Do you, a loved one or work partner often face a long daily drive?

The U.S. Census Bureau has found that the average American driver logs more than 100 hours a year commuting, and that’s for an average trip of about 25 minutes. But there are more than 3.3 million people across the country, with a journey to and from work, with ‘stretch’ or ‘super commutes’, of 50 miles or more each way. That creates an extended period of stress every day, twice a day, five days a week. It is possible to enjoy a long commute. How?

It doesn’t matter if you carpool, ride the train or take your own wheels, a lengthy commute can increase stress, bring on fatigue and contribute to your waistline, experts say. What’s more, people with longer commutes tend to have higher cholesterol and more neck and back pain.

Every time there’s a stressor (anything that poses a challenge, whether it’s physical, psychological or emotional), the body goes into emergency response mode. The problem with commuting stress is that the stressors are ongoing, and so are the responses.

These can cause elevated and sustained releases of adrenal stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol which also can increase blood pressure. Dr. Richard Heuser in Phoenix has found that heart attacks are more likely within an hour of a stressful commute.

You’re not imagining that traffic is getting worse. A 2010 Urban Mobility Report finds stop and go gridlock has increased in every area since 1982. The IBM Commuter Pain survey has found that stop and go driving increases frustration and stress in drivers as well.

It’s not all highway hell.

Dr Raymond Hamden, a clinical and forensic psychologist at the Human Relations Institute in Dubai, said a lengthy drive presents an opportunity to allow the mind to relax. “Psychologically, it is an opportunity to unwind from the daily stress when going home, and it also gives drivers time to prepare the daily activities before work in the mornings,” he said.

Here’s a checklist to help you enjoy a long commute:

  • Driving often offers many unanticipated situations. Find ways to accept that and relax.
  • Cocoon in your car. Create a clean, comfortable, soothing space. One option is carrying car aromatherapy sprays. There several selections on the Drivetime Yoga site.
  • Prepare. Carry fresh water. Keep a low- fat snack on hand. A few almonds can cut the hunger pains and keep you from reaching for salty, sugary, high calories snacks before getting home.
  • Dissolve the boredom of a long ride. Boredom can actually kill. Last year, British researchers published a paper that suggested a link between chronic listlessness and heart problems . Stock the car with great music, favorite podcasts or audio books to keep your interest up and help the time pass more quickly.
  • Stay flexible. Add a few small, targeted stretches to keep your shoulders, back and neck from cramping and distracting you.
  • When you do feel yourself getting tense, use calming breathing techniques to dissolve the anxiety and energizing techniques to fight fatigue.

Follow these tips and you might be surprised that you start to enjoy a long commute.

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