THE DE- STRESS COM­MUTE MARIA LALLY

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

If Carls­berg did com­mutes, it cer­tainly wouldn’t do mine. Af­ter get­ting my two bick­er­ing, dawdling daugh­ters ready (and some­how my­self), I drive them to dif­fer­ent schools, in dif­fer­ent vil­lages, in op­po­site di­rec­tions. On the way, one daugh­ter may ca­su­ally men­tion to­day is own-clothes day (she’s in uni­form), while the other will re­mem­ber she’s left her PE kit at home.

I then drive three miles to Vir­ginia Wa­ter sta­tion in Surrey, through wind­ing, busy roads. By the time I ar­rive, I of­ten see my train creep­ing into the plat­form.

Af­ter jump­ing on it with sec­onds to spare and dash­ing for one of the few va­cant seats, the adrenalin from the rush cour­ses through my sys­tem as I dive straight into work emails on my iphone. Af­ter 30 min­utes I have to change trains and get on a packed-to-stand­ing-roomonly one that de­posits me, crum­pled and stressed, at the Tele­graph of­fices.

My com­mute home is much the same, but with the added fear that a de­layed train could make me late pick­ing up my daugh­ters from the child­min­der.

When I ex­plain all this to psy­chother­a­pist and au­thor Wil­liam Pullen, he’s mo­men­tar­ily si­lenced by the hor­ror of my jour­ney. Then, un­pick­ing the rou­tine, he sug­gests bring­ing ev­ery­thing for­ward 15 min­utes, even if it meant wait­ing at the sta­tion. Clearly he’s never met my chil­dren, who need to be told 10 times to put their shoes on, but I vow to give it a try.

He pre­scribed big, sooth­ing breaths and look­ing out of the win­dow: my train goes past beau­ti­ful golf cour­ses and rolling fields with horses, but I miss it all be­cause I’m an­swer­ing emails. This, he said, would help my adrenalin dis­perse. Pullen em­pha­sised that my com­mute should be a sa­cred time in which to read a book, lis­ten to a pod­cast or even read some po­etry, with­out the stress and dis­trac­tion of chil­dren or work.

The next day, I aim to leave home by 8.15am and, de­spite a mad rush to get out of the door, we man­age it. At the sta­tion, I take a few deep breaths and re­sist the urge to check my phone. I get a seat and lis­ten to a pod­cast, still itch­ing to check my phone, but I look out of the win­dow in­stead. Fif­teen min­utes later, feel­ing pretty calm (and bored), I check my work emails, but I limit my­self to 10 min­utes.

There will al­ways be for­got­ten PE kits, late trains and stand­ing room only, but my com­mute feels calmer al­ready.

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