Fri | Dec 14, 2018

Paying the emotional toll: Tips to reduce road-related stress

Published:Wednesday | November 14, 2018 | 12:00 AMJessica Thompson/Contributor
The construction and road works may still cause stress, but you can take these steps to reduce the emotional toll you’ve been paying.
If you’ve been feeling like the road works have required you to pay a hefty emotional toll, you are not alone. Our commutes have become longer, we’re losing time, we feel hurried at work or at home, and our efforts to plan around the traffic don’t work out at times. It is an overall stressful time.
1
2

Paying the emotional toll: Tips to reduce road-related stress

Kingston and St Andrew are abuzz with construction and roadwork. While it may be exciting for some, it has been a huge burden for others who have to travel into, out of, and within the city every day. If you've been feeling like the roadworks have required you to pay a hefty emotional toll, you are not alone. Our commutes have become longer, we're losing time, we feel hurried at work or at home, and our efforts to plan around the traffic don't work out at times. It is an overall stressful time.

Here are a few ways to reduce your road-induced stress:

 

1. MAKE USE OF YOUR COMMUTE:

 

Figure out ways to use this increased commute time more productively. The idea of wasted time is a very stressful one, so try to find ways to make the time feel helpful and productive instead of wasted.

If you take public transit, bring a book or a crossword puzzle (the newspaper has a daily crossword, too). If you have a smartphone, your service provider may offer free data services which can be used for audio content, such as online radio. You may also access some free audio content, such as podcasts, through Google Play or the iTunes Store.

If you drive, you can also use the time to catch up on news on the radio, or download and listen to an audiobook or podcast on the topic of your choice.

 

2. STAY 'PRESENT' IN THE MOMENT:

 

It's easy to get upset when you're thinking about all the things you need to do that you can't do right now because you're in traffic. This means you're thinking about the future - what you will do, need to do, and plan to do - rather than staying in the present moment.

There is nothing you can do to speed up the time and traffic, so focusing on the future may just make you irritated. Stay in the present moment by tapping into the five senses list:

• five things you can see

• four things you can hear

• three things you can feel

• two things you can smell

• one thing you can taste

If you have a smartphone, you can download free meditation apps, such as 'Calm', that can teach you ways to stay present.

 

3. TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO CONNECT:

 

If you share the commute with family, friends, or a partner, use the time to talk and 'catch up' with what is happening in the other person's life. Talk to your child about school and friends. Talk to your family about shared interests. Talk to your partner about work. Use the long ride as an opportunity to be intentional about your interaction with loved ones.

You can also use the commute as a time to connect with yourself by engaging in some reflection. Ask yourself some questions that you do not normally have the time to explore, such as:

• "What is going well for me?"

• "What is going poorly?"

• "What can I do to make changes?"

• "What do I want to do more or less of?"

 

4. PLAN REALISTICALLY:

 

There is serious stress in trying to change the unchangeable, and right now, this traffic is unchangeable. You don't have to like the congestion and everything that comes with it, but it would be helpful to you to accept it.

It is therefore important to be realistic, not wishful in your thinking when planning out your day. If you know that it is going to take you two hours to get somewhere, plan for that time frame for your commute, rather than getting stuck in lamenting the fact that it will take a whole two hours, and overwhelming yourself with the task of finding every shortcut possible to reduce the commute. Try to flow with it, not against it.

 

5. MAKE CHANGES, IF YOU CAN:

 

If possible, talk to your employer about flexible hours. It may be possible for you to make arrangements with your employer to work from home for certain periods of time or change your working hours to facilitate an easier commute.

GraceKennedy Group recently published a statement noting that the company allows for flexible working arrangements, in part to address the difficulties employees face in extended travel times.

The group also encouraged corporate Jamaica to explore this option. Your employer may be amenable to this type of arrangement, if the nature of your work permits, which would alleviate some of the traffic-related stress.

The construction and roadworks may still cause stress, but you can take these steps to reduce the emotional toll you've been paying.

- Jessica Thompson, MSc is a counselling psychologist at CENTRED. CENTRED is a therapeutic practice that offers psychological services for children and adults dealing with emotional, behavioural, and social difficulties. Phone: (876) 281-8601. Address: 28 Munroe Road, Kingston 6. Website: www.centredja.com Email: info@centredja.com; yourhealth@gleanerjm.com