How to survive the rush-hour commute in London (or in any other big city)

When you live in London you notice that people mostly moan about 2 things – the weather and the daily commute to and from work. According to the BBC, in 2019 Londoners spend an average of 1 hour and 21 minutes on the commute. In my case, for the last 3 weeks its been that long ONE WAY!

I personally find it very difficult to manage that time of the day. It’s hot, you’re being stuffed into trains like sardines into a can and why do you always end up with someone’s smelly armpit in your face?? Needless to say, I’m struggling, but I’m also managing to find ways to help me deal with it, which is what I’d like to share with you today.

I’ve always liked the saying “If you can do something about it – do it. If you can’t – stop worrying about it”. So that being said, my number one tip is…

London commute

Move closer to work

This obviously isn’t always possible, especially if you have your own house or if you have a family, but if you’re a free spirit like me, then moving close to work may not seem so extreme.

When I moved to London, I asked my uncle for advice on where to live, and he told me to live close to work, as that is where I’ll have to go every day. I’ve done this with every single job I had and I must say that that is the best piece of advice anyone’s given to me. It’s saved me loads of time, stress and anxiety. Not to mention I could roll out of bed at 8:45 and still make it to work by 9:00. Those of you who know me personally, know that I’ve never been a morning person…

So the last 3 weeks were temporary for me, whilst I was waiting to take on my new tenancy closer to work, but during that time I’ve picked up a few tips on how to handle getting up early and making the commute to work.

Get a pair of noise-cancelling headphones

This one really saved me. I bought my Bose QuietControl headphones at my last job because the noise in the office was terrible, but I found them to be a heaven sent on the trains! Not only do you shut out the noise around you, but you also distract your brain from your situation.

Now I know they’re expensive, but honestly they are SO worth it! I can’t imagine living without them now. They’re small, comfortable (and no they didn’t pay me to write this, I just love them) and they have amazing quality noise cancellation. I remember going to the Bose shop and my headphones had better noise cancellation than the big bulky ones, and they take up so much space in your bag.

London commute

Listen to audio books or inspirational talks

To get myself ready for the day I usually listen to some kind of motivational speech, like Tony Robbins. He’s very energising and tells good stories. My latest obsession is listening to audiobooks on Audible. My favourite’s so far are “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker (omg, EVERYONE must read this!!) and “The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did)” by Philippa Perry (you don’t need to be a parent to read this, it’s a must-read for everyone). That way, you’re not just wasting time during your commute, but you’re also doing something useful for your mind and spirit. Take any opportunity to learn something, to grow internally or even to distract yourself with a good book.

Some people take this opportunity to learn a new language. It may look funny if you suddenly start speaking to yourself in French on the tube… but remember that this is London, just yesterday I saw someone go to a supermarket in a unicorn onesie, on a scooter…

Listen to calming music or meditations

Whereas in the morning I like to motivate myself with something inspiring, during the evening commute (and at lunch times) I personally prefer to relax and listen to something soothing, like Praful. Your brain has done enough work for the day, you need to give it time to calm down too.

Guided meditations are also a great thing to listen to. There are plenty you can buy, or there are also apps like Insight Timer that have lots of free music, meditations and courses (but courses you need to pay for, though they are super cheap). I tried downloading Headspace, the one that has all those annoying YouTube videos with the terrible cartoons, but I found you can’t listen to anything for free and it wasn’t very user friendly, whereas Insight Timer seemed to offer a lot more.

London commute rush hour

Close your eyes

This one goes hand in hand with wearing headphones, but even without headphones, closing your eyes does wonders during the commute (just try not to fall asleep and miss your stop, like I do every week!).

I discovered something shocking last winter when I went to Moscow for the first time in 6 years. When I went down into the Metro (i.e. underground), I felt a real sense of relaxation, despite the people and noise. Then I realised something incredible – there are NO advertisements ANYWHERE in the Metro.

Here in London we have a huge amount of visual pollution, and we sometimes don’t realise just how badly it affects us until we’re placed in a similar situation elsewhere. For me it was a big deal, I haven’t been able to go on the tube without feeling stressed and I try as much as I can to close my eyes or look down, so I’m not seeing the ads. It’s terrible, in my opinion, how much we are affected by this stuff and how we don’t have a choice in the matter.

London commute

Find an alternative route to work

As you can probably tell, I can’t stand the tube. So I found a way to avoid it and take the bus instead. Sure, it takes me an extra 10 minutes, but the bus is calm, doesn’t have ads, isn’t hot and is usually not crowded, so I can actually make my way to work in peace.
Other options include walking or cycling (or even skateboarding, why not?), if you live close enough. Car pooling is also an option, depending on where you live. From my experience, there’s usually a way to make your route to work just a little but more tolerable with a few adjustments!


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