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How to Reduce Stress During Morning Commutes

At least once a year, there is a new report that speaks to the growing congestion of roads in North America.  Not everybody can take public transit to work.

Although my current commute has me taking city streets for about 20 minutes, my previous job had me commuting for about 40 minutes on the highway. A public transportation commute would have taken at least two hours.

For fellow drivers who choose the car to cut down on time on the road, I’m sharing some of the things that helped me make my morning drive a more pleasant experience.

We can’t change bad driving habits that we see on the road, but hopefully with these tips, we can make it a more pleasant experience.

TIPS TO REDUCE STRESS DURING MORNING COMMUTES

Car Maintenance

This one is a ‘no brainer’! Windshield wipers not working properly and a few raindrops starting to appear? The change oil light is on and you’re not sure if your car won’t conk out on you before you get it to a garage for a tune-up? Keeping on top of car maintenance eases your mind and reduces anxiety when on the road.

The chances of your car stalling or malfunctioning are greatly reduced if you take care of your car regularly. Nothing is worse than having to deal with a bad rain storm when the windshield wipers don’t work, or you don’t have enough windshield washer fluid on a very snowy day.

Clean your car regularly

Keep your car clean: reduce stress during morning commutes

A neat freak? Feeling discombobulated if there’s way too much dirt on the windshield, dust on the dashboard or dried spittle on the windshield from the coughing attack you had last month? Clean it. Nothing stresses me out more than the urge to clean while stuck in traffic. Of course, I can’t do it, because I need to pay attention to those who want to cut me off or merge right into me.

Reduce strong scents

The scent of eau de sweaty hockey equipment, or smelly feet is gross in any situation, but in a closed space it’s downright annoying. Just as with cleanliness, trying to get rid of a smell in a car can be stress-inducing when you are stuck in traffic. If cracking open a window doesn’t help, consider air fresheners, washing floor mats and carpets and upholstery.

Breathing exercises

Navy Seals use a 4 x 4 breathing method to reduce panic, stress and to keep focused and ready for whatever is thrown at them. I sometimes use this technique in heavy traffic situations to keep calm and focused.

Here’s how you do it: exhale all air from your lungs. Then slowly inhale using your diaphragm while counting to four. Hold your breath for four seconds and then let it out over the span of four seconds. Hold your empty lungs empty for four seconds. Repeat this for five minutes.

Relaxing music

Music to reduce stress during morning commutes

Morning show hosts can get listeners riled up with controversial topics. Listening to talk radio can do the same. Heavy rock or hip hop music can make some anxious.

I’ve often switched the radio to rhythmic electronic dance music (Deadmau5 is my favourite), classical music, spa/ambient or chill lounge music to reduce my anxiety. Right now I have Costa Rica – Dan Gibson’s Solitudes on my iPhone in heavy rotation, as well as the Spa station on Sirius XM.

Get off the highway

Sometimes taking a slightly less used road or cutting through sub-divisions can take about the same amount of time as being stuck on a major highway. The feeling of moving and getting closer to your destination can be a big stress-reducer. You also escape the big trucks that inevitably get in front of you and take their sweet time accelerating.

What are some of your tips to reduce stress during morning commutes?

One comment

  1. These are great tips! I only drive about 10 minutes to work, but if I misjudge the time I get stuck in what I call “Rush Minute” and it takes much longer. I love the breathing exercise, and listening to music that keeps you calm.
    Here’s to a happy commute!
    ~Jess

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