Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | October 11, 2012

Can The Daily Grind Be Good For You?

The Daily Grind

Can the Daily “Grind” be good for you?

Many of us start our daily “grind” with a caffeinated cup of coffee as we dive into traffic along the California morning landscape.

Whether you leave in darkness going to work or come home to the sunset, your drive affects your life. I have the secrets and the science to staying young and sharp in spite of your daily commute.

It’s about that time of year where we “fall back” and gain an hour on November 4th.  Don’t let the crowded commute stress you out and reduce your attention levels.  Many of us will be driving in darkness after a long day at work.

Time changes have many effects on our mind and body including on the heart.  An article from Harvard Health Publications stated heart attacks decrease as a result of the fall time change and that essential extra hour of sleep every hard-working American needs. In fact, only one century ago Americans averaged 9 hours of sleep per day while presently it is down to 6 or fewer hours.   Experts say the sweet spot for sleep is 7 hours per night.

How can we reduce stress while driving in the car when extra sleep really isn’t an option?

Here are 7 simple ways to sidestep injury and keep you young during your commute. Avoid agitation, nerves, or worry in the car with this recipe for safe and healthy driving tips.

1.  Wallets: Gentlemen, don’t sit on your wallets. This can cause nerve pain and sciatica if done frequently or for long durations.

2.  Purses: Ladies, organize your purse so that you have immediate knowledge of “need-to-grab” items so your eyes stay focused on the road.

3.  Seat Height Harmony: Raise the seat to have a good view out of the windshield, but not so that your legs are hitting the steering wheel.

wheel grip

wheel grip (Photo credit: nate steiner)

4.  Seat Position: Slide the seat so that your knees are slightly bent and your thighs are relaxed so that you can easily operate the foot pedals without straining your low back muscles.

5.  Seat Back Position: “Laid back or uptight?” Adjust the back of the car seat to be 100-110 degrees with your shoulders solidly behind your hips. No one should be too laid back or too close to the steering wheel.  To avoid injury if the air bag is deployed, make sure your chest is at least 11 inches away from the steering wheel.  Remember a small sodium-azide propellant charged device is deploying the airbag.

If you are sitting too close, it may mean you need to have your vision checked or too tired to drive.

6.  Steering Wheel Hand position:  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the new recommendation is a 9 and 3 hand placement to avoid hand injury if the airbag is deployed.    Toss out the old 10 and 2 position. It’s also a good idea to make sure you can use your cell phone hands-free.

7.  Keep a bag of Peppermints in your car: Treating yourself to this mint candy can reduce stress levels by 25% in quickly as 2 minutes. The cooling sensation mixed with the spicy aroma stimulates the olfactory nerve in the nose signaling to increase the brain’s calming alpha waves.

Good Housekeeping September 2012 Issue

“Americans spend over 100 hours a year commuting to work” according to US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.  That’s a lot of “gripping behind the wheel”. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome induced by heavy gripping on the steering wheel is also a reaction to the stress of crowded streets and commutes. So how can we “get a grip” when our commute becomes chaotic?

According to the September issue of Good Housekeeping, DIY Wrist relief includes sleeping with a brace that keeps your wrist straight and stretching certain muscles of the palm several times per day (pg. 45).

More tips on reducing stress levels:

Researchers at University of Alabama suggest noshing on fruits high in vitamin C which dampen the body’s production of the stress hormone Cortisol, reducing surges by up to 300 %.

Something as simple as eliminating shallow chest breathing triggered by traffic congestion can melt away tension. Deep abdominal breathing relieves the physical impact stress plays on your good looks.  In a study at San Francisco State University, “paced breathing” can make you feel less frazzled.  Aim for 10 breathes or fewer per minute by inhaling for the count of six seconds then exhale for the count of six seconds.  Practice while sitting in traffic beginning for 5 minutes and build up to doing it longer.

Turn on your personal playlist.  A study conducted by the University of South Alabama reported that listening to “self-selected” music after a stressful event or day significantly reduces negative emotional states as compared to “sitting in silence.”

Remember your morning brew also has some youthful benefits.  Drinking coffee improves your focus (great for road) and is our greatest source of anti-oxidants for a more youthful appearance. So remember the less you stress the younger you look.

Let me know your great de-stressing habits to get through your daily commute.

~Pam

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