Your daily commute can take a serious toll on your health. Long commutes (more than 15 miles) have been linked to high stress levels, poor sleep, obesity and even a shorter life. Before you head in the wrong direction, try these five tips to make commuting less stressful:
- Plan your day the night before. Take some time each weeknight to prepare for the coming workday. Put papers in your briefcase, select the clothes you’ll wear, prepare your lunch, if you bring it with you, and put your keys by the door. If you go to bed with everything done and organized for the morning, you should fall asleep easier and be free of stress and anxiety in the morning.
- Leave earlier. Sounds obvious, but hitting the road sooner can make your commute more bearable by giving you more time and control. Leave a few minutes earlier to give yourself more leeway to deal with traffic tie-ups. Also, always keep your gas level above the one-quarter mark. There’s nothing like getting stuck on the highway with the gauge hovering near empty to rev up your stress levels.
- Use a traffic app. Download an app to your smartphone. It’ll keep you posted on traffic speeds, snarls and weather conditions and alert you if anything changes while you’re on the road.
- Vary your route. Driving the same route each day can put your brain on autopilot – so change your route often. The change will make your drive more interesting and put more data in your mental GPS, which may help to escape future traffic snares.
- Make the time about you. Turn your radio off, put your phone away (which should be done when driving anyway) and take some time for your own thoughts. Breathe deeply alternating with some neck stretches to really keep calm.
Quick Fact: The average American’s commute to work is 25.5 minutes each way. That’s about 51 minutes a day getting to and from work, or about 204 hours a year spent commuting.