Regular readers will have heard me complain a lot recently about long days spent working. The major reason for this complaint is that I live in rural Oxfordshire and spend at least three days a week working in London.
These days are long and arduous; the need to save money means that my commute is close to three hours each way; the overpacked, smelly, hot trains sandwiching a long day of work.
I’m not going to lie, it is exhausting. I spent a long time working on the trains; sandwiching my work day with more work – clever I know. It didn’t give my brain time to switch off and unwind and I felt that I had no personal time to relax and unwind during the week. My stress levels rose and my enjoyment levels plummeted.
Yet there are ways to navigate the over-crowded commute without losing personal time or sacrificing self-care practices. So I thought I’d put a few of these together for you.
1. Turn off the work email
This may sound obvious but we are connected all of the time. I flew to New York earlier in the year and was even able to manage work emails mid-flight. I know that some people love the in-flight wifi but I feel it adds pressure to be responsive to work’s every beck-and-call.
Trains are no different – they all gave wifi. They mean we can stay connected. The very fact that we can be connected means that we feel we must be connected. But really, does answering that query half an hour later really mean that the world is going to fall apart?
Most of us aren’t doctors. For the majority of us, no-one will die if we’re out of touch for a few hours.
2. Use the time to discover …
Now that you’ve disconnected from you work email, take those hours spent on the train to discover something new or be creative.
I love listening to podcasts. They open new doors in my mind and allow me to escape into other worlds, engage with international affairs, think about a topic in another way. They also block out the noises of fellow commuters: no-one want to hear what they have planned for dinner on a daily basis.
My current favourite podcasts are:
- What Page Are You On? A book podcast by Bethanny Rutter and Alice Slater that focuses on their favourite reads based around a certain theme or topic. They’ve given me so much book-aspiration lately.
- Reveal. An American investigative journalism podcast create by the The Centre for Investigative Reporting. They give a really in-depth analysis of the topics they cover and have really made me thing about things like migration and drug addiction in a way I previously hadn’t.
- Lore. You may have heard of this podcast as its just been turned into an Amazon Prime TV show. I advise staying away from the TV version which just felt clunky and lost a lot of the flow and background found in the podcast which focuses on archival histories of creepy and unexplained occurrences across the globe. It is a fascinating podcast and it makes me journey’s go so much quicker!
3. Or to be more creative …
I’ve begun carrying a notebook and pen everywhere I go. On those rare occasions, I can get a seat, I spend my journeys scribbling down thoughts and feelings.
I’ve always found writing incredibly cathartic and, given all the stresses of life at the moment, I’ve found expressing myself on paper to be so helpful for my own self-preservation.
You don’t need to write to be creative, you can get lost in a good book (check out my Commuter Reading List Amazon reading list for world’s to get lost in), sketch, knit, sew. Anything that lets you relax, unwind, and switch off from those dreadful meetings.
4. Talk …
This is really pushing people’s comfort zones. Especially if you are a born and bred Londoner.
People on public transport just don’t talk!
Yet, on catching someones eye, I frequently smile and say hello. I’ve had some fantastic conversations on my journeys to and from work. I’ve met people from all walks of life and learnt about their likes and interests, their families and their woes. It makes me feel more of a person – less of a worker drone. It switches of my mind and makes me feel more me … try it, I dare you!
Do you have any commuter ideas?