SUMMARY POINTS

  • Long distance commuting is a personal sacrifice to “make it” in life
  • Use key tactics to minimize the stress of long drives and make it enjoyable
  • Focus on the big picture to help you pull through the tough days
It’s a soul-crushing task that you’ve gotta deal with day in and day out.

Every time you get behind the wheel and start the engine, you know that you’ve got a long way to go and there’s almost always an accident along the way that extends the agony.

And you just know that there’s gonna be at least one asshole driver that will make you go ape-shit crazy.

As you get on the on-ramp to the highway, you can see the traffic already. It’s a sea of red taillights.

Dammit.

Even though you see this every day, it’s still like a fresh punch in the gut.

There’s so much other bullshit you gotta deal with in life that having to deal with this - every - fucking - day, twice a day, just grinds you down.

Commuting sucks. Period.

But, when your job and/or personal circumstances turn a normal commute into a long-distance affair, it can make an already shitty commute even worse.

Why Extreme Commuting Is The Only Option For Many

Each year, there are more and more people that are taking on ultra-long commutes. We’re talking one-way commutes that take 2 or more hours (4+ hours round trip) and approach 100 miles each way.

It all comes down to compromises and sacrifices.

Maybe, your job is located in the city and it’s a great opportunity.

Maybe, you needed a decently sized affordable home in a good school district for the family and so, you live in a house way out of town.

Maybe, your company relocated offices.

Whatever the reason may be, you’re now in a situation where you’re spending more time driving than actually being awake at home.

It’s like this Virginia man who has a daily commute of 220 miles and 7 hours - no joke. And, it’s a prime example of making personal sacrifices for gains elsewhere in life.

VIDEO: Virginia man commutes 220 miles a day
YOUTUBE: CBS Evening News
LENGTH: 3:00
Mobility and personal flexibility are key factors in getting and keeping our jobs. In order to “make it” in today’s world, we need to be willing to make some sacrifices and compromises.

Unless you’re making some serious bank, there’s no way to have a kick-ass home that is only a few minutes away from your perfect career-boosting job. It simply doesn’t exist for 99.99% of us.

So, to have the best of both worlds in career and family, we often decide to take on long commutes.

There is a growing legion of us that have to suffer through marathon commutes five days a week.

So, we’re here to explain what long-distance commuting does to us and what we can do to make it less stressful and agonizing.

What Long-Distance Commuting Does To Your Health

In the past ten years, the percentage of people that commute for more than an hour and half has doubled. That’s right, doubled.

This has resulted in more stress for our minds, bodies and relationships.

Several studies have shown that people who have long distance commutes have greater chances of having more mental disorders, higher blood pressure, strained relationships and being overweight than people with short commutes.

You don’t need to have a PhD in psychology or medicine to figure that one out.

Furthermore, how you commute makes a huge difference too.

In this study from McGill University, when comparing the various ways to get to work via walking, taking public transportation or driving, commuting by car was by far the most stressful of all modes of transportation.

The bottom line is that long driving commutes are not healthy for us in so many ways including physical, mental and social.

But, we all have made this decision for one reason or another to take on the longer commutes. It’s all about making other aspects of our lives a bit better or at least achievable.

So, now the question is how can we cope with long drives and minimize its negative effects? 

How To Make Long-Distance Driving Less Stressful

traffic highway
How cool would it be to have a virtual assistant that can zap you to another place instantly?

“Okay Scotty, beam me to work.”

“Actually, nix that. Beam me to Hawaii.” 😉

Unfortunately, teleportation isn’t a reality. Star Trek hasn’t licensed that technology with the world just yet.

So, we’ve gotta make do with what we have now.

We can’t make traffic disappear, but there are ways that we can lessen its effect on our overall health.

Here are some of the tactics we use to deal with it.

Don’t Get Pissed Off - Let That Shit Go

We put this first because it's the most important. It’s by far the biggest and most impactful commuting skill to have to minimize the stress of long drives.

When you get angry at or try to control something that is out of your control, you’re only making things worse for yourself. It’s like getting pissed off at the fact that the sun rises every day.

It’s a pointless endeavor.

The same thing applies to driving in traffic.

There will always be asshole drivers that cut you off or won’t let you in.

You’ll hit red lights at every single intersection.

Construction and road repairs will pop up on your routes.

Traffic flow will go from normal to a grinding halt for absolutely no fucking reason.

There will be tons of things that happen during your drive that are out of your control. And, getting pissed off at it won’t do anything except increase the chances that you’ll really fly off the handle at the next little thing that happens.

The key tactic here is to simply - Let. That. Shit. Go.

Think about this - do you lose it when a bird flies from one branch to another as you're walking by? Or a squirrel that darts across your path?

Exactly.

Take that same mentality and perspective.

See that traffic event like a bird or squirrel just doing its thing and you’ll be much better off mentally and emotionally.

Ask For Flex-Hours & Drive During Off-Peak Times

If your job type isn’t shift specific and is an office type job, ask your boss if you can work flex hours to minimize your exposure to heavy rush hour drive times.

You’d be amazed at how much less traffic there is when you start your commute an hour earlier or later than typical. It can mean getting to work or back home in less than half the time.

There are two options for this.

First, is getting to work uber-early and leaving in the mid-afternoon. It could be arriving at work by 6am or 7am and leaving before 3pm or 4pm. It will minimize your commute time in heavy rush hour traffic. You will need to have a solid evening routine the night before to make this work.

Second, is getting to work later, like say around 10am and leaving the office later in the evening around 7pm or 8pm. You’ll be able to bypass much of the real heavy traffic on both ends. Plus, if you’re a working parent with young kids, having a bit more time in the mornings is a huge bonus.

In either case, you’re still putting in your required hours but in a time shifted format. This will take you out of the heavy high volume commuting hours and could cut your commute time in half.
commute

Have Dedicated Commuting Clothes - At Least Sneakers

Not everyone has the luxury of having a casual dress code. In fact, most of us don’t have kick-ass work perks like dot-com startups where jeans and t-shirts with hoodies are the norm.

Most of us still have to suit up or at least wear business casual at work.

And compared to your fav pair of worn-in jeans, your work outfit isn’t nearly as comfortable.

So, if you can, have a dedicated outfit for long driving commutes home.

Now, we’re not saying pack your PJs. But, having comfy pants and shirts will go a long way in making you feel better behind the wheel as you're rolling through all the miles.

In fact, just the simple act of changing out of your work clothes and into something more comfortable is enough to trigger a mindset change to help you disconnect from work and totally change your mood for the better.

We all do this when we get home from work. Why not just do it a bit earlier and change into something comfier for the long drive home?

If you don’t want to change outfits, then at the very least, have a pair of sneakers in the car to switch into from your work shoes. Your feet will thank you. 

Invigorate Yourself With Essential Oils While Driving

After a long day of putting out fires at work, your energy is pretty much all gone. And while your car may have a full tank of gas, you’re running close to empty.

Driving long distances while you’re fatigued and/or drowsy is not a good thing. In some cases, it’s just as dangerous as DUI.

Staying awake while commuting is an absolute must. Dozing off at the wheel at highway speeds or through a red light at an intersection can result in some serious accidents.

Don’t put yourself and others at risk.

With all the things we have to juggle at work and home, along with the constant 24x7 online distractions, we’re often overstressed, overstimulated and don’t get enough sleep.

The only parts of the day where we have some semblance of downtime are our commutes. It’s in these moments that we often let our guard down and that’s when our bodies are fighting us for more sleep.

Nodding off while driving is dangerous AF.

So, grab a cup of coffee before you hit the road, or if you’re trying to reduce your caffeine addiction, try out this idea: smelling essential oils to stimulate your alertness.

You can pick these up at most drug stores. Look for citrus-based essential oils like orange, grapefruit or lemon - or even peppermint. Basically, any scent that gives you a bright boost.

Keep a mini bottle in your car and when you feel drowsy, just put a small dab under your nose to perk yourself up.

Or really, just go to bed earlier to get more sleep so that you’re not dozing off during your morning drive or running out of energy at the end of the day.

Or, if you can, take a power nap at work before you start the long drive home.

Stretch And Shift Your Body Every 10-15 minutes

It’s bad enough that we sit on our asses all day long at work. Sitting in your car driving for over an hour plus each way on the commute only compounds the problem.

While you’re at work, it’s always a good idea to get up every once in a while and move your body. In fact, doing some easy low-sweat workouts at the office can bring big benefits to your overall health.

Obviously, you can’t workout while driving, but you can do a few other things.

When you’re stuck and not moving, this is the perfect time to do some slow neck rolls in each direction. This will help to ease the tension that often builds up while driving.

You can also stretch out your arms in front of you and rotate your wrists in circles. You can also interlock your fingers and stretch your arms toward the windshield to stretch out your forearms and fingers all at once.

This is a great way to maintain flexibility and help relieve hand cramps from typing all day.

And when you can, you should shift your body position a little while driving. This will help minimize hotspots and sore points on your ass and lower back.

Meditate While Driving - Yes, Meditate

Okay, this isn’t the kind of meditation you're thinking of. Closing your eyes and chanting “Om” while driving is definitely not something you should do.

What we’re suggesting is a totally different kind of meditation.

It’s what we call “active awareness meditation” while driving.

Essentially, it’s removing all distractions and focusing intensely on the specific task of driving. It’s paying extreme attention to all the things happening during your drive. It’s all the stuff you see, smell, hear and feel.

It’s like this - ever get all wrapped up and totally “in the zone” of doing something?

It could be a fav hobby, an Excel analysis, a sweaty workout, a Powerpoint build, whatever. You were completely focused on the task at hand. You were fully alert, aware and moving from one task to the next seamlessly.

You were in a flow state of mind.

Applying this same principle to driving is what we’re talking about here.

This kind of meditation in your car is a great way to clear your mind of all the bullshit from the day.

If you can’t do the full-on awareness version, then do a 10-second stoplight breathing meditation instead.

This comes in handy when you’re waiting for the green light or when traffic is at a standstill on the highway.

It’s simple. 
  • Inhale slowly while counting up to 10
  • Hold your breath for a few seconds
  • Exhale slowly for 10-seconds
  • Repeat
The key thing here is to focus your mind’s attention on the sensation of the air flowing into and out of your nose.

When you do this, you’re helping your mind latch onto something other than the day’s stresses. And when you do this, you’re slowly melting away the built up tension.

Reframe Your Mindset & See The Commute As “Me-Time”

If there’s one thing that we all want and need more of, it’s “me-time”.

When we’re at work, it’s all about getting shit done. Completing all the tasks to keep all the projects moving forward. Our time and effort are devoted to the company.

When we’re home, it’s all about family and other personal commitments.

Sometimes, the only time we get to press pause on life is when we’re on the toilet or in the shower - that’s about it.

So, instead of seeing the long drive as a torturous chore, flip it around.

Reframe your mindset to turn your commute into relaxing me-time.

It’s your time away from all the madness of life.

It’s your two uninterrupted slices of the day - just for you and nobody else.

Spend that valuable time for yourself in the way you like.

It could be quiet solitude or even some well-deserved fun with binge-worthy audiobooks or podcasts, conference calls with BFFs, doing karaoke on wheels, etc.

Whatever brings you joy and happiness, do more of that.

Long Commutes Don’t Have To Faze You One Bit

kid child car driving
The fact that you commute as far as you do for your job means that you are dedicated to making this all work. And, it’s not easy. But, you’re doing what you need to do to support yourself and your family.

Just that fact alone is something that you should congratulate yourself on. Because really, when was the last time someone did?

It’s time that you give yourself a self-righteous high-five.

Seriously, take a look around right now.

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Nobody looking?

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Give yourself a little self high-five, baby! 😉

Each time you complete a long commute, it’s another “W” in the win column of work life.

Don’t lose sight of the big picture and how this helps to make your world possible.

Truthfully, long-distance commuting will never be easy.

Traffic will always suck. Car accidents will delay things. Asshole drivers will cut you off. Shitty weather will make it miserable.

But, it’s not gonna stop you and you’re not gonna let it get to you.

We’re here to help you get through the long daily hauls to and from work safely, with less stress and maybe, even make it a little fun.

The long commute has nothing on you.

You’re a commuting king of calm with unwavering self-control.

Nothing can knock you outta your lane.

You got this.

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]

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