For many of us, the commute to and from work brings anxiety and frustration because it is outside of our control, and we don’t like the feeling that our time is wasted.
After spending all day at work, the few hours we have in the evening before we head to bed can feel like precious time. With traffic, construction and weather delays, we’re spending more and more time on our daily commute. So how can we make the most of it?
Do something productive in the car
If you feel anxious on your commute because you have so much to do but you are trapped in traffic, finding productive things you can do while driving can be really effective for you. You can listen to audiobooks to learn something related to work, or even learn a new language.
You can also catch up with a friend or family member on your bluetooth, rather than focusing on when you will arrive at your destination. This will distract you from your negative thoughts while you are in traffic and have you connect with the people you love.
Relax and enjoy
Some people don’t want to be productive during their commute because they feel exhausted after a long day and want downtime. If you feel like you want to relax and unwind, you don’t have to wait until you get home! Relax in your car by playing some of your favourite music, or simply turn off the radio and enjoy the quiet.
Many of my clients say they enjoy the commute home because it is their time to themselves, when they don’t have coworkers, kids or anyone else around who needs them. Try to let go of your anxiousness and embrace the moment. Know that although the journey to and from work may not be ideal, you are where you are and you may as well make the most of it.
If you feel tense and irritated on your commute, try deep breathing to calm your nervous system. Breathe in through your nose for a count of three, and out through your mouth for a count of three until you feel centred and at ease.
The nervous system often becomes hyper-aroused in traffic because of our sense of urgency to get where we want to be, as well as our belief that the next moment is more important than the current one.
To release this anxiety, bring some awareness to your body as you begin breathing deeply. Drop your shoulders, unclench your jaw, and release any tension you are holding in your neck and anywhere else. Practicing deep breathing and body awareness will help you to release your agitation so that when you do get home, you won’t bring any unsettled energy with you.
Think of three things you’re grateful for
If you feel negative, stressed or upset on your commute, this one’s for you. Rather than ruminating on all the things you wish were different in your life, think of three things that went well today.
What is currently working for you in your life? If you don’t enjoy work, is there something else about your life that you can be happy about? Maybe you have a great relationship or kids that bring you joy at the end of a hard day. Thinking of three specific things that you are grateful for will help you to notice good things in other areas of your life.
A really effective way to make this a daily practice is to be grateful for specific things. A warm bath after a long day, or coming home to your favourite meal are a couple examples.
Your daily commute may be out of your control, but you do have a choice in how you deal with it: you can either focus on what isn’t going well and be miserable, or you can shift your focus to what is going well. This simple shift in thinking can help you feel happier in any anxious circumstance, whether it’s your daily commute or another area of your life.