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Is I-480 Hazardous to Your Health?

Posted 9/8/2017 by UHBlog

Finding it hard to keep the drive alive? Learn how to combat stressful commutes that put a dent in your health .

Is I-480 Hazardous to Your Health?

If your daily commute includes views of lush green landscapes or glimmering ocean expanses, consider yourself lucky. Many people have to navigate concrete highways brimming with orange barrels, exasperating gridlock and reckless motorists.

That’s why frustrating highway commutes can drive even the most mild-mannered person crazy.

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it takes the average worker 26 minutes to travel to work,” says psychiatrist Francoise Adan, MD, who is Medical Director of University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. “When the daily commute is stressful, it can affect a person’s health and work performance. How employees start the day is an important indicator of their attitude for the rest of the day.”

The health hazards of tense highway driving are well-documented and can include:

  • Rise in blood sugar levels
  • High cholesterol
  • Depression
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Lower sleep quality
  • Weight gain
  • Aches and pains in back and neck

Unfortunately, the negatives of a prolonged daily commute continue by taking time away from preparing healthy meals or snacks, reducing workout time and decreasing time spent with family and friends.

So how do people who have stressful work commutes learn to go with the flow and improve the experience? Dr. Adan offers these four tips to help you reclaim your morning commute:

  1. Attitude adjustment – Dr. Adan suggests commuters reframe their drive time in a positive light.
    “Generally, you choose where you live and work, so your drive to work is something not imposed on you. It's a function of your own choice,” she says. “Your job allows you to earn an income and gives you professional satisfaction, so your commute has a reason and a logical goal. And it is important to understand there are factors like bad weather, detours or road construction that are beyond your control, so you should take the unpredictability of the ride in stride.”
  2. Use the extra time – Although Dr. Adan cautions against driving on autopilot, there are ways to de-stress during your ride to work.
    “Use this time to listen to books, (make) hands-free phone calls with loved ones or listen to music,” she says.
  3. Practice mindfulness as you drive – One of the best ways to alleviate worry, anxiety and stress is through mindfulness, a practice that helps you "be in the moment." People who use mindfulness techniques usually notice they have an improved sense of well-being and are less reactive.
    “Push the reset button and recharge,” says Dr. Adan. “Unplug and decompress, reflect or prepare. Practice mindfulness. Be an attentive observer of your surroundings and emotions. Add some simple breathing exercises. This is your time, and you have a choice.”
  4. Attend a wellness program – Along with flextime and the opportunity to work at home, employers can offer targeted programs to control the impact of stress on employees’ lives. UH Connor Integrative Health Network offers several of these programs, including Stress Management and Resilience Training (S.M.A.R.T.) – recognized as a 2016 Crain's Health Care Hero for improving the lives and health of those in Northeast Ohio – and mindfulness, yoga and meditation classes.
    UH Connor Integrative Health Network’s stress management classes are also available to the community.
    “By learning how to manage stress, individuals will have a more meaningful, productive and healthier life – on or off the highway,” Dr. Adan says.

Francoise Adan, MD, is the Medical Director of University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with any doctor online.

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