Like it or not, stress has become a major part of modern-day life. Society moves at a breakneck speed, which means all of us have more things to do, and less time to do them. This is especially true for my fellow working moms out there. Not only is more demanded of us at the office, but the second we get home there are nearly endless household chores, errands and responsibilities for us to handle.
It all adds up, and can become overwhelming.
The byproduct of all this is a constant state of stress. While we may want to imagine that we’re finely tuned machines that can handle anything life throws at us, the truth is that stress can have a horrible effect on our physical and mental health. Unchecked stress can lead to anxiety, weight-gain, and can even affect the quantity and quality of sleep you get on a nightly basis. And this loss in sleep inevitably leads to even more stress, creating a vicious cycle that extends beyond our own health, becoming detrimental to our jobs and our families as well.
The truth is, no matter what is causing your stress, you need to find healthy outlets to reduce it. Personally, I love using my evening commute home to eliminate stress. No matter if you travel by bus, train or car, there are a variety of great stress-busting exercises you can use to melt away your anxiety, and leave you happy and refreshed the second you walk in the door. If I’m not commuting, putting on some essential oils and snuggling up in bed with my little ones is a great way to get perspective and unwind.
Ready for stress-free evenings? Here is a list of our top 5 commuter-friendly stress relief exercises:
1. Tackle Your To-Do with Journals/Voice Memos
One of the most common causes of stress in the evenings is concern about the day ahead. In this “always-on” world that we live in, it feels like there is an endless stream of things we need to accomplish in the office. Memos to write, emails to respond to, calls to make. All of this can lead to restless thoughts in the evening about what we need to get done tomorrow.
To alleviate this form of stress, use your evening commute to organize your thoughts and make a plan for the next day. Create a list of all the outstanding items that did not get done that day in the office, prioritize them, and outline what you need to tackle the second you walk in the door the next morning, By writing out this list, your brain will “let yourself off the hook,” knowing that you have already built a plan for tomorrow. This means less stress and more relaxation by the time you get home.
For those that drive themselves to work, skip the list and use your phone’s voice memo function instead!
2. Skip the News and Listen to Soothing Music Instead
While many of us likely use our evening commute to catch up on the news or listen to a thought-provoking podcast, the truth of the matter is that these types of entertainment are only going to add more stress to your life before you get home. If you spend an hour hearing about terrible events occurring throughout the world, what are the chances you are going to walk through the door with a smile on your face?
For your evening commute, opt instead for calm, relaxing music. Services such as Pandora and Spotify have many different types of relaxation playlists ready built for just this sort of mood. Pop it on your car stereo or your earbuds and soak yourself in the tranquil beats. You will immediately begin to generate activity in the more creative half of your brain, which in turn will slow down the neurons used throughout the day at work (the same ones most likely to be the source of your stress).
3. Try Your Hand at Meditation Apps
If tranquil, relaxing music isn’t enough to melt away the stress, try listening to a meditation app instead. Headspace and Calm both offer some wonderful audio programs that can be enjoyed on the bus, the train, or in your car. While you may need to adapt the programming to suit your style of commute (i.e. don’t close your eyes if you’re driving!), you will still be able to realize many of the same benefits as using these apps at home.
Some of the world’s most successful people credit meditation with saving their bodies and minds from the perils of stress. Learn from these individuals by adapting your own evening commute meditation habit!
4. Gratitude Journaling
One of the many dangerous sides of stress is that it causes us to lose sight of what’s truly important in our lives. And when you lose sights of what’s important, it’s easy to raise your anxiety levels.
Prevent this from happening by adopting an evening routine of gratitude journaling. The exercise is simple: think of three things that happened that day for which you are grateful and write them down (or record a voice memo if you’re driving). No matter how terrible your day may have been, force yourself to consistently identify three things. Even if they are nothing more than a trivial part of your day (e.g. the barista at the coffee shop smiled at you this morning; you finally organized that pile of paper on your desk), by reminding yourself daily that there is always something to be grateful for, you will rewire your brain to think more positively, and ultimately prime yourself to be in a much better mood by the time you arrive home each evening.
5. Breathing Exercises
Anyone who has actively meditated or participated in activities such as yoga knows just how much breathing can affect the state of your body and mind. Leverage this by conducting a series of breathing exercises on your way home. Here are some of our favourites:
The goal of this exercise is to progressively lengthen your breaths. For your first exhale, count to one. For your second exhale, count to two. On and on until you reach a five second inhale and exhale, after which you restart at one.
Take long, controlled breaths, and visualize the path that the air is taking as it travels through your body. Imagine it coming in through your nose and into your lungs, and then visualize the oxygen traveling all the way through your abdomen, arms, legs and down to your toes. Reverse the visualization path on your exhale.
This series of long breathing involves doubling the exhale count compared to the inhale. For example, if your inhale lasts for a count of three, make sure your exhale lasts a count of six. Use whatever counts you feel comfortable with, just be sure that the exhale is longer than the inhale.
Being stressed at work is nothing to be ashamed of – it affects all of us! The only shame comes from not doing anything about it, and letting it affect other parts of your life. That is why it’s vital that you find ways to manage your stress, and leave it at the office where it belongs.
By developing a routine of stress-relief exercises on your evening commute, you will arrive home each night a completely changed person. Someone that is more relaxed. Someone that is more present with their family. Someone that is happier, healthier, and sleeping better than ever before.
Sound like the person you want to be? Then get started with these stress-relievers today!
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