The prospect of returning to work – even if it’s just a few days a week – is starting to get closer and closer for those of us who have been working from home for a year.
Many are already back on the commute, but after a long period of absence from trains, buses and streetcars – not to mention rush hours – the mere idea of the daily commute can be overwhelming.
And feeling reluctant or anxious about going back to “normal” is not surprising.
“Research shows that moving around can trigger a stress response, increase anxiety levels and blood pressure, and even lead to comfort-seeking behaviors such as emotional eating,” says psychologist Dr. Meg Arroll. registered on behalf of Healthspan.
She explains that many factors involved in commuting, such as uncomfortable proximity to others, travel delays, and concerns about other passengers’ antisocial behavior, can all trigger feelings of threat that increase hormone levels. stress, adrenaline and cortisol. in the body.
“Studies show that anxiety, in general, is higher in public transport than in the use of personal vehicles, and this is most likely due to the fact that the ability to control the situation or to ‘escape’ is hampered on a busy train or bus, ”Arroll explains.
Having a commuter panic, whether it’s visible or not, is never pleasant, but luckily there are strategies you can use to deal with the problem.
“My main tip is to always have a bottle of water with you,” Arroll reveals.
“Often times, the uncomfortably hot and sweltering temperatures of tube trains and coaches feel much more trapped, and they play in an anxiety loop.”
She also loves distraction techniques, like listening to music, escape podcasts, or books, although if you’re feeling really nervous you might have a hard time focusing on a storyline.
If so, Arroll suggests using your commute to practice mindfulness, listening to meditations you can follow while sitting on a bus or train.
“If you feel that commute anxiety is becoming overwhelming, diaphragmatic breathing techniques can stop the stress response (elevated heart rate, tremors, headaches) by engaging your parasympathetic nervous system,” says Arroll.
The parasympathetic nervous system is a part of the body that, when activated, can produce a feeling of calm and relaxation – basically the opposite of the “fight or flight” we experience when we are stressed.
Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing, is breathing that is done by contracting the diaphragm and breathing in the belly rather than the chest.
“Regularly practicing breathing techniques is a good thing to do, even when you are not commuting, so if a feeling of panic does eventually erupt, you will have the tools to be able to override your innate physiological response. body.”
That said, if your commute is making you really anxious every day to the point where you feel completely overwhelmed or have panic attacks, it might be time to see a doctor to see if they can help.
Additionally, you can also talk to your employer about the possibility of continuing to work from home or, at the very least, commuting to the office during off-peak hours.