If you live in Tacoma and commute to places like Seattle or Olympia, the word commute might already be sending you into a panic attack. But, it’s not just the long haul drivers that get anxiety from driving to work. Even a short 5 minute drive can get your blood pumping, depending on what you run into (or what almost runs into you) on the road. Maybe you feel like the coffee mug is taunting you. But I like to see it as a reminder that, with the right planning, we can all reach commuting nirvana together.
The Right Amount of Time. Being in a rush is stressful enough, but when you add hundreds of cars into the mix, it’s a wonder that any of us make it to work. If you are constantly feeling rushed, an adjustment of 5 or 10 minutes might be all that you need to feel more relaxed in the morning.
Decompress Before You Drive. This is where that extra 5 or 10 minutes might come in really handy. Get in your car, put the keys in the ignition, and then just sit for a minute or two. Calm yourself and feel at peace with the drive ahead. Tell yourself that you’re going to have a great drive and arrive at work with time to spare. It might sound corny, but you’ll have a much better attitude while driving.
Get Comfortable. Nobody’s going to see you high-heels or dress shoes while you’re driving. Why not chuck those shiny shoes in the back seat and pull out the old trusty slippers? Just make sure they have some sort of sole and a structure that holds the entire foot. If you’re trying to have a better commute, you certainly don’t want a flip flop style slipper jammed under the break pedal.
No Eating, Make Up, Cell Phone, Etc. I know mornings are crammed full of things you need to do, but doing them in the car is just dangerous. If you’ve made it a habit of getting ready for work while driving, I hate to say it, but you need to start getting ready a little earlier. Nothing is more stressful to you (and others) than someone not paying attention to the road.
Put on Some Tunes. Listening to music that puts you in a good mood is great for creating a more enjoyable commute. Sing and dance to your heart’s content. You might just make someone else smile, when they see your happy free spirit drive on by. Just keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes open
Follow the Right Lane Rule. The lane farthest to the right on the freeway is supposed to be for people entering or leaving the highway. Nothing can back up traffic and irritate people more than complicated merging. Try to stay out of the right hand lane as much a possible and you’ll have less things to worry about coming your way.
Let People In. I know you diligently waited your turn in a long winding row of cars to finally reach this spot, but just let the guy that cut everyone off go first. Yeah, people can be jerks. Yeah, the standards for having a driver’s license are (apparently) not very high. But, don’t let these people ruin your mood or your day.
Do You Really Have to Drive? Studies have shown that people who do not drive to work have less general stress than those that drive. Factors like scenery and interaction with the surrounding environment, coupled with avoiding the stresses of driving actually make you mentally healthier. If you work close to home, you may be able to ride a bike or walk to work. If you work so far away that your own horsepower just won’t cut it, consider taking the bus or train. You can finally catch up on that book you haven’t had time to read, update your to do list, or just close your eyes and relax. You don’t have to do it everyday, just once or twice a week can really improve your mood and reduce stress.
So how does this all fit in with kindness? Just ask the hundreds of people you pass on your way to work every day, your coworkers, and your family if you’re nicer to be around. When people are kind to themselves, we all get to share in their improved attitudes and extra smiles.
Come back every Monday for The Tacoma Community Connector’s: Moment of Kindness