Trucks drive along Interstate 80 on February 18, 2014 in Berkeley, California.

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Ways To Cope With Traffic And An Unhealthy Commute

Kim Wonderley
May 20, 2019 - 11:52 am

If you're a daily commuter, you know the stress of negotiating the increasingly congested freeways in the Bay Area. The simple act of getting to work can chip away at your overall health. Kim Wonderley shares some survival skills in this week's Road Report.

Arriving at work stressed out from your commute is no way to start your day. Studies show that even a stressful 10-mile commute can increase blood pressure, which creates a variety of health concerns. 

With a so-called super commute, the problems can be compounded. Hours behind the wheel can leave you prone to deep vein thrombosis, a dangerous type of blood clot that sometimes appears in the legs of people who sit for long periods of time. Taking a break to stretch your legs is a good idea. Maybe getting a massaging seat cushion would help long-distance drivers feel better. 

There are other factors to take into account. Anxiety from traffic snarls can send your cortisol levels up. The adrenaline pumping leaves you more vulnerable for a heart attack. That threat continues for about an hour after those levels spike.

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So, calming skills are key to minimizing the negative effects from the elevated blood pressure. Any simple deep breathing can lower your blood pressure behind the wheel. One method is to follow the  4-7-8 breathing technique. Inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven, and exhale through pursed lips for eight seconds. Besides slowing your heart rate, deep breathing will also oxygenate your brain and other organs. This can improve your feeling of well being, decrease anxiety and quell anger. 

If possible, use your commute time productively. As long as you're holed up in your car, why not use that time to finally learn a second language or listen to an audio book? 

Small changes in your daily routine can help. Try taking a different route. Mixing it up for a change of scenery can make your life feel less like the movie "Groundhog Day." 

Lastly, just be kind to yourself and your fellow road warriors.