8 Women On How To Make Your Commute Suck Less

White-knuckling your way through your commute each day? Don’t. There are many ways you can release its kung-fu grip on your stress receptors. Here, eight weekday warriors share the small but meaningful ways they’ve done just that.

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In partnership with Surex

Woman with grey hair pulled back in a pony tail sitting in driver's seat of the car
Photo: iStock

Anxiety, anger, frustration, boredom, and the nagging feeling that you’re wasting life’s most precious commodity—time. Such is the spectrum of negative emotions that course through the mind of The Commuter on any given day. But spending too much time wallowing can come at the cost of your mental health—and who wants that? Forgetting about the things you can’t control and focusing on the things you can will significantly improve your overall commuting experience. To help you do just that, eight women who commute to work each way share their top tips for surviving the daily grind.

Make a conscious choice to stay chill 

“The thing that makes the biggest difference is attitude. You can be angry about it or you can just accept it as it is. I watched my husband get very angry during his commute and decided it didn’t need to be that way. My relaxed approach came in response to his not-so-relaxed approach. To create that mood, I always have good music and good coffee.”
— Erin Ryan Walsh, driver, west side of Calgary to downtown Calgary (20-45 minutes each way; 90 minutes in winter) 

Consider carpooling

Carpool! I work with a lot of people who commute too, so we started a carpool.  If the option is available, I will take that [over driving myself], because talking is so much more fun. It makes the drive go faster and you really get to know people. We’ve become so close that we now have dinners and everything. It’s the best. You save on parking, too.”
— Sarah Furness, driver, Hamilton, Ont. to Toronto (55-90 minutes each way; “2.5 hours if the Raptors are playing”)

Buy yourself a backpack

“There’s a lot of complaints about backpacks [on the train platform] but I have a backpack now, [and] it’s great. I hurt my shoulder carrying a purse, because you put so much in it when you commute, and you have to open a lot of doors when you’re in the underground, so the backpack is a huge relief. I always make sure I have something to read in there.”
— Laura Fowlie, GO Train transit rider, Burlington, Ont. to Toronto (75 minutes each way)

Don’t lose the time, use the time

“I used to see [commuting] as a huge waste of time, but then I shifted my mind away from thinking about the commute to thinking, what can I accomplish during this car ride? Now I try and make this a time to make work calls, or catch up with friends on the phone. I think about my day and prepare some of the conversations I’m going to be having in meetings. The feeling of accomplishment keeps my stress about the commute in check.”
— Sara Archibald, driver, Ancaster, Ont. to Oakville-Mississauga, Ont. (60+ minutes each way) 

Invest in your sanity

“I take the 407 [a toll highway]: it’s a life choice. Time is money. You spend the money for the time. If I didn’t take the 407, my commute time would double. Fortunately, I have an employer that pays 50 percent of the 407 fees.”
— Lindsay Frimet, driver, Thornhill, Ont. to Brampton, Ont. (30-45 minutes each way, depending on traffic)

Take advantage of flexible hours if you have them

“The biggest thing for me is that you really have to like the job and the company you work for to make the drive. Don’t settle for a job that doesn’t challenge you just because it’s within 20 minutes of your house. Also, I work for a company that’s flexible, and lets me work 7 a.m.–3 p.m. or 8 a.m.–4 p.m. so I can drive during non-rush hours. I have the ability to work from home once a week too, and it helps to break it up.”
— Laura Peden, driver, Mount Albert, Ont. to Brampton, Ont. (60-90 minutes each way)

Establish a happy-making ritual…

“I’ve gotten ritualistic and I look forward to that ritual. I make a coffee before I go, and I listen to one podcast on the way in and one on the way out. The first one is news-based like Pod Save America, and it wakes me up; on the way home it’s a different kind of podcast, The Dax Shepard Armchair Expert. They are long podcasts and so they cover the time to commute.”
— Lindsay Peltsch, driver, Innisfil, Ont. to Toronto (90 minutes each way)

…but don’t get too tied to a routine. Be flexible

“I don’t limit myself to certain trains or get too stuck to schedules, because my schedule fluctuates. I try and always do the easiest thing possible and not make the commute more stressful by getting too tied to a certain time or way of getting home. I will take anything to get home—train, bus, and if I’m working really late, I may even take an Uber ($70). I’m a long-term commuter so I only do things that are easier on me in the long run.”
— Caitlin Dean, Go Train/Go Bus transit rider, Hamilton, Ont. to Toronto (75 minutes)