Over the last year, daily commutes have often changed from long stretches in public transit to long stretches in a cramped car. Sometimes this happened because the pandemic forced people to move or change jobs, sometimes because it made public transit unsafe. In other cases, people moved to a region where trains and buses weren’t available. Whatever the reason, many people are now stuck in their cars for an hour or two every day, and it’s making them crazy.
After all, some people just aren’t used to long drives. They may have grown up with public transit or may have thought they’d never be able to afford a ride of their own. Now they’re trying to figure out how to stay sane—and healthy, given how a long car ride can strain one’s back and neck.
Things to Do
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to take the edge off a long commute, and even make it fun and something to look forward to.
Listen to Podcasts
There’s more to the world of podcasts than The Joe Rogan Experience and NPR. The variety of podcasts has surged enormously over the last decade, and these days you can find a fantastic podcast in just about any niche. Looking for spooky stories, true crime, and folklore? Try Lore. Want to learn about mythology? Listen to Myths and Legends. Want pure silliness? Give Not Another D&D Podcast a whirl. Whether you want to learn or be entertained, or just feel less alone, there’s a podcast out there for you. Plus, they’re almost always free if you use Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
Listen to Audiobooks
If you want something longer and more structured than a podcast or just want to read more, listen to audiobooks that you can download from LibroFM or Audible. Some libraries let you borrow audiobooks for free. There’s an enormous selection, and despite the cries of some purists, there’s little neurological difference between reading a book and listening to an audiobook. Some books can even be improved by an effective narrator.
One great thing about being in a car is that no one is around to trash your singing. So if you’ve ever been interested in rock-star fantasies, it couldn’t hurt to make a playlist of some of your favorite songs and belt them out as you drive. It’s a good time to practice without self-consciousness, and the fact that it’s an active hobby means that you’re less likely to get bored.
Call Your Friends
We’re all busy as hell these days, and it’s all too easy to find yourself slipping away from old friends. As long as you have A headset or hands-free, a long commute is a great time to get back in touch. You’d be surprised how short the trip feels when you have someone to talk to. You can also talk to family members or set up a Discord voice-chat server and drop in there while you drive.
Deepen Your Friendships
Everyone has books, music, podcasts, and other media products that are important to him. Certain works often help form who we are. So one way to deepen your connection with your friends is by finding out what they like and listening to it yourself. Ask them what their favorite books, podcasts, and bands are, and listen to them on your way to work. Then call your friends and talk to them about it. They’ll appreciate the fact that you followed up on their recommendations.
Dealing with the Bad Parts of a Long Commute
There are downsides to being stuck in a car for a long time that have nothing to do with boredom. Loneliness and stiffness are two of the biggest.
Sometimes, the last thing you want to do on your way to or from a stressful job is sit in a car by yourself just thinking about work. You wish you had some company, which is hard to find in your four-seater.
The suggestions in the previous section will also help you deal with loneliness. Talk show podcasts are great for making you feel as if you have someone else in the room. Calling a friend is even better. Or you can take a more direct approach and offer to carpool with a coworker. You can also try to enjoy being alone, using the time to think about yourself and your life. We don’t do that often enough.
Stiffness and Pain
The human body is not built for a sedentary lifestyle. Especially in the morning, the last thing your body needs is to be stuck in one position for half an hour. Truckers are familiar with this problem. Some people are even forced to leave jobs because of the back pain inflicted by long commutes.
Stretching is the most direct method of coping with this problem. There are a handful of safe stretches you can do while driving, especially for your neck. But it may be better to perform a 15-minute stretching routine right after you wake up to prepare your back for the drive. Then do it again in the evening to relieve the physical stress of the commute home.
You can also invest in ergonomic additions to your car seat that may reduce stiffness and pain.
Don’t forget about cruise control. You would be surprised how much better your leg feels if it isn’t constantly pressing against the accelerator.
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