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There Are Steps You Can Take To Minimize The Stress Of Commuting

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A typical Chicago road commute. (CBS)

A typical Chicago road commute. (CBS)

Mary Kay Kleist Mary Kay Kleist
Mary Kay Kleist is a meteorologist for CBS 2 Chicago. Kleist joined...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — Whether you drive to work or take the train, the miles and minutes really add up and could impact your health.

As CBS 2′s Mary Kay Kleist reports, new research suggests that there might be a high personal price to pay for commuters.

Let’s face it, the daily grind of getting to and from work takes a toll.

“It’s not so pleasant on the train, either, with so many people, and I worry about getting sick.  I worry the time I lose,” Metra commuter Al Coleman says.

Health psychologist Greg Petersen of Northwestern says all that time spent either in a train car or on the expressway can lead to mental health issues down the road.

“Commutes tend to make people focus on things that have them feeling kind of helpless and out of control,” he says.

And that leads to stress.

“I rush home to see my daughter before I put her down for bed.  I lose two hours just sitting on the train getting there,” Coleman says.

Long-term stress can lead to heart disease, diabetes, headaches and digestive problems.

“Additionally, emotionally, we’re going to be depleted and therefore more vulnerable to increased irritability, depression, anxiety,” Dr. Petersen says.

It can also lead to divorce.  A Swedish study found couples are 40 percent likelier to divorce if one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes a day.

Another big issue with commuting is pollution, whether it’s smog from factories alongside roadways or the exhaust you breathe in from buses and trucks on the road or from trains while you wait on the platform.

Jennifer Weuve is a scientific researcher from Rush University Medical Center.  She studied 19,000 older women and found a link between long-term exposure to air pollutants and faster cognitive decline.

Other studies have found an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.

Dr. Weuve says particles go deeper in the lung and into your blood stream. They can trigger asthma and impair fetal development.

Even Dr. Weuve is worried about the air she breathes during her commute.  So, she makes one simple change in her car: She hits the recirculate button to limit her exposure to pollutants.

Make the most of your time off work by finding things you enjoy. Also, a healthy diet and regular workouts help keep stress levels down.

Here are some additional tips:

–Exercise regularly. Even 30 minutes of daily exercise can reduce the stress you experience during a long sedentary commute.

–Have healthy snacks available; hunger can lead to frustration.

–Leave earlier from home. This avoids anxiety when the clock is ticking closer to your morning meeting.

–Load your favorite tunes; music can boost your mood.

– Carpool. Chatting will prevent your mind from obsessing over problems in your life.

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