Traffic jam

Travelling takes up a fair bit of time in our day. The average Singaporean spends about 40 minutes commuting to work each day. Throw in peak-hour traffic on the road as well as massive crowds in the train, and a delay or disruption can put the skids on an already stressful work schedule.

Related: Overcoming Stress

The Train (Or The Bus) Is Not Moving…

Young asian girl using her phone while in the subway

In the first six months of 2016, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore recorded 10 MRT service delays that lasted for more than 30 minutes each — the same number of disruptions in the whole of 2014. There were 15 delays for 2015. Instead of getting frazzled during a delay, we suggest:

Read a Book

A study by the University of Sussex found that reading could reduce stress levels by 68 per cent. Psychologists believe the concentration needed and the distraction of being taken into another world ease tensions in our muscles and the heart. Another study, in Social Science & Medicine, reported that book readers lived for almost two years longer than non-readers.

Plug In to Your Earpiece

Listening to music can reduce stress, and that doesn’t refer only to those of the classical genre. Plus, it doesn’t have to be just music. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine revealed that laughter shuts down the release of stress hormones like cortisol and triggers the production of feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine. This is the time to catch the comedy that you missed at the theatres.

Relax

Meditation or breathing exercises relax you, and can be practised anywhere, even when standing up. A simple but effective technique is to take a slow breath through your nose, count to three, and exhale through your mouth. Alternatively, learn relaxation techniques on your smartphone using apps such as Calm or Headspace.

Write Something Nice

Another simple way of emptying your mind of stressful thoughts is by penning a gratitude journal (a diary of grateful thoughts). Several studies have shown that those who write about positive things are generally more optimistic and feel better about their lives. Besides, the act of writing itself is therapeutic.

Related: Your Beat Stress Guide

Oh No, Another Traffic Jam!

Two male best friends on a road trip together

In its annual traffic index for 2015, mapping service provider TomTom reported that Singaporeans spend up to 87 hours, or 3.6 days, stuck in traffic jams, each year. Besides the aggravation of knowing you will be late for an appointment, the inconsiderate behaviour of other drivers may cause tempers to flare.

Arduous road situations can lead to a rise in heart rate and blood pressure, as a recent study by the University of Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia has shown. Over time, these can contribute to the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. A traffic jam may lead to a panic attack in drivers suffering from claustrophobia.

For some, the fear of losing control of a situation can be a stress inducer too. Here is how to deflect stress when on the road:

Talk to Someone

Keep your mind off the congestion by calling a friend for a chat — not a business associate to cut deals. Abide by safety regulations by conversing on "speaker" mode or wearing an earpiece.

Enjoy the Drive

Easier said than done, but take the time to enjoy the view. If you are driving along stretches with greenery, or certain sections of the AYE, BKE, and PIE, a traffic jam might prove to be a good distraction.

Research has shown that even short doses of nature can calm people down. In a 2015 study at the University of British Columbia in Canada, subjects went through a stressful math test. One group then sat through 15 minutes of nature scenes and birdsong in a virtual reality room. Another group were placed in a room without any visual or auditory stimulation. The stress levels of those exposed to nature decreased faster.

Have a Snack

An Imperial College London study showed that people who consume at least 20 grammes of nuts daily had significantly lower risks from major diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Keep a stash of healthy nuts in the car and keep the crankiness at bay.

Related: Your Beat Stress Guide

Angst At The Airport

Passengers waiting to board a flight

Travelling for holidays can be challenging, with flight delays and increased security checks. Instead of getting impatient, start the vacation on a right note.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Arrive at the terminal at least two hours before take-off so you have plenty of time for check-in. Add an extra hour if you are travelling during a festive period.

Learn Something New

More and more airports now have innovative ideas to help travellers pass the time. For example, if you happen to be at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport, there is a small exhibit of original classic paintings from the famed Rijksmuseum in the city for you to appreciate.

Usually, eight to 10 masterpiece paintings are presented, with the choice depending on the exhibition theme. Closer to home, over 100 species of cacti and arid plants are displayed in the Cactus Garden at Changi Airport, which also has a Butterfly Garden with educational corners and individual enclosures.

Pack Accordingly

Read up on luggage restrictions and weight allowance, and spare yourself the agony of having to repack your bag when checking in. Or having to throw away toiletries or items that do not meet hand-carry luggage regulations.

Dress Appropriately

Opt for footwear that can be slipped on and off easily, in case of security checks. Avoid unnecessary accessories such as hats and caps or belts that need to be taken off when you are going through metal detectors.

Watch Videos on Your Destination

A 2010 study by researchers in the Netherlands found that the largest boost in happiness from a vacation comes from the anticipation of it. Most international airports are equipped with free Wi-Fi, so start surfing and thinking happy thoughts.


Read these next: