Commuting to and from work can be an extra headache in summer, whether you’re driving or taking public transit. Between the hot weather, delays due to road work or repairs, and (depending on where you live) the addition of out-of-towners joining the ranks, your commute time can be longer and more stressful than normal. While it may not be possible to change jobs or move closer to work, there are some things you can do to help ease the burden of a long commute this summer, reduce the wear and tear on your nervous system, and potentially raise your comfort level.
Tips to consider
- Look at all options. Can you vary your commute times when public transit or the roads are less heavily traveled? Or can you shift your start and end times to avoid typical rush hours? Starting just an hour earlier or later than normal can make a big difference. Alternatively, you could talk to your employer about working from home occasionally or perhaps changing your schedule in other ways (i.e., working four 10-hour days versus five 8-hour days).
- Find a driving buddy. Look for someone in your neighborhood who is headed to the same area as you, or a co-worker who lives nearby, to share the trip. Not only can this cut down on expenses like gas, tolls and parking, but having someone join you on the drive can help make it more enjoyable. Some cities and workplaces offer ride share programs as well to help coordinate carpools, plus you can use high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes if available, further reducing your travel time.
- Expect delays before you travel. Check online for which roads are under construction or tune into AM traffic radio. Leave a bit earlier, if necessary, to arrive at your destination on time. Consider an alternate route that bypasses the construction zones.
- Winding through road work? Keep your headlights on and go with the current flow of traffic. Even in full sunshine, when you’re driving through work zones, keeping your headlights on will increase your visibility to other drivers and reflect off the road workers’ uniforms so you can see them easier, too. Pay attention to the flagger’s instructions, and take your turn to merge into the narrowing lanes well ahead of time.
- Keep your cool. When it’s hot outside, drivers tend to be more irritable and experience more road rage from other drivers, according to transportation experts. Make sure you carry a water bottle, consider investing in a windshield sunshade, and switch on your favorite music/audiobook/podcast during your drive. Tuning into something pleasant can also make a hot, crowded commute on public transit more comfortable, as can doing some other engrossing activity like knitting or playing an online game. Or, simply close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
All of these activities can help you feel more refreshed when you return home at the end of the day, improving your mood, outlook and work/life balance.
How Health Advocate can help
If you are a Health Advocate member with access to EAP+Work/Life, a Work/Life specialist can help you come up with additional ideas to help reduce stress during your commute and improve your work/life balance.