Make Rush-Hour Relaxation a Priority

Make Rush-Hour Relaxation a Priority

Posted by Puja Sehgal, M.D. on Sep 2, 2015 3:30:00 PM

If you live and work in Houston, chances are you spend a lot of time in the car. While behind-the-wheel frustration can easily become a part of everyday life, you don’t have to let it get the best of you! Look at the time you spend in your car each day as time you get to reconnect with yourself and your thoughts. Here are some ideas on how to do just that.

Decompress Mentally, Despite the Traffic

If you spend any time in the car, especially if you’re used to commuting long distances for work, you know how frustrating sitting in traffic can be. Instead of giving into frustration, try to engage in activities that you enjoy but don’t divert your attention from the road.
  • Listen to music or an audiobook.
  • Learn a new language with a CD or MP3.
  • Find a streaming music site and listen to new standup comedians, or find lectures about subjects you enjoy and listen to them in rush hour.
All of these not only will help ease your commute, but being engaged in something you enjoy will also keep you more alert and feeling less fatigued. Eventually, that commute will seem like time put to good use instead of time spent hurriedly trying to get from one place to the next.

Try Some Relaxation Exercises


Driving can take a toll on you – even if it’s only an hour to and from work each day. How many times have you been driving only to realize that your grip on the wheel was tight, your breaths were shallow and you were carrying around a lot of unnecessary tension in your neck and shoulders? Be conscious of this and try to prevent this anxiety before it happens. Loosen your grip on the wheel. Roll your neck gently from side to side to stretch your muscles and roll your shoulders to keep the tension in your upper back at a minimum. Take deep breaths from your diaphragm instead of short, shallow breaths from your chest. Just make sure you don’t get so lost in concentration on relaxation that you divert attention from the road – that could cause a whole new set of problems.

Tone Those Muscles

While you won’t get the same results as you would in a gym, you can tone muscles even as you’re driving home from work each day. Take this time to tone your buttocks, trunk and legs.

Squeeze your gluteal muscles together as tight as you can for 10 seconds and then release. Repeat this at least 10 times. 

For your stomach muscles, squeeze your abdominals together, making your stomach as flat as you can for 10 seconds and then repeating as many times as you like.

To tone your thighs, tighten all of the muscles in your upper leg, hold for 10 seconds and then release.

You can also do shoulder exercises. For these, keep your arms relaxed (and hands on the wheel, please!) and squeeze your shoulder blades together, holding for 10 seconds.

Not only is it just good in general to be mindful of your muscle health, but tightening different muscle groups like this will help keep you focused and alert while driving.

Be Road-Trip Ready

Spending a longer amount of time in the car than normal? Make sure you prepare! Be comfortable. Wear loose fitting clothes, comfortable shoes and make sure you have enough pillows to make your car seat as comfy as it can be. Pack a cooler of healthy snacks, such as low-sugar yogurt, vegetables, fruit and string cheese. Drink a lot of water and stop often for bathroom breaks. You should be getting out of the car periodically anyway to stretch your legs and neck – this helps you to stay alert and focused. 


If you do feel yourself growing tired, make sure you either pull over to rest or switch driving duty with someone who is feeling more refreshed.

The most important thing to remember with either a long road trip or a daily commute is to not rush. Nothing at the other side of that car trip is worth a car wreck. Take your time, respect the posted speed limit and enjoy the ride.


Sehgal_PujaDr. Puja Sehgal is a board-certified Family Medicine physician. She works with patients to give them knowledge regarding prevention and management of illness. She develops relationships with her patients by customizing their treatment based on their beliefs and cultural practices.


Topics: traffic, commuter health, road trip tips, driving safety

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