Getting Behind the Wheel on Your Commute

Person driving

New to the Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office, Alexander A. Jendrusina, Ph.D., shares some thoughts on making the most of your travel time.  

What is your commute to work like? Commuting to and from your job can feel like lost time. According to the US census bureau estimates, data collected from 2015-2019 suggest the average one-way commute to be 26.9 minutes, translating to individuals spending approximately 1 hour in transit each day. Intentionally reclaiming this time as your own can lessen commuter stress and make the experience more enjoyable. Read on for some potential ideas to enhance your commute!

Make it Fun

Our minds can easily focus on work during our commute, in essence extending our workday. Your commute time can be a great way to “turn off,” allowing you to enter your personal life while checking work related stress at the door. One of many ways to disconnect can be finding a fun activity that can be done safely during your commute. The more you look forward to the activity you identify, the more you can look forward to your commute.

Consider finding a new or favorite podcast, an audiobook, or enjoy your favorite music. You can also use the time to connect with friends and family with a hands-free call. This also may be your only alone time for the day; embrace the opportunity to simply enjoy being with yourself.

For an additional step, try limiting engagement with your specific enjoyable activity (e.g., listening to an audiobook) to only your commute. Over time, your commute will become more strongly paired with connection to this pleasant activity.

Improve Planning

Revisit your planning around your commute to and from work. Mornings can bring pressure to complete multiple tasks prior to getting out the door. Take some time to review how to leverage your time to be most helpful to you. Are there morning tasks or family routines you can begin readying the evening before to make your start to the day easier? If you’re a person that appreciates your coffee outside or need a moment to yourself in the morning, make time to take an extra five minutes for yourself, whether at home or planning for a quick walk around campus before your day starts.

Consider Transportation Options

If possible, consider how you commute and what other ways to travel. If bicycling or walking are options, try it for a day or two a week to start. It would add variety to your routine and help you fit physical activity into your day. If you need to drive, try mixing things up. You can push back against the overfamiliarity by taking a different route, treating yourself to a beverage or food on the drive, or scheduling an errand that you won’t have to do later.

For further information about enhancing your commute or for support related to stress, work/life balance or emotional health, you are invited to contact the Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office (FASCCO) at fascco@umich.edu  or call 734-936-8660. FASCCO provides no charge, short-term, confidential services to faculty and staff.

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