According to research conducted by the TUC, the average daily commute now sits at 58 minutes, meaning that people are spending 27 working days a year commuting to work.
According to the same research, the number of commuters travelling over two hours to work has increased by 34% over the last 10 years. Whether you travel to work by train or car, it will come as little surprise that the stress of commuting can have a negative impact on your mental health.
One report stated that half of commuters say that the commute increases their stress levels and over one third say that the commute decreases the amount of time that they spend sleeping.
Although external factors such as train delays and roadworks are as unavoidable as the commute itself, there are ways that you can make your commute less stressful.
If you commute by train…
- Put your phone on airplane mode. If you commute by train, it can be tempting to continuously check your emails during the journey. However, this can lead to the commute feeling more stressful as it extends your working day. You can avoid this by utilising the airplane mode feature on your phone. This allows you to continue listening to music on your phone without being bombarded by email notifications and messages throughout your journey.
- Download a mindfulness app. Practising mindfulness during your train journey can be a great way to unwind after a day’s work and is also a good way to distract yourself from your commute. There are lots of great mindfulness apps out there, including Headspace and Calm. You could try out a few different apps to find out which one works best for you.
- Read. Reading a book can help you to de-stress on your commute by distracting you from your journey and immersing you in another world. If you struggle to find the motivation to read, you could set yourself a reading challenge to encourage yourself to read a certain number of books each month.
- Check before you travel. If you regularly travel by train, you’ve probably faced train delays at some point during your commuting life. Although train delays often can’t be avoided, checking your journey before setting off can help you to spot any potential delays to your journey.
- Write a to-do list. If you struggle to unwind on your train journey home after a long day at work, you could use the time to write a to-do list for the following day. This could help you to relax once you get home as you will have planned out your tasks for the next day, meaning that you won’t have to worry about them all evening.
- Change your shoes. This might sound like a strange tip but changing into some comfy shoes when you leave the office for your commute home can help to make the journey more comfortable, which could help to reduce stress.
If you commute by car…
- Download a podcast series. Listening to a podcast on your commute can be a great way to stay entertained on the journey. There’s a great selection of podcasts available – this article by Thrillist lists the best podcasts of 2019, if you need some inspiration.
- Learn a language. You could make full use of the time that you spend travelling to work by learning a new skill, such as a new language. This comes with the added bonus that you’ll be able to practise your new language skills out loud in the car!
- Collate a playlist. What better time to listen to your favourite music than in the car? Before you head off on your journey, you could collate a list of all your favourite music so you can spend the commute singing along, rather than feeling stressed.
- Car share. If you know someone that travels a similar route to you, you could suggest car sharing in order to tackle the commute together. Not only does this make the journey more enjoyable by adding a social element, but it could also save you money on fuel.
- Leave more time. Although traffic is often unavoidable at peak rush hour times, ensuring that you leave in plenty of time can help to relieve the stresses associated with heavy traffic. Knowing that you have a time buffer in order to get to work can mean that you don’t feel as panicked if you do hit traffic on your journey.
- Park away from the office. If you struggle to find time to de-stress and unwind before and after work, you could try parking further away from the office. This would give you the opportunity to spend some time walking to and from your car, meaning that you’ll not only fit some exercise into your working day, but can also spend some time relaxing and enjoying the outdoors.
- Review your route. If you’re regularly getting caught out by traffic on your journey to work, check to see if there are any other routes that you could take that would bypass the worst of the traffic. Even if the route itself is longer, it may make the journey quicker and more enjoyable when you don’t have to sit in traffic.
Whether you commute to work by car or by train, one of the most important things to remember when the journey becomes stressful is to remember to breathe. Practising mindful breathing by taking deep breaths can help to relieve the stresses that can be associated with commuting.