Commuting Anxiety

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but commuting is a regular source of stress for me. It’s probably the most consistent negative aspect of my job.

There are several reasons why I don’t like commuting. On a normal day, I’m on transit for about 3 hours a day going to work and coming back again. I find transit in Vancouver to be very crowded which I’m not very comfortable with. I normally struggle to focus on anything, and with new faces constantly coming and going and making noises and doing different things on the bus, it’s difficult for me to be productive during these parts of the day.

Since realizing the problem that stress has been posing for me, I’ve been trying to come up with different approaches to deal with my commuting anxiety. Some of them I’ve been trying, but some of them I’ve yet to attempt.

  • Avoiding rush hour. I try to get on the train by 6am, and then I try to start to head home around 3pm. If I miss the 3pm deadline, I’ll usually try to stay later at work so that I’m not heading home in rush hour traffic.
  • Strategic seat picking. I try to pick a seat that both feels safe and also can minimize distractions. I usually try to maximize my influence on this factor by altering where I get on the bus. When I get on the bus to work, I usually walk backwards a couple of bus stops so that I’m not at the end of the big bus line up at the skytrain station. When I get on the bus to go home, I usually bus backwards a bit because otherwise I’m trying to get on the bus with a giant line of students from BCIT.
  • Using a location-specific alarm on my phone. Part of the reason I don’t focus on being productive on the bus is, I suspect, because I’m always worried about losing myself in my work at the wrong time and missing my stop. If I can find a way to put a location-specific alarm on my phone, I can leave my phone to warn me when I need to start paying attention to the bus stop.
  • Working from home more often. A manager at work suggested working from home several times a week to save on the commute time since it’s a big source of anxiety for me. I’m still trying to navigate this one as I find it difficult to work remotely when I have meetings (the echoing sound from large meeting rooms makes me nauseous for some reason) and also collaboration is more difficult when I’m remote (being open to questions, pairing, and seeing who’s available for code review are all more difficult when I’m working from home).
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy. This involves: recognizing my anxiety when I experience it on the bus, sitting with the anxious feeling, and recognizing that despite that feeling, the danger is not real.

I’ve got some things to try, but if you have any other suggestions, I would love to hear them 🙂

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