Since I have moved to the US, I am being much less productive. And when I reflected back on my days, I realized that I was spending up to three hours in the car every day to run errands, drop Baby Zand at school, and to meet up with people. To me that is just an insane loss of productive time, when I used to run all my email correspondence out of the back of a taxi in Shanghai. It's not just the loss of productivity that really bothers me about driving around in the car, it's the way I get so stressed out in traffic with people cutting me off or when I am running late. I realized I was always getting to my destination frazzled, stressed out, and with extreme chocolate cravings because I had run through all my quick burning sugar. Something needed to change!
I have written before about the effect of stress on our body, and how our stress response is constantly firing in to today's world of traffic jams, full inboxes, and tantrum throwing kids. I was feeling the effect of my stressful car rides in my desire to sleep all day, and the intense cravings I was getting. I didn't need more stress in my life, but less. And so I started three little rituals in the car that make me arrive anywhere composed and happy:
1. Deep breaths
Using breath is the simplest way to tell your body to relax and lower the stress response. When you sit in the car next time, observe yourself. We often breathe in a very shallow, stressed out way, which signals to our body to be on high alert and make more stress hormones. Instead, I have now started to focus on very deep belly breaths. As soon as I get into the car, I take a deep breath while fastening my seat belt. At every red light, I take a deep breath. Every time someone in front of me hits the brakes, I take a deep breath. And most importantly, every time Baby Zand cries in the car, I take a deep breath. Now my entire commute is just a focus on deep belly breathing, and guess what? I arrive feeling much calmer and relaxed. It's a win for everyone!
2. Get yourself in the right mood with music
Depending on where you are heading, why not use music to get yourself into the right mood? Before I head to the dog park to take Puppy Haigo for a run, I will listen to something upbeat on the way, so I feel in the mood to run and move. When I am heading home with Baby Zand, and she needs to go take a nap soon, we listen to calmer, chilled music to get her to settle down. Use music to put you in the right mindset for your destination. Rather than relying on radio stations to play your favorite songs, create a few playlists you can always fall back on. Again, you won't arrived so stressed out, and you are ready to kick ass at work or settle into love and calm at home. It's a win for everyone!
3. Listen to podcasts to feel inspired
Podcasts seriously are the best invention ever for long hours in the car. I never used to listen to podcasts - mainly because I always had other things to do with my brain and there was no internet bandwidth to download them in China :-). Now I love listening to them. Follow some inspirational people in an area you love to know more about - health, finance, business, etc. Listening to a podcast while driving will take your mind off being mad at everyone who honks at you on the road, and it will make you feel inspired to take on the day. Again, you arrive less stressed out. It's a win for everyone!
I hope these three little tips will also help you to make your commute more stress free! I would love to hear what you are doing in the car to keep you calm. Comment below or send me a love note.