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4 Free Ways Singaporeans Can Make Their Morning Commutes Less Stressful

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Joanne Poh

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44% of Singaporeans have complained that their commute to work stresses them out in a 2015 survey. And nobody is surprised.

Whether your job involves saving the world or hiding in a cubicle, your daily commute is a bigger part of it than you might imagine. Let’s say your commute takes one hour each way and you work a five-day week. That’s 10 hours a week spent on the road, equivalent to an extra day at work.

Instead of resigning yourself to spending your life savings on a car, here are four free ways to reduce stress on your commute.

Find a more predictable way for your first-and-last-mile commute

So long as the MRT doesn’t break down, it’s probably the most efficient way to get from Point A to Point B. The problem is that for many Singaporeans, it’s getting to the MRT station and away that is the most frustrating part of the commute.

The government has already acknowledged the need to improve first-and-last-mile connectivity, but this is going to take time, since new MRT stations and better bus services don’t sprout up like mushrooms.

In the meantime, many Singaporeans are still at the mercy of feeder buses, which can be stressful due to long waiting times and irregularity. Miss the bu1s or be unable to board because it’s too full and your day is ruined.

Predictability is a factor that can make your commute a lot less stressful, which is why walking to the MRT for 15 minutes is less stressful than taking a 10 minutes bus ride if the bus doesn’t always arrive on time or driving, for 10 minutes in heavy traffic.

If you can find a more predictable mode of transport for your first and last mile, your commute instantly becomes a lot less stressful. If the walk to the MRT station is too long for your liking, you can consider cycling or using another mobility device like a kick scooter, which can be preferable to bicycles because it can be used on the pavement.

Use stress-relief techniques before or during your commute instead of simply trying to distract yourself

For all the stress Singaporeans experience, we’re still lagging behind when it comes to knowing how to deal with it. That’s why you get all these Stomp videos of uncles and aunties going ballistic on buses and trains, while the people around them try to distract themselves by drowning in some mindless smartphone game.

If you feel like the commutes are getting so unbearable you’re going to lose it someday, it might be a good idea to learn some stress-relief techniques that you can use before or during your commute.

Meditation or deep breathing can be practised anywhere, even if you’re standing up, and concentrating on the sound “om” is preferable to focusing on the sweaty commuters around you. You can even listen to a guided meditation on your smartphone with earbuds. You could also keep a gratitude journal or use a stress-busting app like Koko in the train or bus.

Do something productive

If the reason you’re so stressed out is that you have so little time and really can’t afford to be wasting 2 hours per day standing still and staring into space, getting work done on your commute can actually help to reduce stress, since you get to tick things off your to-do list.

You can try to work on public transport if your work can be done while standing up. Using a tablet or smartphone to edit documents or send emails is one way you can get do that.

Even if your job is not the sort of thing you can do remotely, there are other ways you can use your time productively so you have more free time outside of work and the daily commute. Thanks to smartphones and tablets, we can now plan holidays and even book air tickets, shop for necessities, apply for jobs and do research for an impending property purchase from an MRT cabin.

If the source of your stress is having to spend a lot of time commuting when you’re already busy enough as it is, ticking items off on your to-do list as you travel can help a lot.

Consume media that makes you feel upbeat

A stuffy MRT cabin might not exactly be best place to find inner peace, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire ride feeling suicidal.

There are many ways you can trick your mind into feeling upbeat that don’t involve alcoholic intoxication. Listen to the sort of music you would usually dance to at a club and you can be sure you’ll leave the MRT at least slightly buzzed.

Other things you can do include watching a comedy series on your tablet or listening to a funny podcast. If you find that reading or watching depressing content (the news and forums full of complaining Singaporeans count as depressing) is making you turn up at work miserable, consume something that will lift your spirits instead.

What do you usually do on your morning commute? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.