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De-stress Your Commute




No doubt about it, commuting can be a real stressor and energy sapper, if you let it. The truth is, you can't control traffic or other drivers. But you can control your reaction.


Here are some ways to enjoy a more peaceful commute and arrive at your destination with your energy and sanity intact.

Don't rush rush hour. Most people don't leave enough time for their commute, or they travel at the height of rush hour-sure to produce aggravation. Leave 15 minutes earlier than usual, or ask about working hours that will have you traveling at less congested times.

Strive for variety. Even a 10-minute commute can become routine and agitating. Try to find a way to vary it: Find an alternate route, commute by bike, or even just rotate to a new CD (something calming, of course) to listen to on the ride.

Take respiration vacations. Concentrate on breathing fully and deeply, especially when you're stuck in traffic or when your train's late. Breathe in for a count of 3 seconds, pause a second, then breathe out for a 3-count.

Relax with aromatherapy. Take a 120ml plastic spray mister, fill nearly to the top with distilled water, and add 20 to 50 drops of your favorite calming essential oil. Secure the cap, shake a few times, and then spray 6 to 8 times. Pump a few sprays every 20 minutes when you've stopped driving.

Unlock your jaw. When you relax your jaw muscles, you send calming signals all through the body. Take a deep breath and let your jaw drop loosely. The effect may be even greater if you picture yourself smiling and repeating a soothing phrase such as "Calm body, calm mind."

Just shrug. Shoulder shrugs are a good tension reliever. Grip the wheel at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions, and push back against your seat until your arms are straight. Now raise your shoulders up toward your ears. Do 10, or as many as you can before traffic starts moving.

Break it up. If your ride to work is longer than an hour, take a 3-minute stretch break at the halfway point.

Hold the calls. Cell phones can be distracting, stress-producing, dangerous, and even illegal to use while driving in some areas.

Drive a bookmobile. Pop in an audio book, and see how fast the trip seems to go.

Share the stress. Most people drive to work alone, while only a small percentage carpool. That's a shame, because carpooling can solve so many problems at once: energy consumption, boredom, loneliness, just to name a few. One idea is to carpool a couple of times a week, rather than every day, in order to give yourself some "free" days to run errands after work or come in earlier or stay later.

Keep tanked. Never let your gas level go below the one-quarter mark. There's nothing like getting stuck on the highway with the gauge hovering near "E" to rev up your stress levels.

Source: Fred Miller, author of How to Calm Down (Warner Books, 2003) Journey to Work: 2000, U.S Census Bureau.

Image Credits: KieferPix/

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