evidence-informed strategies and encouragement for your self-care

Self-Care for the Time-Strapped: The Commute

This series explores simple but effective self-care strategies for the time-strapped.

For when we currently find ourselves over worked, over scheduled, and over extended.

We'll focus on the many little things we CAN do as exhausted parents, weekend warriors, and stressed caregivers - even though we're out of time, out of patience, and out of luck when it comes to fitting in self-care.


THE COMMUTE: a frustrating daily time-suck from Point A to Point B.

Other drivers - always going either too fast or too slow. Brake lights. Angry horns. Construction detours. Bad weather.

Not exactly most folk's first thought when it comes to a place where self-care happens. But a little thought and preparation here goes a long way. Think of it like this - if you have to make a commute, why not make it the best damn commute you can?


□ SOOTHE THE BODY If you're traveling my car, bus, or train, think about ways you can make the commute a time to treat sore and achy muscles by applying heat.

Not the first choice for hot climates where the sun is baking already at 7am, but definitely helpful in cooler or straight up cold ones. Warms up the muscle tissues and is also relaxing to the nervous system.

Heat up a microwaveable pack or a liquid filled pouch right before you step out the door. Or if your car has heated seats, crank those up as the car warms up.

□ MOVE THE BODY Whether you'll be seated in a moving vehicle or biking your way to work: get things moving first.

But no deep lunges. The idea is to use easy, slow, intentional movement to gently "wake up" any problematic areas instead of asking your body to do too much, too fast, so very early.

And yes, even if you're sitting for a forty-five minute car ride, your body is doing work. We think seating is a rested position, but for some muscles it is not. They are working to keep you upright, stretched to allow other groups to be contracted, or are crunched up when you're white-knuckling the steering wheel.


Choose something to listen to ahead of time. Perhaps even the night before - make it part of your nightly routine.

Ask yourself what you would most benefit from that morning. And have a few choices pre-selected on hand.

Maybe weekends are stressful and on Mondays you prefer to listen to some ambient chill wave. Perhaps mid-week you need a stimulating pick-me-up and download a podcast on your favorite hobby or guilty pleasure. And to wrap up the workweek you head bang to some classic 80s glam rock.


□ SOOTHE THE BODY Commutes can be stressful, crowed, time-consuming, loud. Take extra care to check-in on your body and encourage relaxation.

Do a head-to-toe body check-in while you're at a long light, or waiting for your connection, or strolling down the sidewalk.

- Is my forehead scowled? - Am I grinding my teeth? - Are my shoulders up at my ears? - Are my knuckles tight? - Am I breathing shallow? - Is my bum clenched? - Are my legs stiff?


If you walk or bike to work, you're way ahead of the game on moving your body. But if you're mostly in a static seated or standing position, explore how much you actually can move your body while on your way. - Turn or rotate your head and neck. - Open and close your jaw in a yawn. - Crunch up then relax shoulders. - Wiggle your torso around.

- Shift weight from leg to leg. - Gently roll your ankles.


There's lots of great meditation apps - my favorites are Waking Up and HeadSpace - if you're on public transit and don't need to pay too much attention. Your commute could be a great time to get in a five or ten minute guided mediation, on the regular.

If you need to keep focus on the road ahead of you, use this daily time to explore something new, refreshing, and inspiring. An audio book of something that's been on the "to read" list for far too long. A funny podcast or radio show. A subject you always wish you knew more about but can never find the time to learn more.

It's amazing what even a short commute with carefully selected materials can bring to your weeks, months, and years to come.

Time-Strapped Article Series

Self-Care for the Time-Strapped: Morning Routine

Self-Care for the Time-Strapped: The Commute

Self-Care for the Time-Strapped: Daily Life

Self-Care for the Time-Strapped: Evening Routine - - -

Time-Strapped eBook

Enjoying this series? Check out the eBook, which includes additional resources and tools. learn more...

Hey there! My name's Raechel. I'm the author of The Bodies We Live In blog. I'm also a licensed massage therapist and owner of Massage Sci in Holland, Michigan.


In my free time, I enjoy writing about wellness; researching pain science; trying to grow things in my garden; being far too fond of semi-colons; and avid sci-fi nerding.