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How to Make Your Commute to Work Less Stressful

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Guest Contributor

If you're lucky enough to have a job you love that also pays you well, you're already better off than most other people. If only that meant your day was stress free! Regrettably, stress doesn't disappear when your job is taken care of, and often can flare up simply by getting to and from that lovely workplace. The daily commute can be a constant drain on your calm and well-being. Whether you're driving half an hour or two hours, the traffic, the noise, the smog, the near-death experiences at the hands of careless drivers can leave you frazzled and shaky by the time you step in the door in the morning, and completely drained when you return home at night. Not to worry, there are ways you can reduce the stress caused by your commute. Here is a look at a few tips to help get you there and back again with a smile on your face.

Avoid the trap of the "better lane". You see other people doing it all the time, and you've fallen prey to the lure yourself. Another lane seems to be moving quicker, so you push through the traffic to get there. Then it slows down, and the lane you were in seems to be the better choice, so you battle your way back. Don't worry, you're not alone. But merging over and over again to find the fastest lane has not been found to make any difference whatsoever in how fast you arrive at your destination. And merging in traffic is one of the most stressful things you can do behind the wheel. So your best bet is to pick a lane and stay there. You'll end up reaching your destination at roughly the same time, but a lot less stressed. Try riding the right lane, with the easiest access to exits, and see how it goes.

Leave the honking for the ducks. You hate it when other people honk, so don't add to the noise. Honking does absolutely nothing to move things along. It's much like pressing the 'walk' button over and over again thinking it will change the signal faster. Higher noise levels in traffic raise blood pressure and lead to more instances of cardiovascular disease. So unless it's an emergency, leave the horn alone. You'll cut down on your stress level, as well as those of your fellow drivers.

Laugh your way through it. They say laughter is the best medicine, and they may be right. The better mood you are in, the more physical, mental and emotional discomfort you'll be able to brush off. Try listening to humorous e-books or comedy talk shows on your way to and from work, and you may find the commute no longer drives you crazy.

Ease off the pedal. Faster is not always better. Studies have shown that the majority of accidents are caused by speeding cars approaching slower traffic while not in complete control. So that tailgating you think will move things along? All it does is increase your risks of getting in a car accident. Luxury cars are already being fitted with sensors that keep proper distance between other motorists, so until you've got a smart car you're going to have to be the smart one. Use cruise control whenever possible to stay in the flow of traffic, and give up tailgating. You'll get there safer without any noticeable slowdown, and avoid an accident that can really ruin your day.

Treat yourself. Sometimes you just need a day off from the crazy commute. If you battle the bridge and tunnel crowd every day to get into New York City, consider taking the ferry one day, so you can sit back and relax. Mix in other modes of public transportation, such as buses or trains, so you can use your commute to read, nap or prepare for the day ahead. And if those aren't an option, consider hiring a driver every once in awhile. It may not be a long term solution, but it's simple enough to find a cheap car hire service, and the stress you save will more than make up for the added occasional expense.

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