Hack your commute: Cut down your cortisol

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Inspiring ideas to expand your mind on the way to work.

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Or, in other words, relax. “Easier said than done,” you might argue, but there’s a serious reason commuters need to keep their stress levels manageable. Over time, the frustrations of getting into work each day can cause long-term health problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure), which increases the chance of a stroke or heart attack.

Stress also affects concentration, and the longer the commute, the worse the effect, according to a 2006 study in the Health Psychology journal.

Longer rail commutes caused higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva of 208 New York rail commuters, as well as higher perceived stress and shorter concentration times on a task set after the commute.

READ MORE: Hack your commute: ‘Read’ a book in 15 minutes

And this doesn’t only apply to train travel. If you drive to work and feel stressed by it, it’s not traffic that causes it per se, since you’re effectively just spending time alone that could be enjoyed listening to the radio.

But building anxiety results when traffic threatens to make you late. Leaving five or 10 minutes earlier might require you to simplify your morning routine (or go to bed earlier), but if it removes the possibility of being late it’s likely to cause less stress day to day.

Similarly, it might be a good idea to avoid checking your phone or email on your commute, since you’re likely to cause anxiety about potential problems you can’t resolve until you reach your desk.

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