Self-Help for Commuters: How to Combat Traffic-Induced Stress

As an art reporter, I spend a lot of time commuting, and it’s becoming a pain in the ass. Yesterday, I was stuck in a 5-hour traffic jam, and I was just traveling inside Manila. The thing I’m most bitter about is I left at 6:30AM. I thought that was early enough to not get stuck in traffic, but Manila just says “Fuck you, there’s no escaping my misery”.

Through this experience, I came up with a way to lessen my traffic-related stress. This kind of stress is becoming an inevitable part of my life, and will continue to be an inevitable part of my life unless I stop being a journalist or our politicians get their shit together and build a network of trains for Manila. Ok, so what I started doing is I began setting give up points.

I noticed that when I’m stuck in traffic, I get anxious. I keep checking my watch every ten minutes, and thus I keep giving myself too many chances to wallow in despair. The reason why I check my watch is to see if I am making progress with my current choice of transportation. If not, I have to switch to a more expensive or more uncomfortable choice of transportation–ex: from bus to MRT if the streets are too crowded, from MRT to bus if the MRT line is so long or MRT repairs are taking forever, from MRT or bus to taxi if both are shitty, and if all shit fails then walk. Though there is logic to this habit, this habit is not efficiently executed and the byproduct of that inefficiency is stress.

I check my watch too much, so I waste time and energy on a useless set of actions. Instead of doing that, I decided that I should set a plan of when I should make decisions to change my route. So I’ll say, if by [insert specific time], I am not yet at [insert name of place], then I will start re-evaluating my choice of transportation/my route. Up until that time, I just relax, knowing that I can’t do anything about the situation.

I can also completely give up and turn back. If the situation seems hopeless and wala na akong maaabutan kahit magpilit pa ako, then the best thing to do is to get the story another day or through another method (call, e-mail, set another interview, etc.). Of course, this depends on how urgent the story is, and since I write in lifestyle, more often the beat is not as urgent as news. This choice is the most difficult thing to do and the only way I can let myself do this is by telling myself that it’s ok to fail because of external circumstances. Yep, during that 5-hour traffic jam, I blamed myself for not leaving earlier when I fucking left at 6:30AM!

If I check my watch before the designated give up point, I will just look at the information and think, ‘It’s not yet time to worry’, and I continue to relax. Doing this alleviated my stress, so I guess it worked.

Of course, this isn’t a solution to traffic. I still want our politicians to get their shit together and solve this problem. If I can do something concrete to help, please tell me and I’ll be willing to do something. But as of right now, all I can do is think of ways to cope with this terrible mess that we all have to live through.

Watch out for more Manila Traffic.

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Note: For some entries in this blog, a few names and details have been deliberately and willingly changed by the author. This is a personal decision made by the author for specific reasons known to her and is not an endorsement for censorship.

All the opinions expressed in this page and in this blog are my own and do not represent the official stances of the companies, institutions, and organizations that I am affiliated with. I am a person. I’m not just a manifestation of corporate interests. I have an identity that is separate from my company because even if human beings are paid for a service by corporations, human beings are not owned by corporations. 

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