Our Top Tips for a Stress-Free Commute

Heavy traffic on motorway on hazy day

Nothing quite raises your cortisol levels like the morning commute to work. It’s noisy, crowded, and somehow (no matter what time you roll out of bed) you always feel pressed for time! Watching life pass by as you quietly seethe in a long line of traffic isn’t the best way to kick off the day, but sadly, for many of us, it can’t be avoided.

While we can’t take your journey for you, we can provide some top tips on how to have a stress-free commute. Now, as this is a driving blog, our focus is going to be on people travelling by car. Those of you braving public transport need not feel left out, though—plenty of our advice applies to everyone commuting to work.

So! Take a deep breath, note down some tips and get ready to take on tomorrow’s commute like a certified pro. Here we go!

1. Nail that morning routine

Traditional alarm clock black and white
Image source: Amanda Jones

Before you’ve even thought about getting into your car, starting off the day in a good mood will lessen the chances of a stressful commute. A quick browse of Instagram or YouTube shows that, along with cat videos and make-up tutorials, people just love to share their morning routine. It usually involves some light exercise, a disgustingly healthy breakfast and some hardcore gratitude journalling. While it’s very easy to poke fun (guilty), they may actually be onto something…

Stay with us here—we’re not about to implore you to invest in a matcha whisk or encourage a deeper exploration of the spiritual plane. Rather, think about the most beneficial or enjoyable aspects of your average morning, set a time limit for each and try to stick to it. You see, even though we like to think of ourselves as spontaneous and carefree, humans really thrive on structure. What a bunch of squares!

So, whether your morning routine involves coffee, TV, a dog walk, or all three, make sure you’re up in time to tick everything off the list without having to rush. If you manage it, by the time you climb into your car you’ll feel accomplished, relaxed and ready to take on the work day. Just remember—building a routine takes time, so don’t beat yourself up if you miss a task or have a bad day. Start fresh again tomorrow and everything will be dandy!

2. Be organised and plan ahead

A circle with three arrows pointing in different directions, beside a road marked by two markersFeeling stressed is often linked to a lack of control. Now, while you can’t predict the traffic, or how other people will act on the road, you can set yourself up to be able to handle whatever is thrown at you. Planning ahead for your commute and being as organised as possible will give you at least a sense that you have some control over the situation.

What sort of things should you organise? Well, for starters, make sure you know the most efficient route to work and have a couple of back-ups in case you have to deal with delays or the dreaded road works. Knowing alternative routes ahead of time will save you having to think on your feet as the minutes tick away inside your car.

Better yet, find the best source for traffic updates in your area—that way you can preempt any potential issues on the road. For example, while you’re brewing that morning coffee, tune in to your local radio station so you can get an idea of what to expect once you’re in the car. No nasty surprises equals no unnecessary stress!

3. Make your car a fun place to be

Close-up of a black car stereo lit up
Image source: Mpho Mojapelo 

As you’re going to be spending a lot of time in it, you should make your car a place you actually want to be. Even though your eyes need to be firmly on the road while you’re driving, there are plenty of things you can do to create a fun yet calming atmosphere inside your vehicle.

First off, you want everything to be clean and comfortable. As a regular commuter, you should think of your car as an extension of your living room. If there are sweet wrappers all over the place and a funky smell from that time you went to the beach, you’ll be counting down the seconds until you can get out again. This just adds to your sense of urgency and does not make for an enjoyable drive. So, stay on top of the trash situation and give everything a quick clean on a regular basis.

Once you’re in the car, it’s time to turn up those tunes! Or, alternatively, listen to the latest instalment of your favourite podcast or audiobook. Basically, whatever floats your boat and pleases your ears—stick it on! Music in particular can be a really effective mood-booster. Sure, the guy in the Range Rover didn’t give way at the roundabout, but who cares?! It’s impossible to be angry when you’re belting out your best version of Hey Ya!

4. Timing is everything

Wooden hourglass with white sand against white brick backdrop
Image source: NeONBRAND

One of the biggest worries that can make your daily commute a nightmare is the sense that you won’t arrive at work on time. Being late is a big no-no for many employers, so it often feels necessary to really rush your commute. Even if this means that in the end you are on time, the process of getting there was probably far from easy-breezy!

A stress-free commute requires plenty of time, which means you need to wake up at a reasonable hour. By reasonable hour, we mean a time that gives you enough space to complete your morning routine and allows for any unexpected delays. Yep, you should always add a little cushion time to your morning in case something goes awry. Your commute will be so much more relaxed if you can rest assured that even a slight delay won’t make you late.

However much time you think you need, add on an extra 10 minutes, just to be safe!

5. Show your car some TLC

Yellow car with magnifying glass

One of the worst things that could happen on your commute is your car breaking down. It pretty much guarantees that you will be late to work and may involve you having to part with your hard-earned cash to cover repairs. Not only that, it could also make the people in the cars around you late for work too—in which case, hellooo Mr Popular!

Of course, in many cases a breakdown is out of your control, but by maintaining your car you can ensure the odds of it happening are fairly low. Be sure to keep an eye on things like tyre pressure, oil levels, general wear and tear and, of course, the petrol gauge. Oh, and that random warning light on the dashboard that keeps flashing at you? Do something about it! Neglecting these things means you could be driving a ticking time-bomb.

Take care of your car and it will take care of you!

6. Watch how you drive

Speeding car with blurred background

Unless lives literally depend on your commute being lightning fast, there’s no need to drive like you’re Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. We’ve all seen those people—cutting in line, driving through red lights and recklessly overtaking everyone. The reality is, in heavy rush hour traffic, cutting corners and speeding through amber lights will shave about 10 seconds off your journey. In other words, it is simply not worth it.

Driving like this is not only unsafe and fairly pointless, it actually makes your journey incredibly stressful. You’re putting yourself and others at risk and producing far too much adrenaline for a weekday morning. Sure, you don’t want to take it too easy, as you do actually have somewhere important to be. Getting all het up and trying to rush through traffic, however, will just ruin everyone’s day. Remain calm and try to make the best of the situation you’re in.

7. Have some perspective 

interior of a car

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Now, he was a pretty deep fella, so was probably speaking metaphorically, but for our purposes we’re going to take it literally. To make your commute more enjoyable, try to focus on the journey, rather than how long it will be until you reach your destination.

Time spent alone on the road can actually be very therapeutic. It gives you time to collect your thoughts and prepare for the day ahead. Next time you’re in the car, try to view it as a positive opportunity, rather than the start of the daily grind—it’s all about perspective.

If your commute ever starts to feel the opposite of stress-free, try to focus on the bigger picture. Whatever is annoying you or getting you down will probably be forgotten by lunch time. So, what’s the point of letting it get to you now? Millions of people commute every day and, while someone cutting you off in traffic or failing to signal can be very aggravating, in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not a big deal. Try to let these minor stressors roll off your back. You’ll thank yourself later!

Have yourself a stress-free commute 

No one said commuting would be fun, but it certainly doesn’t have to be a daily struggle. For those working full-time outside of the home, it has to be done, so you may as well make the most of it. Heed our advice, don’t dwell on the negatives and have yourself a stress-free commute!

For more driving tips and the latest motoring news, keep checking in with the PassMeFast blog.

By Isobel Robb

Isobel enjoys the freedom of the open road and loves driving to new places. She's here to offer helpful hints and tips to improve your motoring skills. When not keeping up to date with the latest driving info you can find her discovering new restaurants or exhausting her Netflix subscription.

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