If you have a long commute to work, it’s almost guaranteed to be your least favorite part of the day. It’s just no fun to be stuck in traffic, feeling helpless as you waste time sitting still. Even worse, your stress level rises if you think you’re going to be late, and that can set a negative tone for your whole day.
For most people, giving up the commute simply isn’t an option. You can’t quit your job on a whim, and relocating is a huge endeavor. Luckily, there are some things you can do to make your commute less of a slog, and you can even be more productive during your travels if you manage your commute right.
Ditching the Car for a Better Commute
Of course, the best way to solve your commuting woes is to get out of the car as much as you can. Driving is one of the most stressful ways to get from place to place, as it requires total concentration. It also has you sitting for long periods, which does nothing for your overall health.
If you can possibly manage it, walk or bike to work instead. You’ll burn calories and get some fresh air before hitting the ground running at work. If you live too far away to bike the whole way, go halfsies on your commute by parking your car in a public lot a few miles from the office and cycling the rest of the way. As you build stamina, you can increase the distance.
Why Your Commute Is So Bad for You
Just in case you’re not entirely convinced that your commute is a problem, check out these horrifying facts about the toll that commuting takes on the average American:
- Studies have found that commuting during rush hour can raise your blood pressure, both temporarily and long-term, and significantly decrease your quality of life.
- 586,805 full-time workers are mega commuters who travel more than 90 minutes to work each day. They’re the ones most likely to leave the house before 6 a.m.
- Long commutes contribute to weight gain as well as chronic neck and back problems. Ouch!
How to Improve Your Commute
If you’re one of the many Americans who don’t have a good public transportation option that will take the driving out of your hands, you can still make your time behind the wheel more productive. Try these six tips for making the best of your life as a road warrior:
- Pack healthy snacks. Don’t be tempted to pull into a fast food joint when you get hungry in the car. Keeping healthy snacks in the glove box will satisfy your hunger and keep you alert without overloading on calories.
- Stay hydrated. It’s also a good idea to keep a bottle of water in the car. Having the air conditioner or heater blasting in your face can be incredibly dehydrating. Having fresh water at hand will keep your happy and healthy.
- Sing a song. Fight boredom by rocking out to your favorite tunes. Singing is a proven stress reliever, and no one can hear you as you zoom down the highway.
- Breathe deep. When you’re stuck in traffic, try taking a deep breath. Focusing on a breathing exercise will help you relax, and it’s a hands-free activity.
- Learn something new. If boredom is your biggest problem in the car, fight back by listening to some great new podcasts. You can find something funny, serious or suspenseful to make you actually look forward to getting in the car.
- Get Siri to help you. Use your hands-free voice commands to get easy tasks out of the way. You can check your to-do list and add items with voice commands to get a jump on your workday and increase your productivity.
Even if you’re stuck with a long commute for the foreseeable future, you can make it better by applying these tips to your car time. Then, when you finally get home, you’ll be ready to relax and enjoy your car-free hours at home with your loved ones.
Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a blog dedicated to helping you succeed in life and at work – and find happiness along the way. Follow her on social media for more great tips. You can catch her tweeting @SarahLandrum