I have a pretty long commute to work and I have a history of letting the drive and bad drivers get me stressed. Over the years I have figured out a few things to help me relax and de-stress – and even have it be useful time instead of a drain.
This one is the hardest for me. I feel an obligation to get angry at stupid drivers or feel that it is my responsibility to police other driver’s bad moves. All that this leads to is the potential for road rage – both for yourself, or being on the receiving end of someone else raging. Instead, remind yourself that it isn’t your job to correct other people’s stupidity. Keep your perspective on two things:
- Traffic is fleeting and fluid and it doesn’t really matter exactly where you are in the traffic flow
- It doesn’t matter how right you are if you end up dead or injured
Instead of focusing on a stupid stranger and getting emotionally involved with them, think about your family or your own personal hopes and dreams for the future. Stay emotionally involved with the people and things that matter to you and it will be much easier to ignore that moron.
Create Good Habits
Figure out things that minimize stress during the actual drive and do them consistently. For example, instead of trying to pick which lane is going the fastest and changing lanes back and forth, I like to get way over to the left lane and just stay there for most of my drive. This way I don’t have anything to do except watch the car in front of me and wait for my exit. This also applies to the reverse by finding ways of avoiding stressful driving situations. For instance, if there is a section of your commute where you need to change several lanes of traffic quickly and it is usually a hard, stressful merge, either change your habits – like changing lanes sooner – or find an alternative route to avoid the stressful section. You can’t always cut out all the stress, so do your best to quickly merge or get into a better position and then get back to focusing on relaxing.
Keep Your Mind Occupied
You need to pay enough attention to drive safely, of course, but sometimes the best thing to do is turn up the radio or tune in to a favorite morning DJ. Keeping your mind focused on something else makes the problems of the road seem distant and less important. If you are laughing or enjoying yourself it will be harder to get upset over yet another long commute.
NET – No Extra Time
This is an even more useful alternative for using your time. I picked this phrase up somewhere from a motivational speaker and it has really stuck with me. I plan on giving this its own post in the future, so I’ll just touch on it here. The concept is to accomplish tasks during time that would otherwise be wasted. You are not using any extra time – you need to be in your car for that commute anyway so you might as well make use of the time. Accomplishing tasks can be anything from listening to audio books, planning out your day, catching up on phone calls (with a good headset of course!), or even taking public transportation so you can pull out your laptop or a book. Anything you can accomplish during this time will cost you no extra time.
Avoid The Commute
This is not always possible, but avoiding the drive – or at least the rush-hour drive – completely is the best possible solution. If you have flexible hours then you can try to schedule your day to avoid rush hour driving by coming in early and leaving early, or coming in late and leaving late. If your job allows, talk to your boss about telecommuting. I have made arrangements that during projects which don’t require in-person meetings I work from home anywhere from 1-4 days a week. This has really helped out and saves time, gas costs, and the headache of driving completely.
I hope these tips get you thinking about ways to improve your commute which will make life just a little bit better. So remember to focus on who and what is important to you in life instead of the morons you meet for a few seconds or minutes during your drive, get into good driving habits and avoid bad ones, and make the most of your time in the car.