Have you been feeling stressed lately? Maybe tired and achy? If you said yes, blame your commute. Research has found that traveling to and from work can negatively impact your health. However, there are measures you can take to reduce the stress of commuting and improve your overall well-being.
Commuting-related health problems
Being stuck in traffic can be the worst part of your day, and since you usually kick off the morning with your commute, that stress can affect the rest of your waking hours. People spend almost an hour per day – approximately 25 minutes each way – traveling to and from work, and there are many things that can influence your mood in that half hour, Everyday Health explained. Commuting during rush hour can have you dealing with stop-and-go traffic, packed trains and delayed schedules. It could interfere with you making meetings or even making it home for dinner, which definitely isn't good because no one is happy on an empty stomach. Let's not forget that you have to work gas or public transportation costs into your monthly financial plan.
"The stress we experience when we drive continues to influence how we perceive demands afterward at work and at home," Dwight Hennessy, an associate professor of psychology at Buffalo State University, told the source. "That stress can then impact your interactions with other people, your mood and your performance, all without your realizing the commute has anything to do with it."
Long, stressful travels also have negative effects on your health. With more time spent commuting, less time is being dedicated to taking care of yourself. You're exhausted when you arrive home after a long day. Working out, cooking well-balanced meals and getting enough sleep get put on the back burner. Unfortunately, these, combined with the time you spend among exhaust fumes and people's germs, lead to poor health, Health Shifting explained. Long commutes have been associated with higher rates of depression, obesity, anxiety, blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as lower life satisfaction. One study found that those who experience heart attacks were three times as likely to be sitting in traffic within an hour prior to the episode, according to Everyday Health. Researchers thought exhaust fumes, traffic-related stress or both contributed to the attacks.
Reduce your stress
Luckily, even though your commute provides countless problems, there are ways to alleviate the pain.
- Listen to some tunes – Studies have found that putting your favorite music on can keep your spirits up, maintain blood pressure and increase calmness. Unfortunately, this is only true of relaxing music and not all genres. A 2011 survey found that songs such as Coldplay's "Yellow," Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" and Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" had calming effects, but those such as Kanye West's "Stronger" and the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" actually raised blood pressure.
- Catch some Z's – When you don't get enough sleep, your brain is deprived of nutrients that it need, Everyday Health explained. However, long commutes contribute to late bedtimes and difficulties falling asleep. Whenever possible, try to go to sleep as early as possible. If that doesn't work, get everything ready at night so you don't have to worry about it in the morning. That should allow you to catch a few extra minutes of rest in the a.m.
- Encourage flexibility – As a small business owner, you have the ability to alter working hours. Give both you and your employees the option to work from home or come into the office at hours that work for both you and them, Health Shifting suggested. Even if you have to travel for work, avoiding the rush hour commute will reduce stress early in the morning.
Don't let the commute get you down. While traveling can be a nuisance, it doesn't have to affect your day or your health if you take steps to fix it.