Psychological distress can be a cumulative result of life's small stressors. Have you ever seen someone shout at a taxi driver or call someone a taxi thief on the street? Or maybe you've been this person yourself! Have you ever bumped into a stranger who stopped in front of you on the sidewalk and felt physical tension arise? Have you ever had an umbrella nearly poke your eye out on a rainy day? Commutes in high-density urban living can be a stressful part of the day and add up to a general frustration. Repetitive frustration can cause undue physical and psychological imbalances and even increased anxiety. But with intentional effort, your commute can also be an opportunity to set a positive tone for work or home.
How can you best respond to the stress of a daily commute? I recommend going inward and reserving your own energy for the most important things in your life. Why waste vital energy on the adrenalized reaction of frustration and anger? We have absolutely no control over traffic and other people we may meet on the way, but we do have control over how we respond to it.
Here are 5 tips to transform your stressful commute into one of curiosity, relaxation and humour.
Tip 1: Awe Your Attitude
Whether it is your temporary home as an expatriate or your permanent home as a local resident, Hong Kong is dense and sometimes intense. What if you could love it with a sense of curiosity and awe? When you want to shout with frustration, try replacing it with, “Wow, that just happened.” Play with the possibility of being thankful for that moment or person. Maybe it made you pause long enough to become mindful and present. When anger, frustration and resistance turn into a judgment free “Wow”, you can cultivate a daily experience of the awe in AWEsome.
Tip 2: Zoom Out
When you are standing on the MTR, and people bump up against you or squeeze your space, look up and look down the long stretch of the train. You can do the same in traffic. Look down the length of the street. Look up at the buildings and skyline. You can do this on foot in the middle of the street. When you experience a contraction and closed feeling in your mind or body, look up and out. By momentarily moving the focus off of your immediate frustration, you might notice this city is a work of art. You can take up and absorb a collective urban experience that is bigger than you or your schedule.
Tip 3: Practice Compassion
When you find yourself wrapped up in the hardship of your own long day, look around you and find someone who looks a little worse off. Take a moment to imagine the hard day he or she had. Breathe that in and breathe out the relief of their suffering. Continue this process with multiple people until you forget all about your own pain and are filled with gratitude.
Tip 4: Entertain Yourself
Bring good music and listen to the soundtrack of your life. Watch the commute scenes like an entertaining movie. Bop your head. Shake your hips. Dance in public. Find your laughter button and press it.
Tip 5: Go Zen
Use your commute to meditate. Count how many steps you take on a single inhale. Count them again on your exhale. If your walking rhythm gets interrupted because you need to stop at a light, continue counting on your in breath and out breath. After the pause, resume counting your steps. Over time, grow the number count and elongate the breath. This practice will slow down your mind, calm your nervous system and sharpen your performance at work or home.