Three simple ways to have a stress-free commute

Balancing a variety of roles is part of everyday life for many of us these days; roles that change from moment to moment. One minute we’re a friend, the next a teacher, a helper, or a parent –sometimes all of these at once! Each presents its own tasks, challenges and expectations, which we’re often juggling before we even start to think about our actual job! When it comes to work; travelling to, from, and between locations –the commute –is an inevitable part of our regular routine. Yet, for most, it remains something we endure –perhaps even dread -and rarely enjoy.

Think of the commute and what comes to mind? A sensory overload of seemingly never-ending speaker announcements, invasive jangles from our neighbour’s headphones, frustrating missed connections? Gridlocked traffic and animated protestations from other drivers? Whatever our mode of travel, the odds are that our experiences are rarely filled with joy and positivity.

Whether our journey involves public transport, walking, or navigating the highways –or perhaps a combination –the cumulative effect of seemingly small distractions and frustrations can take their toll, leaving us feeling uninspired, tired and wired, and often all before we really get our day started. 

This can play out in all kinds of ways. The relentless ‘monkey mind’ and incessant rumination at our fellow commuters’ lack of consideration that exhausts our already-tired minds.  Moments of increased heart-rate at the realisation we’re going to be late for that all-important meeting. Sore muscles from clenching in concentration as we scroll through endless‘urgent’ emails.

Thankfully there are ways in which we can take control: simple techniques we can practise during that sometimes-crazy commute. Time where we can become our own best friend and allow the hustle and bustle to fade in to the background. The equivalent of a reassuring hug, or empowering words that tell us we’re doing just great.

#1 | Breathing

Ok, so ‘breathing’ sounds pretty straightforward. Yet it’s often the first thing affected when things start to feel uncomfortable. You’ve heard the saying ‘take a breath’; here you’ll take ten:

  • Take ten long, slow breaths. On the inhale, focus on breathing deeply in to your belly; visualise inflating a balloon. On the exhale, focus on a long, slow breath; a complete emptying of the ‘balloon’.
  • Notice the movement of your belly and chest as they expand and contract.
  • Finish by gently reconnect with your surroundings; noticing what’s going on around you.

#2 | Observing

Take a moment to observe. Give your full attention to something close to you –regardless ofhow ‘ordinary’ that object may be. Perhaps your trusty travel mug? Notice its shape: the curve of the rim, the vibrant colour, the way the steam from your drink gently rises from the top. If driving, notice the feeling of the steering wheel beneath your fingers; its warmth or coolness, the ridges of the seams, the smoothness of its covering. Once you’ve finishing exploring one object, move on to something else. No analysis, no judgement, just observe with wonder and curiosity. Even the most mundane, everyday things can take on a whole new dimension!

#3 | Meditation

Meditation needn’t involve sitting cross-legged in a silent room, eyes closed in quiet contemplation. There are ways in which you can enjoy the rejuvenating effects of meditation during the rush-hour commute. Next time you find yourself on the packed bus or train, take a moment to wind down, refresh and renew with this simple ‘body scan’ meditation. 

  • Start by taking your attention to your feet. Notice the sensations between the soles of your feet and the surface beneath them.
  • Mindfully move your attention up through the body:
    • Ankles
    • Legs
    • Hips
    • Belly and lower back
    • Chest and upper back
    • Shoulders and arms
    • Neck, face and head

Rest your attention on each body part as you ‘scan’, noticing any sensations. Warm, cold, tingling; maybe none at all. Complete the practice with a long, slow inhale through the nose and a long, slow exhale through the mouth.

It’s all about you!

Three very different, yet simple and practical techniques: the basis of a mindful toolbox from which you can choose what best suits your situation. No need for special gadgets or a particular setting, and all can be practised standing or seated during course of your commute.

Each works by gently bringing you back to the ‘here and now’; regaining perspective on what’s really happening. The breathing exercise can help you control the rhythm and depth of breathing; a connection with something that is uniquely yours.  Let go with the observation and meditation techniques and be in the real moment. 

Tried and tested tools that provide the space to carve out some time for you, transforming your journey in to something that can become enjoyable. Mindful moments that can reinvigorate, empower and inspire you to breeze through your day with confidence. Give them a try and see what works best for you!

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