If only there were a better way to start – and end – the work day than the daily commute. For most commuters it’s 30 to 90 minutes of start and stop, noise and exhaust fumes, surrounded by drivers all as stressed out and anxious as they are. And those are the good days, when an accident doesn’t tie up traffic for five miles and cause you to I be late to work again.

Some workers have gone to great lengths to counter the daily commute, by carpooling, using public transportation, telecommuting some of the time or switching to work that is closer to home. If you don’t have those options, you can still avoid being a helpless victim of commuter stress.

Before You Start

Get ready for the morning commute by getting a good night’s sleep, eating a nutritious, filling breakfast and leaving on time-or better yet, a little early, since nothing is more stressful than having to fight the clock as well as the traffic – to get to work on time. Begin the evening commute by consciously leaving your work-related frustrations behind.

Behind the Wheel

Before you turn on the ignition, take a few deep, slow breaths. Picture the tension and aggravation going out with each breath. Do this again whenever heavy traffic or some insensitive roadhog starts getting you hot under the collar. While driving, notice how your body reacts to stress-the tense neck and shoulders, the white knuckles-and consciously relax those muscles that you notice getting tense. Since you’ve given yourself plenty of time to get to work, you won’t need to build up your stress level with constant lane changes and jockeying for position. Use slow times-red lights and stopped traffic – to slow yourself down. Give yourself permission to just drive – don’t try to read, dictate or solve problems. Think of the car as a refuge from the pressures and demands of life.

Try to Keep Calm – Try Tolerance

Let’s face it. Not many people can drive as well as you. Cut lousy drivers some slack. They’re not out to drive you personally insane. In fact, they’re just trying to get to work like you are. Here’s where a sense of humor can be a godsend.

Keep a Safe Distance

Tailgating is a sure prescription for stress-and accidents. When you’re tailgating you have to be constantly braking and speeding up to avoid a collision. Not good for your health. When someone’s tailgating you, just move out of the way. Try not to get emotionally involved.

Take Care of Your Posture

Sit forward enough so that your lower legs are bent at a 45-degree angle from your thighs, and your arms are comfortably bent. Set your seat as upright as possible; try a back support if your back gets tired. once you get to work, or home, do a few neck and shoulder stretches to work out the kinks.

You’re In Charge

Remember, you can’t do much about traffic conditions, but when it comes to how you choose to respond to the daily commute stress – you’re in the driver’s seat.

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