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We’ve all stared blankly at our work computers and wondered something like, “Why on earth can’t I think of a synonym for ‘great’?” Don’t beat yourself up about it, you’re still great! If you aren’t giving yourself an essential brain break from work, that’s likely the cause of your mental block.

You don’t want to run yourself dry — it’s not humanly possible to work your mind 24/7. When you don’t allow for a brain break, you overwork your mental energy. This leads to negative consequences such as careless decisions and reduced effectiveness in daily activities. This not only applies to your eight hours in the office, but also when you’re clocked out during the drive home.

Most of us spend our thinking time in the car, and you’d be surprised how many Americans can’t leave work at the office. Think back to your latest time on the road and recall how you spent your mental energy. Did you ruminate while driving, therefore draining your energy at work? Or think about things that caused you to act with anger on the road?

To uncover whether there’s a correlation between road rage and work stress, we polled 1000 Americans to review what they think about on the road. Having work reflections or stressful thoughts while driving may impact your productivity in the office and lead to road rage. Instead of dwelling on work during your commute, we want you to jump into work feeling your best.

commute and work stress statistics

40% of the population has a hard time pressing the snooze button on stressful work thoughts. Concentrating on these stressors behind the wheel is distracting and can lead to ignoring what’s going on presently, like acknowledging the car in front of you or the traffic light turning green. You’re more likely to miss the present moment if your mind wanders to bad feedback at work — plus, this drains the thinking power that you’ll need for your workday. Unfortunately, the car can be an easy place to start this vicious cycle.

Is Work Stress Also Contributing to Road Rage?

Imagine this: you’ve only finished the introduction of your report due to your boss today — meaning you’re about to start scrambling to somehow piece the rest of the report together before noon. Sound familiar? How about this: the stress from that dreadful report causes you to hold the car horn five seconds longer than intended to alert the god-awful driver in front of you. Yep, we’ve all been there.

Road rage from work stress affects over three out of 10 drivers. Not only do work thoughts on the commute drain people’s energy but they cause drivers to act out against others on the road, leading to potentially hazardous situations — or simply ruining someone’s day.

Which Drivers Are Most Affected By Work Stress?

It’s an endless cycle when you overwork your mind thinking about past actions and problems from work. Even knowing this, many drivers are affected by work on their commute:

  • Drivers aged 35–44 are the most likely to think about work on their commute.
  • 41.2% of drivers aged 18–24 claim they never think about work on their commute but are the most likely age group to experience road rage from work stress.
  • Nearly 1 out of 5 drivers aged 18–24 blame work stress for their road rage.

By practicing better habits on the road, we can halt the issue of work stress while commuting — leading to a more successful day at work.

5 Proven Methods to Decrease Work Stress On Your Commute

So how can we relax and detach on our commutes? By replacing our negative thoughts in the car with productive ones. You deserve a mental break to refresh on your drive to and from work. Plus, taking work breaks has been proven to prevent “decision fatigue” and restore motivation. You’re doing yourself a favor by practicing good mental behaviors because you’ll avoid future strain.

Throw out the old stressful habits and bring in the new — you’ll thank us when you see an increase in productivity at work.

1. Instead of Dwelling On Work Thoughts — Say Your Goals Out Loud

commute and work stress method 1

The solutions to work problems don’t involve continuously replaying them in your mind but instead acting upon them. It’s not crazy to talk out loud to yourself! Research shows there are benefits to talking out loud when there is positive intent. Creating goals for yourself is wonderful, especially if you remind yourself of them every day. They can help keep you going during the workday. Your goals can be for anything, not just work. Here are some things you may want to create goals around:

  1. Hours of sleep per night
  2. Work out regimen
  3. Eating healthily
  4. Milestones for passion projects
  5. Books to read
  6. Learning a new language or concept

Having your goals in mind (or saying them aloud in the car) helps you achieve them. With goals instead of worries, your commute will energize you.

Ways to practice: Have a sticky note in the car of your goals and say them out loud or record yourself.

2. Instead of Reciting Your Presentation, Listen to a Meditation Playlist

commute and work stress method 2

It’s great to strive for a perfect presentation, but keep this preparation within your work hours. Rehearsing your presentation outside of the office may make you more susceptible to road rage.

So what can you do to prevent road rage and feel ready for your presentation? You can meditate and create a peaceful environment in your car that no one can disrupt — even the person who cut you off at the intersection. Interestingly, practicing right before your presentation can stress you out. Creating a calm mental space will lead to a positive outcome.

There are numerous driving meditations that can be found on YouTube or apps such as Headspace and Calm. These meditations can help remind you of the peace you’re welcoming into your daily commute.

Ways to practice: Practice creating a calm mental space with recorded meditations.

3. Instead of Answering a Message From Your Boss, Use the Time to Catch Up With Family and Friends

commute and work stress method 3

A work message may appear urgent in our minds, but that sense comes from our anxieties. If you step back and realize that a message from work isn’t as pressing as it seems, you’ll likely feel more at ease.

To make up for that false sense of urgency, try calling up your family and friends while you’re bumper to bumper on your commute instead of frantically picking up the phone for work. In fact, your family and friends probably haven’t heard from you in a while and are waiting for you to check in. There must be an old friend you’ve been meaning to call, and your parents also appreciate hearing your voice — why not make their day with a simple ring? Please stay safe and always use a hands-free device.

Ways to practice: Have close friends and family’s phone numbers on speed dial.

4. Instead of Stressing Over Unresolved Work Issues, Repeat Positive Mantras

commute and work stress method 4

Stress affects your productivity, mental health and physical condition. Ask yourself: “Would this straining work matter to me in a month, week or even a day?” Usually, the answer is less than a week, which means that the issue will be resolved soon and stressing over it won’t help you reach a solution.

To help get your mind off work stress when you’re on the road, you can repeat positive mantras out loud during your commute. See below for some great mantras:

  1. I recognize my own gifts and talents.
  2. I will focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t.
  3. There is beauty in my unique differences.
  4. I am grateful for all my learning experiences.
  5. I feel healthy, I feel happy, I feel terrific.
  6. Today is a blessing and a gift.
  7. I believe in myself.

If your stress is from rushing to work, realize it’s better to calmly run a few minutes behind than be stressed and on time. When you rush, you create a time pressure on yourself that’s unnecessary. When you notice yourself rushing, repeat one of our mantras above or tell yourself “It’s okay I am running behind,” while taking deep breaths.

Ways to practice: Grab mantras from our list or create your own based off ours.

5. Instead of Listening to a Podcast About Your Job, Listen to New Podcasts or Audiobooks Topics

commute and work stress method 5

Instead of mixing work into your personal time, tune in to audiobooks or podcasts that motivate you or teach you a new topic — this will benefit your mood. In fact, a study found that listening to podcasts or audiobooks encourages you to visualize the story in your mind. This can increase your attention span, boost creativity, and enhance imaginative thinking. Plus, you’ll learn new things, therefore growing your knowledge base.

View our extensive list of podcast recommendations and find what you’re interested in from one of our many categories.

Ways to practice: Set reminders to turn on a creative podcast or audiobook when you get in your car.

Instead of sharing road rage with other drivers, you’ll be sharing smiles and waves. You’ll also feel more zen and energized at work with these new productive commuting habits. Throw away those bad habits to avoid stressful mental block at work. These productive car practices can be used anytime — whether you’re road tripping or renting a car in a new city.

commute and work stress


This commuting study was conducted for CarRentals using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of 1,000 respondents, with an average RMSE score of 4.0%. This survey was conducted in September 2019.