Have you ever have one of those days where you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world, only to have your long commute just ruin it? I know I had been there too many times. There were even days during my commute where I would search the internet for articles to see that NYC ranked among the worst commutes in America. I guess this was to somehow prove to myself that my commute experience was bad and that I deserve to have a pity party.
Eventually I said enough is enough, I will make this commute enjoyable. There is no trying to make it enjoyable, I will make it happen. So today I am sharing with you how to make your commute less stressful and a time of the day that you actually look forward to.
Be Productive to Make Your Day less Stressful
There were times where I would get so frustrated thinking about how much time I spend each week commuting. I could be doing so much more if I didn’t have to spend hours commuting each day. These thoughts have now become less and less because I started to get a lot of stuff done during my commute and you can too.
During your commute, jot down some small goals or a to do list that you want to get accomplished for the day. They should be a combination of personal and work related. For example, some of my goals earlier this morning were to finish preparing for a work presentation, hit the gym, and make an outline for my next blog post. Having a to do list helps you start your day organized. If you already have a plan for your day at the start of your morning, then you’re already ahead of the game before you set foot into work. It also takes off some of the stress on your brain. Instead of remembering 6 tasks, you just need to remember to look at 1 list. You can record this list on your phone while you are driving, write it down in a notebook on your train, or use a to do list app on your walk to work. There are plenty of options for any type of commute.
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Learn a New Skill
Since my to do list doesn’t take up that much of my commute I also like to use this time to make sure that I am constantly learning. Is there a new skill or topic you have always been interested in but haven’t found the time to learn? It turns out that your commute can be a like a classroom on the go. If you drive, you can listen to an audio book or a podcast so your hands are free. Since I take the subway, I bring a book with me but also listen to podcasts. Even if your commute is 15 minutes each way, that is still 2.5 hours a week and 10 hours a month. You can learn so much in that time!
If you have your own business or are working on a side hustle, commuting is also a perfect time to schedule a mandatory brainstorming or creativity session. I like to do this for blog posts, but it could be a time to get creative about any business venture. You can make time once a week to think of creative ways to start a side hustle. Maybe you have a business already and use this time to think of creative new products that you want to offer your customers. Just use this time to let your mind wander in a productive way.
A Surprising Type of Music to De-Stress
Sometimes the zen tracks just don’t cut it. This is when I go to my angry playlist (literally titled “High School Emo”). It has a lot of tracks of people who are pissed off and sometimes literally screaming. I picked a bunch of songs that I loved in high school that are pretty angry. If my commute is taking a real turn for the worse, I start listening and it quickly makes me feel much less annoyed.
When I first started noticing that it calms me down, I had to see if there was any science behind it. The University of Queensland did a study on “extreme” (metal and punk rock) music and it turns out that it makes people calmer when they are feeling heated. Not only did the participants feel less irritable, but they also felt a sense of inspiration, peace, and happiness. So the next time someone is honking their horn at your car or you have an armpit in your face on the subway (all too common for us short folk), throw on some Black Sabbath, Disturbed, or My Chemical Romance and embrace your inner head banger.
This topic might be a surprise for a commuting post but aromatherapy is really powerful tool to help regulate emotions. Is it like taking a Xanax? No, but you won’t get the nasty side effects of prescription drugs.
If you drive to work, you can use an essential oil diffuser for your car. These are much smaller than typical ones you see in homes and they can plug into the car air vent or the cigarette lighter socket that many car phone chargers plug into. A couple of good scents are lavender for relaxation or orange for energy but these are just a few examples.
I take the subway to go to work and have a discreet aromatherapy tool for those stressful days when I am dealing with signal issues and crowded subway cars. If you are like me, taking public transportation, then a lavender essential oil roll-on comes in really handy. When you are applying it, it looks like you are applying perfume to random bystanders. Little do they know, you’re creating your own mental zen space in the crowd.
Get Your Zen On
Although I love learning and being productive during my commute, there are just some days that I have to tune out the world. I’m sure you’ve had those days a well. Those days where there’s a ton of traffic and you’re stuck in the slow lane or the guy next to you on the bus is basically sitting on top of you. It’s totally okay to feel frustrated but I’ve figured out a few ways that have helped me become less bothered in these situations.
When I’m stressed commuting and need to tune out the world, I use mediation tracks to bring my heart rate down. If you are driving, be sure to choose one that you have used before because some tracks make you very sleepy while listening to them. There are plenty of tracks to reduce anxiety or improve your outlook on the day. All the ones I listen to are free and they work really well so try out a free app or free tracks before committing to purchasing expensive tracks.
Now Start Making Your Awful Commute Enjoyable
Above are bunch of ways you can improve your commute, everything from planning your day to de-stressing with essential oils to tuning out with head banger music. I use all of them which means you don’t have to pick just one. Each morning, see how you feel. If you had planned to have a creativity session on your way to work but didn’t get much rest the night before, listening to a podcast may be easier to handle. Doing any of these is better for your mind than listening to morning radio shows talking about the latest celebrity drama. If anyone has any other tips on how they have improved their commute, I would love to hear them!