Ways to reduce stress and improve your sense of wellbeing on your daily commute.

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It seems it is not just financial worries and heavy workloads to be a cause of stress and anxiety; now our daily commute could also be to blame.  A 2011 study in the journal BMC Public Health showed that commuting by car, train or bus is linked with extra stress, exhaustion, poor sleep and even more missed days from work.  I can relate.   In October last year I moved from inner Sydney to outer West in Penrith.  I was working part time in Potts Point, a journey that took 1.5 hours each way per day on the train.  That’s 3 hours of travel time. 3 hours of my day sitting on a train staring either at my phone or the person in front of me, very unproductive and not to mention boring! If only I had known about Audible.com.au (read on to find out what I am talking about!).

The average one-way commuting time by road worldwide is 38 minutes, which compares to Sydney, Australia’s highest, at 34 minutes.  Therefore my commute time was 3 times the average.  The long commute made me grumpy, stressed and tired.  I would leave home as the sun was rising and arrive back when the sun was setting.  Early this year I decided to get a part time job locally and it now takes me 10 minutes to get to work by car, no traffic, it is bliss and one of the best decisions I have made.

Not only is sitting in your car for a prolonged period of time boring but it can also be bad for your health.  Commuting during rush hour can cause your blood pressure to spike. This makes sense - if you are running late for work you sit in your car stressing over a meeting you may miss (sometimes this is unavoidable), or how loudly your  boss is going to yell at you for being late to work for the 3rd day in a row.  So what happens when you stress? Your body will produce cortisol aka the “stress hormone”.  It is secreted from your adrenal glands and the disruption of cortisol secretion may promote weight gain and will make you hungry.  You cannot control every situation, and traffic is one of them.

For those of you who have no option but to travel to work by car and sit in masses of traffic each day or travel a long commute time there are ways to deal with tension, stress and boredom that the journey may cause.  With a bit of preparation your travel to work each day can be enjoyable.

Here are some tips to help you get through your daily commute whilst remaining calm and composed.

Look for an alternative Can you car pool? Catch a bus? Train? If you live in a well-populated city chances are there is some form of public transport.  For those of you, who think that Sydney public transport is bad, try living in NZ, public transport there, or lack thereof it, makes Sydney’s constant flow of trains a dream.

Relaxing with Audiobooks My top tip and one I hear from people most often as their #1 stress buster when commuting by car or public transport.  If only I had known about this last year.  When travelling on the train I use an app called Audible.com.au.  There are over 100,000 books in their catalogue ranging from romance, thrillers, self-help books, guides on how to meditate, yoga, biographies, and fantasy to the classics.  You can download books onto iPad, iPhone, Kindle or iBooks. Audible.com.au describes their app as a “library in your pocket” and it truly is.  You can buy single audiobooks whenever you want, but with a subscription you'll save up to 70% on each audiobook and get access to exclusive member deals and promotions.  Subscription is $14.95 per month (you get the first month free) and your monthly subscription fee includes one book download per month and any more purchased are charged to your credit card.  If you get “car sick” when reading or have dodgy eyes I strongly suggest you try audiobooks.  Plug your ear phones in or turn on Bluetooth and stream the book from your car stereo.  Simple! At the moment I am reading A Game of Thrones series and next on the list is a self-help book on how to get over fear of flying.  Told you, Audible.com.au has everything!

Work Start Times Speak with your boss and ask if it is possible you start work earlier (or later) to avoid rush hour.  When in NZ my boss was accommodating of my request to start at 7:30am and finish at 4:00pm.  It made for a happier staff member and I was a lot more productive.  Don’t ask, you don’t get ;)

Me Time The kids are in school, husband is at work, it’s just you and your car. Enjoy the quiet time as it may be the only time of the day you get to switch off and have peace and quiet.

Jx