Do you struggle with the frustrations of a daily commute?  Today, I’m joined by the awesome Dr. Emma Basch, a licensed clinical psychologist who has a specialty in helping new mamas.  She has some fantastic ideas on how to turn that dreaded commute into a time you can treasure.  (Yes, for real.)  Here is Emma’s advice:

You rarely hear people say, “I love my drive to the office.” For most of us, our commute to and from work is littered with stressors. Navigating the daycare drop off, negotiating crowded trains, anxiety over getting stuck in traffic. Framed through this lens, there is nothing to love about this daily trek.

And yet, therein lies the perfect opportunity to find a moment of peace. If you can change the way you utilize and view your commute, you have an incredible opportunity to find some personal time, to reconnect with yourself, and to ease the emotionally difficult transition from home to work, and from work to home again. These 5 strategies will help you embrace your commute and find your Zen.

5 Strategies for Embracing Your Commute and Finding Your Zen

  1. Change your framework: Look at your commute as an opportunity for “me” time. This can mean a variety of things from listening to the music you like in your car, reading a book on the train, or getting some fresh air on your walk to work. See if you can commit to using this time to engage in an activity that feels good for you, rather than to catch up on work calls or to-do lists.
  2. Meditation: Think of your commute to work as an optimal time for a quick mindfulness or meditative practice to center yourself. If you take the train, consider a brief guided audio meditation and maybe even close your eyes. Do you drive?  Aim for a mindful commute where you tune in to your breath while driving, and bring your attention back to your breath whenever your mind wanders. For those who walk or bike to work, consider a moving meditation where you focus on connecting to the felt experience of your body moving.
  3. Don’t set yourself up for a time crunch: Leave extra time to commute. Getting yourself and your kids out the door in a timely fashion is an immense challenge, and running late is incredibly stressful! Think about mindful strategies you can employ ahead of time so your mornings are less rushed and you have enough time to get to work. For example, pack lunches and bags the night before.  Set out everyone’s clothes.  And consider waking up fifteen minutes before your kids so you can get yourself ready before they wake up. If you can, sneak in 30 seconds of mindful breathing.
  4. Meet stressful experiences as a reminder to de-stress: A difficult commute can send your anxiety soaring. Try treating these tense moments as reminders to practice deep breathing. For example, treat every red light or train delay announcement as a cue to take a deep breath. By finding acceptance rather than sinking into anxiety, you can turn a frustrating commute into an easeful one.
  5. Create a transitional space: Before you enter work or come back home, mindfully mark the transition. Perhaps take 10 deep intentional slow breaths.  Repeat a positive mantra to yourself. Or do some quick stretching. You can do this in the parking lot, in your garage, on your front porch, or in your office lobby. Finding spaciousness and a little peace before you shift roles from home to work or work to home will help you be more present, mindful, and easeful in each role.

How do you feel about your commute, mamas?  Are there any strategies you’ve found that make it less dreadful?

(If you commute to work with kids in tow, check out this post.)

Emma Basch is a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialty in women’s mental health, reproductive psychology, and the perinatal period. She maintains a private practice in Washington, DC where she works with individuals and groups around issues concerning perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, fertility, pregnancy loss, and adjustment to parenthood. Emma also writes frequently on topics concerning reproductive health, offers trainings on the subject to allied professionals, and offers workshops around DC for pregnant and postpartum women. She has received training from the Postpartum Stress Center and Postpartum Support International.

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