THE DE- STRESS COMMUTE MARIA LALLY
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.