Commuter fatigue is a daily stressor for many workers who commute hours a day to and from work. Late or cancelled trains and buses, overcrowding or being stuck in traffic all fuel stress as we struggle to get to work each day.
The more stressful your journey to work is, the greater your risk of triggering stress hormones such as cortisol. This leaves you feeling anxious and worried leading to tension and other physical symptoms such as rising blood pressure or stressed breathing. Running late for an important business meeting or to collect young children from childcare or school, can elevate your stress levels.
While you can’t fully control how your commute affects you and your mental health, there are things you can do to beat commuter fatigue:
1. Avoid the rush
Running for a train or bus can be very stressful, especially if there’s a lengthy wait for the next one. Spend some time the night before making sure you have everything you need ready for the day ahead so that your morning can run as smoothly as possible. Create a simple checklist that you can run through each evening clothes, work items, lunch, train ticket etc The more you can get into a routine, the easier it will be.
Get up early enough to ensure you have plenty of time to get ready and make it to work. It’s far better to arrive early than face the stress of running late. If you arrive to work early, take some time to relax over a coffee or think through your work priorities for the day.
2. Use your commute time
Depending on how you travel to work, there are numerous ways you can use the travel time. If you drive to work, listen to your favourite music or podcast or learn a foreign language through an audio course.
Taking the train or bus, you have many more options available since you don’t have to concentrate on driving. Rather than mindlessly scrolling through your Instagram, Facebook of Twitter feed, think about using your commuting time in a way that brings value to your life.
Listen to a guided meditation, watch a motivational TED talk, catch up on some reading or watch that documentary you’ve been meaning to watch. Most library memberships include free access to a wide range of online media including topical magazines you can read on your phone or tablet.
If you’re taking a course, use your commuting time to do some reading, revision activities or complete assignments. You’ll find thousands of free and low-cost, short courses online. Check out edX.org, part of worldwide offering of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) where universities from all over the world offer courses on topics from coding to digital marketing and management. LinkedIn Learning courses are another great option if you have a Premium LinkedIn account.
You can also use your commute time to organise your workday, read and respond to emails or finish that presentation you’ve struggled to get done. You’ll be surprised how much you can achieve in even a 20-30 minute commute.
3. Car pool
Car pooling can be a great option if you drive to work. Sharing your commute with others is not only great for the environment, it saves you money by splitting the fuel costs with one or more ride sharers. You’ll also have someone to chat with during your commute and could take turns driving which is particularly helpful for long commutes. Put up a notice at your workplace, local store or community notice board or use a ride sharing app like BlaBlaCar to hook up with someone going your way.
4. Work closer to home
If commuter fatigue is making your life miserable, it might be time to think about moving closer to work or finding a job closer to home. Moving closer to work might mean you can ditch the car or public transport, and walk or cycle to work instead. Research has found that those who cycle or walk to work are the least stressed. While a city job might pay more, the psychological and financial cost might outweigh the advantages when compared to working closer to home.
5. Work from home
Remote working is becoming increasingly common as employers allow workers to work from home either a few days a week or full time only travelling into the office occasionally for meetings and other events. Speak to your boss about whether this is an option for you and how it will benefit you and them. Research has found that remote workers are happier and more productive.
So if commuter fatigue has been getting you down, consider making some of these changes to boost your happiness.