A Commuter’s Guide to Self-Care

Research from around the world has shown that commuting puts significant stress on individuals and their families. Here are some ways to make your commute more productive and fulfilling.

Making Modest Changes to Your Commute

Instead of fuming about traffic or staring out a train window, spend that time on activities that enhance your mental and physical wellbeing.

  1. Continue learning. Listen to podcasts or audiobooks that interest you. Register for an online course.
  2. Plan your future. Figure out what you want to accomplish this week or this year. Set goals for advancing your career or daydream about your next vacation destination.
  3. Disconnect completely. Studies show that time off from technology makes you more mindful and productive. You may even start looking forward to turning off your phone once a day or more. Use the quiet time to meditate and focus on your breathing.
  4. Listen to music. An upbeat or soothing playlist can put you in the mood for the day ahead or help you unwind at the end after work.
  5. Be social. In a car, you can spend your commute connecting with others on the phone, hands-free. On public transportation, you can text friends and post on social media.
  6. Bring snacks. Treat yourself to healthy foods or premium coffee to upgrade your travel experience.
  7. Help others. Pay attention to other commuters so you’ll notice someone who might need help. Reaching out with assistance or conversation can make your commute feel shorter and more satisfying.

Making Radical Changes to Your Commute

If your commute is making you unhappy or interfering with your family life, you may want to reconsider the tradeoffs you’re making. Maybe a different job would be more satisfying, or perhaps you and your employer can reach a compromise.

Consider these ideas:

  1. Adjust your hours. The same route can feel very different during peak and off-peak travel times. If your job doesn’t require any specific start or end time, you might be able to start early or leave late so you can avoid rush hour.
  2. Stay home. The world has learned from the COVID pandemic that much work can be done remotely. If your employer is receptive, propose working from home on certain days of the week.
  3. Walk or bike. If your office isn’t too far away, you may be able to walk or bike there on some days and enjoy some outdoor exercise.

Each additional minute of commuting time takes a toll on your mental and physical health, according to a research review by Scientific American. If you’re unable to shorten your travel, you can still make those hours more rewarding by devoting them to self-care.