Mallory Welsh, LCSW

I work with many clients who see me before they start work, during their lunch break, or directly after work. Many times, clients like to come directly after work or during their lunch break, due to not wanting to ping pong from work to home, and then back to therapy. Some clients discuss one of their stressors is due to their long work commutes; I have heard some people have up to a two-hour commute from work to home due to Chicago rush hour traffic. That two hours takes away from their time for self care and time away from their friends and/or family.

I recently read an article from Fast Company that touched on this very topic, “Your commute is making you miserable. Here’s how to make it more enjoyable” by author Jessica Greene-Zapier. Greene-Zapier discusses that research has found the following regarding long commutes to work: every extra minute of commute time reduces happiness and affects your mental health; people are more likely to suffer from depression, financial stress, more stressed at work, and being overweight; and people are more likely to have unplanned absences from work, in addition people with shorter commutes are more relaxed and calm.

Unfortunately, sometimes people simply cannot avoid having a long commute to work. Below are 4 coping skills Greene-Zapier suggests when having a long commute to work.

  • Transition time. Greene-Zapier suggests using your commute as a way to transition yourself to and from work not just physically, but mentally. Identify who you are at work and who you are at home. At work you are an employee/coworker, while at home you may be a parent, roommate, or partner. Use the commute as a way to simply shift your mindset to leave home at home and work at work.
  • Avoid driving to work. There are several ways people get to work whether they walk, bike, cab, carpool, train, bus, or drive. Research has shown that driving to work causes the most stress for people’s commute. If you can find other ways outside of driving, that can decrease your stress and increase your productivity at work and/or home.
  • Make the commute social. If you have now opted out of driving to work and now are taking another form of transportation, that is great! Research has also shown that people have a more positive commute when striking up conversation with people on the train, bus, or cab. If talking to strangers does not seem appealing to you, maybe this means coordinating a carpool with coworkers who live close by to you. You could also split the driving days up so that someone does not have to be the driver every single day.
  • Morning routine. Morning routines also can make long commutes less stressful. Maybe this means reading the news or listening to your favorite podcast as that can allow you to get more excited about the commute and work day, allow you to feel less stressed, and provide more satisfaction with your job. The commute itself is simply a routine, so if you attempt to shift your perspective about that, it might allow you to feel more creative and find new things to make this commute more enjoyable for you.

If you simply cannot change your commute and don’t think these strategies above resonate with you, maybe that means reflecting on your job. Some people enjoy having jobs where they can work remotely because the commute is just too stressful for them. If it is not just the commute itself, but the job is too miserable for you, maybe this also means reflecting on finding a job that brings more meaning to you.

If you are currently struggling with satisfaction at your job, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.