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Daily Commute Can Cause Stress Levels to Soar

Commuting can cause stress on the mind and body. (modot.org)
Commuting can cause stress on the mind and body. (modot.org)
February 27, 2017

ST. LOUIS -- The more time spent in the car, the more experts say it can impact our mental and physical health.

The average American spends more than 25 minutes commuting to and from work and school. It's a little less in Missouri, where the average commute time is 16 minutes. Researchers have found that daily commutes longer than 20 minutes can make a person more susceptible to chronic stress, or "burnout.”

Sports and internal medicine doctor A.K. Mishra said those with lengthy commutes are more likely to feel tired and stressed, but he said there are ways to make the most of the time on the road.

"Sometimes there's just things we want to think about and sometimes the only time we have to ourselves is in the car,” Mishra said; “and people find peace in talking to themselves, and talking out ideas or things that are on their minds."

Mishra said taking public transportation can be stressful as well, but it's better on the mind and body than driving because of the chance to nap or just relax while someone else deals with traffic.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 12 percent of households in Missouri and the Midwest report using public transportation.

Traveling can be a major cause of stress, Mishra said, because it's unpredictable and people may feel as though they have no control. Commuters can experience boredom, social isolation, anger and frustration from problems such as traffic or delays.

He said listening to music or audio books can help, but he also suggested practicing a form of yoga and meditation.

"One way to do that is to just breathe gently and be cognizant of how shallow ones breaths typically are in the context of being stressed,” Mishra said.

Sitting behind the wheel or in a plane or train is hard on the body as well, and Mishra said people who sit in the same position repeatedly or for long periods are at an increased risk for chronic back or neck problems. He said it's important to stretch before you leave, and try to switch positions often if you can't stop and take a break.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO