We can reduce stress on our commutes with some effective stress management or relaxation techniques.
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
Instead of getting frazzled during a delay, we suggest these coping strategies to help regain a sense of control:
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.
Listening to soothing 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 and laugh your way to better mental health.
Meditation or deep breathing exercises relax you, and can be practised anywhere, even when standing up. All you need to do is focus on your breathing. A simple but effective stress management 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
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
Getting stuck in traffic jams can feel frustrating. 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 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 cope with stress when on the road:
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.
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.
Imperial College London study showed that people who consume at least 20g 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.
Travelling for holidays can be challenging, with flight delays and increased security checks. Instead of getting impatient, start the vacation on a right note.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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