Commuting Stress Is Your Worst Enemy: 5 Ways To Defeat It

Stress On The Freeway (Freeway Commuting Stress)

I’ve surrendered and accepted that rush hour traffic in LA is the root canal of commuting. You have two options if you commute to work in LA. One is enduring the traffic pile-ups to and from work; the other is arranging your schedule and hitting the road before the gridlock begins. I’ve known people who left for work as early as 4:30 in the morning just to beat the traffic; I’m not one of those people. What I don’t get is why some LA residents didn’t get the “Living in LA you’ll sit traffic” memo? I  know the message must have missed a few houses because when I sit at a dead stop on the freeway, there’s always someone behind me that starts blasting their horn.


What exactly do they expect me to do? If I weren’t afraid I’d wind up with a crowbar slammed against my head, just once I’d like to get out of my car, approach the beeping driver and ask him. “Excuse me, what would you like me to do? I can’t move forward, backward or sideways. We’re STUCK, jammed as in, immovable”. But I hold back for two reasons:

  1. I want to go home in my car, not a body bag.
  2. Commuting stress can turn the Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde.

How about you? Does your commute send you blood pressure through the ceiling? Do you frequently experience commuting stress? Do you walk into work or return home having one nerve left and anyone that approaches you is standing on it? Do you find freeway driving stress difficult to deal with?

Defeat Commuting stress

Commuting Stress Isn’t Your Friend

A recent study on commuting stress at the Cooper Institute in Dallas found that people who drive at least 10 miles to and from work have higher rates of depression, anxiety and social isolation. In addition, stress while driving (eg: freeway commuting) causes spikes in blood pressure levels and the longer the commute, the higher your pressure raises. Spikes in blood pressure put you in danger of developing heart disease or a having a stroke; is your morning drive worth the risk?  Although there’s no cure for stressful commuting, there are ways to take the edge off the stress and anxiety of your time on the road.

5 Tips To Alleviate Commuting Stress

Below are the 5 easy steps on how you can easily defeat commuting stress.

Defeat Commuting stressPrepare In Advance:

One of the best ways to lessen driving tension and commuting stress is to prepare everything you need for work the night before. If you’re running through the house frantically searching for keys, files, and papers, you’re stressed before you walk out the door. If you take the time in the evening to put out your clothes, keys and set the coffee to automatic brew, you’ll eliminate those time killing house hunts.

Get Enough Sleep:

Sleep is an essential component if you want to manage commuting  stress and stabilize your mood when diving. Your body requires sleep just like food and water. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the exact amount of sleep you need depends on your age and your individual needs. You can calculate your needs by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Are you alert and productive on seven hours sleep? Or do you require eight or nine hours to feel well rested and peachy keen?
  • Do you feel sleepy while driving?
  • Do you need caffeine to get through the day?
  • Do you crave sugar and carbohydrates during the day?
  • Do you have high blood pressure or low cortisol levels?

Defeat Commuting stressIf you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably need more Zzzzz’s.

Juggle Your Work Hours:

If your work hours are nine to five, you’re on the road during the peaks of rush hour. Perhaps your company offers or would be open to instituting an alternative work schedule or flextime. Research shows that businesses offering flexible schedules to their employees resulted in higher job satisfaction and decreased turnover with their workers.

Share Your Ride:

I know it’s inconvenient coordinating your commute with another person or two, but riding with a friend might be worth the fuss if sharing your ride reduces your stress. Studies show that sharing a ride to work lowers commuting stress significantly. In addition, you’ll find it’s easier to stifle those angry outbursts with someone else in the car.

Defeat Commuting stress

Change Your Focus:

If you choose to concentrate on the amount of traffic, slow or discourteous drivers your ride will be a miserable experience. Instead, keep your attention on what you’re doing and using the time productively. Driving alone in a car gives you a break from the outside world. You can choose a number of options that will take your mind off the traffic. For example, you can listen to entertaining, informative or motivational podcasts. If you’re a member of Audible download a few books and you may find yourself hoping for a bit of traffic in order to hear the end of the chapter. You can even learn a new language, “하지 그 좋은 생각”  (I think that’s Korean for,  “isn’t that a great idea”).

Defeat Commuting stress

Benefits of Stress-Free Driving (Defeat Commuting Stress Now!)

If you can learn to manage freeway driving stress, you’ll arrive at the job feeling more empowered by your self-restraint. In addition, your morning attitude will improve, and you’ll be more courteous. The first words out of your mouth will be, “Good morning” instead of, “Good God what a morning”! Since you didn’t waste all of your energy on stress, there will be more oomph for the day ahead, Your productivity and stamina will increase. Plus, you’ll be the most pleasant person at the water cooler!

Defeat Commuting stress

Have a banner day!


The long commute has become a staple of the American work experience: The average round-trip commute is close to an hour and at least 10 percent of the workforce spends more than an hour getting to work. Read more…


Related Links:

Music For Commuting Vols. 1-6 (Box Set)

Music For Commuting Vols 7-12 (Box Set)


  • Beth –

    I lived 2 hours from LA for 34 years. When I had to go there, I did actually go at 4, get there way too early, and read in my car for a couple hours. I lived in Santa Barbara where there is some traffic – not comparable. But part of my job for awhile was flying over the city during rush hour and report on the traffic – which was pretty darn predictable and didn’t last long. Your tips for reducing stress are excellent.

    • Thank you Beth, Wow the morning drive “Copter” Gal…I love it!

  • Erica

    As another one of of those crazy people living in L.A., I totally relate to this post. Thankfully I got free maintenance on my new car because I had to get new breaks at 15,000 miles. I’m on my breaks about 50% of the time I’m in my car. I live on a major, high traffic street right by a light. I love the days where the person behind me beeps me for slowing to pull into my very narrow driveway. Crazy commuters! The thing that gets me through is my Sirius XM. I don’t think I would survive without it!

    • How great is Sirius? I’m all about podcasts now, I’ll sit on the 405 for hours and be just fine.

  • Tim

    It is a rare occasion when I drive so this issue is not one I have as a constant in my life. That said, I know about traffic jams as my time in Asia, Africa, South America, almost anywhere will involve a jam. I am not driving and the scene is always incredible to witness. You haven’t seen rush hour till you have seen it in Jakarta 🙂

    • I’ve heard Tim. I’m sure you have some great traffic stories with all of your travels.

  • What a great post with nice tips.
    This post remind me about my father how always advice me to prepare ahead… a night before travelling.
    I am not driving but my husband drives everyday for two hours in morning and 2 hours in evening for work. He always try to share the ride with friend and it really helps him in many ways; reduces stress and he enjoy talking and the time flies when someone is around.
    I will share this post with him to give him few more tips.

    Thank you.

  • Safariontheblog

    Great tips Pamela cos I can relate to this. I take the train to work and that alone is stressful. London trains during rush hour is stressful. It is packed, no space to move, all the seats are taken . Thanks for the tips to alleviate to commuting stress.

    • You’re welcome Safari. By the way, where will be having lunch next week?:)

  • MinaJoshi5409

    I can relate to some of the stress you refer to whilst driving to work. The city I work in is always busy in the morning with cars but also bicycles. A lot of parents take their children to school on bicycles and they are always in a rush so try and cycle in and out of spaces. I found them more stressful than other cars on the road. Now I just park at the Train station and take the train. I really love the train commute and enjoy the short walk to the office.

    • Yes the train is wonderful. Parents take their kids to school on bicycles? I’d love to see some images of that Mina.

  • These are great tips, although I imagine it’s hard to get enough sleep when you’re leaving the house at 4:30! That would never work for me either. This makes me appreciate working from home that much more!

    • Yeah the 4:30 thing is a deal breaker. It’s great to work from home. Although at home is easy to get distracted. You have to have a lot of self-discipline.

  • Krystyna Lagowski

    I can totally relate to this – here, in Toronto, gridlock and congestion was a hot button in last year’s mayoralty race. Although I spend a lot of time driving, it’s by choice. Just getting from point A to point B on a Wednesday afternoon can be harrowing – can’t imagine what it’s like on the roadways, racing against the clock on a regular basis. As you say, commuting is bad for your health, physical and mental. It’s also been proven to be hard on marriages! So glad I work from home.

    • Hard on marriages? I’haven’t read any studies on that subject. Interesting, I imagine the stress and anxiety from the drive could effect a relationship.

  • I don’t think I could handle being a commuter in L.A. I’ve been caught in L.A. freeway traffic only a couple of times, while on vacation there. Before I retired, I had about a 40 minute commute to work, though it wasn’t as crazy as on the L.A. freeways. For the first month after I retired, I would listen to the morning traffic report on the radio and smile, relieved I didn’t need to know about it.

    • Yeah LA and traffic it’s like soup and a sandwich. The funny thinng is Donna, if you ask anyone in LA how long it takes to get anywhere they’ll respond, “about 20-30 minutes”. Translation: 60-90 minutes LA time.

  • Catarina Alexon

    Have never commuted on freeways. In London, UK, I lived in Knightsbridge and my office was in Mayfair. A 20 minute walk. The only time I come close to commuting that way was in the Middle East because they, unfortunately, have constructed their cities like in America with freeways. But in Saudi Arabia I had a chauffeaur and in Kuwait and United Arab Emirates it was only short distances. In the latter country though, you get a bit stressed for the simple reason that a lot of drivers from the developing world would drive into your car unless you notice them and geet out of their way. Those drivers would not pass a driving test in the West. The only way of staying alive is to develop an eye in the neck. You are so concentrated on the traffic around you that you don’t have time to worry:-) If I had, I probably would not be writing this now because I would have passed away.

    • Well I’m VERY happy you’re still here Catarina : ) You’re my new International Business Mentor. The way I see it from the new learning I’m acquirig by reading your blog, in 2 years I may just purchase Dubai 🙂

  • I used to put about 35,000 miles (60,000km) on my car every year but only about 1% of that was freeway driving and never at rush hour. We see photos of the traffic backups on our 400 series highways (our freeways) the news every night and always count our blessings we aren’t part of that.
    When I was in my office people where constantly making demands on me so driving was my quiet time. I never had the radio on but did have a small pencil recorder that I would talk to – making up to-do lists, resolving problems, etc.
    If I was living in an area where i had to fight traffic like you’ve described I would definitely fight for flex time – can certainly see where that would improve productivity.

    • 35,000 miles! wow, that’s a lot of driving with or without traffic. It takes about an hour to drive 15 miles in LA during rush hour. So, 35,000 miles gives you about 100 days for productive in car learning time!

  • I commuted into New York off and on for about 35 years. I almost exclusively took public transportation, including an eclectic mix of bus, train, light rail and subway. It is more relaxing than driving to a point. There’s a whole other set of stress that kicks in when you use public transportation like: if I miss the train the next one is in an hour or if I go out to dinner and don’t bolt by 9:30 I might have to wait two hours for the next train. And then there is the ever-present blowhard taiking at the top of his or her lungs on their cell phone for the whole trip. You don’t get that driving on the freeway.

  • Marquita Herald

    Well I’m a born/raised CA gal but I’ve now lived in Maui much longer than I did on the mainland and I have to honestly say I do not miss L.A. or CA for that matter. I go back every couple of years for a short visit with family but fortunately they all live in Fallbrook down near San Diego so I can avoid most of the traffic crush. It sounds like the traffic there is now as bad as Manhattan or Boston – both of which are the stuff of nightmares. The last time I drove in Manhattan 2 men jumped out and washed my windows then held their hands out for money – no where to go – and I wasn’t about to get mugged over a window wash so I threw whatever paper money I had in my wallet at them and escaped as soon as the light changed. I do NOT miss the mainland – well, at least not the traffic. 🙂

  • It does sound stressful. I “commute” from kitchen after saying goodbye to my husband and kids upstairs to my office. Sometimes I have meetings across the river at Rutgers with a client. So thankful I don’t have to drive up to Manhattan or down to Philly each day! I’ll shut up because I’m probably making someone jealous.