Tips to keep commuting stress at bay

If working from home is out of the question, here are a few ways to make the commute more enjoyable:

Check traffic before leaving (or download a navigation app): Just knowing how long it will take to get somewhere can help reduce the worry caused by traffic jams.

• Avoid interchanges: Heavy traffic is one of the biggest stress factors of a driving commute, and traffic tends to be the slowest where freeways combine. "The more road intersections in a trip, the higher the stress level," said Ray Novaco, a UC Irvine psychology researcher. Long, straight roads are your best bet.

Try a new route: Going through a neighborhood or down an unfamiliar street can make your commute more interesting. "It may not get you there any faster, but reminding yourself that you have options helps you be less frustrated," said transportation researcher and consultant Alan Pisarski.

• Call your partner (hands free, of course): In a survey of more than 2 million Swedes, Umeå University researchers found that couples are 40% more likely to get divorced if at least one partner commutes more than 45 minutes each way, in part because commuting takes away from time that can be spent together preparing meals or talking about your days.

• Don't always follow the money: Many would jump at the chance for a big raise at a new job, even if the commute is longer. But Swiss researchers found that people tend to overlook the stress of a long commute in favor of the benefits of a big yard or a third bedroom. People who commute for an hour each way must make 40% more to be just as satisfied with their lives as people who work from home, the study found.

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