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1. If at all possible, take public transport

1. If at all possible, take public transport
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Here’s why. Dr. Koslowsky’s research found that it’s not the commute per se that is so stressful, that is, the time we spend in the car.

The real stress comes from the issue of control.

If you drive your own car to work, part of the reason you do it is to feel that you’re in control.

So if you get stuck in traffic, you feel that you have lost control of your commuting experience, which is where the stress comes in.

By taking public transportation, be it the train, streetcar, or bus, you have already given up control of your commute.

If you get stuck, then, you won’t be blaming yourself for the delay.

Nor will you be torturing yourself to solve the situation.

2. Take the train

2. Take the train
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Going back to that control issue again, Dr. Koslowsky’s research found that another major cause of commuter stress is uncertainty.

And there is far more uncertainty in driving a car, or even commuting via bus or carpool because of traffic accidents, traffic jams, etc., than in taking a train, when arrival times are more concrete.

3. Consider carpooling

3. Consider carpooling
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Now, we’re not telling you to definitely carpool, because here the research is ambiguous.

On the one hand, Koslowsky’s research finds that carpooling can reduce stress, both in terms of the “giving up” of control side of the issue, and in terms of the social interaction that occurs.

But if you’re an introvert who prefers a quiet commute so you can read or think or listen to music, then carpooling with people who expect conversation could just stress you out all the more.

Bottom line: If you’re an out-going, people kind of person, try the carpool. If you’re an introvert, stick to your regular transportation system.

4. Avoid rush hour, any way you can

4. Avoid rush hour, any way you can
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It’s such an obvious way to improve your commute, and yet the fact that the streets are clogged every rush hour shows few people are bothering to find an alternative.

What are viable alternatives, other than moving or getting a new job?

1. Seek a one-hour shift in the time you start and end work.
2. If your company has satellite offices that are closer to home, see if you can work there on occasion.
3.Drive in before the crowds, and create a constructive pre-work ritual for your-self, such as exercising, taking a walk, eating a leisurely breakfast, running errands, whatever.

5. Take the route with the least stop-go traffic

5. Take the route with the least stop-go traffic
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Longer is better if traffic flows smoothly and you avoid lots of lights, turns, and crosswalks.

For most of us, no form of driving is as stressful as trying to move quickly on crowded surface streets.

6. Above all, lose the “race” mentality

6. Above all, lose the “race” mentality
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All that weaving, darting, and surging rarely gains you more than a few minutes, but at a huge price to your stress levels (not to mention the extra wear and tear on your car and bad gas mileage).

Drive calmly, without abundant lane changes, speed surges, or rapid braking, and your commute will become so much more pleasant.

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7. Don’t be judgmental about thy fellow drivers

7. Don’t be judgmental about thy fellow drivers
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Funny thing about high-stress drivers.

When someone passes them, they get angry.

When someone is going slower than they are, they get angry.

They get angry when others forget to signal a turn, or if their car is larger, or has its high beams on, or they’re playing their music too loudly. Fuggedaboudit.

Overreacting to other drivers is a sure road to stress, headaches, and anger.

The better approach: Be a defensive driver, and never let what other drivers do bother you one bit.

8. Learn while you drive

8. Learn while you drive
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You’ve always been meaning to learn to speak Spanish or read the latest bestsellers.

Now’s your chance.

You can rent books on tape from the library or subscription services, or download them from the Internet and burn them onto CDs or upload them onto your MP3 player.

Even bumper-to-bumper traffic is bearable when you’re in the thick of an exciting mystery story.

Dr. Koslowsky’s research also found that commuting is less stressful when you’re doing something else while driving the car (and no, painting your fingernails or filling out your tax forms is not appropriate).

9. Use the cell phone for personal conversations only

9. Use the cell phone for personal conversations only
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While cell phones are definitely a boon to the commuter, Dr. Koslowsky’s research finds that using your cell phone for work-related tasks, such as setting up meetings, only increases your stress because it increases your workday.

Instead, set your phone on speakerphone and voice-activated dialing and use it to keep up with relatives, check on your college-age kids, arrange a dinner party with the neighbours, or just fill in your mother about your recent successes.

An added bonus: If any conversation gets too stressful, you can just say you’re heading into a tunnel and ring off.

10. Create a selection of music just for the commute

10. Create a selection of music just for the commute
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One mix for going to work and one for relaxing on the way home from work.

Workout experts know that music can serve many purposes and that each selection needs to be tailored to an individual’s needs, says psychologist Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., author of How to Be Your Own Therapist.

Play the selection on an MP3 player if you ride the train or bus or in the stereo of your car.

Conduct, if you want, or sing along, if you’re in your car. No need to be shy.

The music has another benefit if you’re driving; one study found that people who listened to music when stuck in a traffic jam were less likely to get angry and violent than those who didn’t listen to music.

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