate - which may be good for your heart and for reducing stress. Tuning into music that makes you feel anxious can do just the opposite, causing constriction and a temporary boost in blood pressure. And when the right song comes on, belt it out: Singing may boost your immune system and help your body beat back the stress hormone cortisol.

Stay in the laughter lane. Did you know that the same heart-healthy, stress-soothing potential benefits of singing can be had for a laugh? Tune into your favourite funny radio deejays or pop in a comedy CD. Find the fun of the road and the humour in your fellow drivers: How many lip-synchers and nose-pickers can you spot? How long has it been since you played "Punch Buggy" or "I Spy"?

Take the pain out of the trip. Outfit your car for maximum comfort. Adjust your seat so the headrest aligns with the tops of your ears. The seat-base should support your thighs with a little space between the seat-edge and your knees. If you must make a phone call while driving, use a hands-free headset, keeping your hands where they should be for safety's sake and preventing any cramped-neck, one-handed phone cradling.

Stay off the hunger highway. For many folks, the after-work commute backs right into dinnertime. Use the glove box to stash healthy snacks - granola bars, nuts, or dried fruit - for munchy moments. Don't forget to stay hydrated, too. Tote a reusable water bottle and fill it before you leave in the morning and before you head back home in the afternoon.

Choose your own rush hour. If you can, plan your morning and afternoon getaways to avoid peak traffic times. Experiment; figure out which hour has the lowest level of "rush." Ask your boss about a "flextime" schedule, a sliding time frame for required work hours rather than a strict 9 to 5. Results of a commuter survey found that those folks with flexi-schedules felt less stressed on their way in to work.

Accept your spot in the flow of traffic. What stresses many of us about our commute is a feeling of powerlessness. We see the line of cars and think, "There's no way out! There's nothing I can do!" It may help to accept that, on some level, we brought this on ourselves. Whether we chose to live out in the suburbs so we could have a guest bathroom or we just decided to wake up too late, we have more control than we think. We can't make traffic disappear, but we can control how we feel and react in transit. Do you really want to flash a rude gesture at the guy who cut you off - or would it feel better to simply take a deep breath?

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