AFTER THE END OF EVERY WORKDAY I WALK TO MY BUS STOP AND LOOK FORWARD TO MY DAILY 1.5 HOURS COMMUTE HOME.
I have to change transport at least 3 times, sit quietly with other fellow travelers in heavy traffic and walk-in transit for more than 30 min in high heels before I reach my doormat that says: “Home at Last”. As if I have conditioned myself, I sing Etta James classic ” At Last”, while I put my heavy bag down and kick off my tight shoes. Ending my chorus in “my life is a like song ooh yeaah”…
FLUFF IS HEAVY
For many of us, it’s the fluffy stuff that weighs us down during our commute. Perhaps its the critical comments from a coworker you respect, the disappointing results in an upcoming report, or a meeting or call that keeps getting postponed. All this tends to get lodged in our heads like a small speck of grit in your eyeball causing severe irritation and vision impairment. It’s so small and innocuous, but its presence is persistent and impairs own clear vision for what’s in front of us. Its sounds like the broken “rejsekort” machine saying: “check-in, check-in, check-in”. Fix that, please.
So for 1.5 hours from Monday to Friday, I sit in traffic and simply allow myself the luxury to press my “pause” button. I say luxury because stillness for me is a delicious treat. Why? Because much of my work is about strategic communication and using my vocal cords. I have to convey persuasive messages all day long to a diverse set of people. The art of creative reflection and verbal persuasion are necessary tools in my work. And I love it! But in a crowded bus, I savor in having no choice but shut up, unwind, relax, reflect on how grateful I am on how meaningful work can be sometimes. But sometimes I try to do the ultimate challenge: NOT. THINK. AND. BE. EMPTY.
For a purpose-driven person on the go-go-gooooal, being empty and mindful feels almost counterintuitive. Be like flowing water I say, while sitting in a bus filled with kindergarten toddlers each having their unrestrained chats with their friends.. Ah yeah… Serenity is very delicious!
Why carve your own me-time during the commute? Well, you risk passing your work-related mood to the people you live with, – your unsuspecting collateral damage in your own homestead. Even worse, if you living the single life. Just look into the mirror, – that’s the person you will be complaining to for the next hours during dinner and bedtime.
YOUR COMMUTE IS YOUR MENTAL SPA
Allow yourself to use your mandated hours’ of commute to transition from work life to home life. Rest by simply pretending you are turning off the muscles on your forehead, take your shoulders back to a relaxed upright position and take some deep breaths in. Look at kindergartens toddlers chatting away, observe them or whatever that makes you present.
Also, allow yourself to change your mind about stress. According to a 2012 American studyin the Journal of Psychology and Neuroscience, people who experienced a lot of stress had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful to health. People who experienced a lot of stress but did not perceive stress as harmful were no more likely to die. Indeed, they had the lowest risk of dying among the groups, including people who had relatively little stress. In sum, people who changed how they think about stress can change the body’s response to stress.
Use your time during the commute to reframe work-related stress. Locate the unsettling feeling coursing through you as you think about your colleagues´ unpleasant comment. Its actual cortisol pumping in your blood urging you to some action. Preferably an action of courage. Cortisol is literally energizing the body and preparing you to meet a challenge. For those feeling anxious, consider your pounding heart as the body way to prepare you for action. If you’re breathing faster, its due to increased oxygen to your brain. These are healthy signs that your body works.
This has helped me reframe stress in terms of natural physical response. In fact, sometimes I feel more alive when faced with a pounding heart. I feel my body more intensely. I feel my physical heart beating. Instead of feeling that my body and mind are against me, I try to be mindful that they are working to aid me. Like a shot of Redbull. A heighten 2.0 and optimized version of me that needs to take a chill-pill. It’s weird, as we often take such important parts, such as the beating of our hearts, for granted, otherwise invisible and muted under normal circumstances.
In my quiet commute home, I am often reminded of my favorite poem Invictus: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”.
I decide to be still and relish in my aliveness.
Enjoy your way home…