A while ago, I had a job where I drove 30 minutes each way. Well, most days it was 30 minutes each way. Occasionally I would leave 10 minutes later than usual and those 10 minutes added another 20 minutes and a whole lot of stress to my commute. Leaving later meant there were more people on the road, worried about being late and trying to get to work on time. Inevitably, some of them drove like jerks.
When that happened, I had to work pretty hard to stay relaxed on my drive. Watching other drivers commit reckless moves only to get one car ahead increased my resolve to remain calm and, ideally, cheerful. Keeping chill on the commute (and getting to work in a good mood) usually required engaging my body, mind and emotions. Here are a few of the strategies I used:
Breathe. We wrote about this is a previous PumpTalk post - Breathe in through your nose, slowly, for five seconds. Hold your breath for three seconds. Breathe out through pursed lips, slowly and gently, for seven seconds. Repeat.
Roll or drop your shoulders. Something else I learned in yoga – when your shoulders are high or hunched, you feel more stressed. Try to drop your shoulders when you’re driving. And, if you feel safe and comfortable, give them a good backwards roll or two. Keeps things loose.
Hydrate. I was originally a caffeine junkie on my commute. But then one day, on the advice of a friend, I switched to water with a little lemon in it (she also recommended cucumber – like the spa). I found it so refreshing that I started saving my coffee fix for after I arrived at the office.
Learn a language instead of listening to an audio book. I have so many friends who love listening to audio books on their commutes. I find that listening to audio books make me sleepy. Instead, I’ll pop in a language disc, especially one that focuses on conversational skills. It keeps my mind engaged more than just listening to a book.
Focus on Gratitude. Cruising down the 401 isn’t really the best time for a hardcore meditation, but I do find that spending some time being grateful is doable and a pleasant way to pass time while driving. It makes those times when another driver doesn’t seem to appreciate the wisdom of the zipper merge less fraught; it’s harder to get angry when you’re listing the things you’re grateful for.
How do you stay chill on your commute? I’d love to hear your tips – leave a comment below!