How a “Fake Commute” Can Restore Your Mental Health This Quarantine

By Belo Medical Group on October 9, 2020

Let’s take a brief journey to those hazy pre-pandemic days, back when we didn’t realize how convenient we had it—we were free to go out to dinner with friends, take weekend beach trips, or scurry excitedly to the office pantry, no social distancing necessary, because it was somebody’s birthday and there was cake. (Chocolate, to be exact.) But back then, we also dedicated 3-4 precious hours commuting to the office and back. We got stuck in traffic. We had to compete for empty bus seats. We had to wait 45 minutes for a rideshare. These were not great times.

Fast-forward to the present: Now, there are no punctuations between work and home. It seems most of us get out of bed and saunter right over to our computers, then head right back to bed when all is said and done. The morning commute that allows us to leave household worries behind, and the evening commute that signals to our brains that work is done for the day, is no longer available to us. That’s why people everywhere have come up with a solution: a “fake commute” to divide your day efficiently…and restore your mental health.

What’s a “fake commute”?

A “fake commute” is any ritual you do before your work day begins and after it ends. For Dr. Damien Lyons, a lecturer in Sydney, it means getting into his car—work clothes and all—and driving around his neighborhood for 10 minutes before going back home to start his day. For Marianna Hewitt, the co-founder of skincare brand Summer Fridays, it means taking a short walk in the morning and evening. And for Ian Silvera, account director of Newgate Communications, it means heading to the park and sitting on the bench to people-watch for a little bit. It’s completely up to you. Whether it means taking a 5-minute stroll around your condo complex or simply brewing a cup of tea in the morning with the same mug you used back at the office, as long as it signifies “ritual” to you, then that’s your fake commute.

What can a fake commute do for my mental health?

Let’s face it—spending 16 hours straight working at home while your children are running around can mess with your mind for a bit. Morning and evening rituals are important because they serve as mental bookends—they tell your mind when it’s time to switch gears between work and home. According to University of Melbourne associate professor Terry Bowles, “commuting provides an opportunity to adjust to a different role, for example from parent to worker, and the habit gives the brain a bit of a break.” 

In short, it’s great for compartmentalizing the mind and sharpening your focus. And this will help you not only become more productive, this will also ensure that work thoughts don’t encroach on your much-deserved rest hours.

With the way things are looking, we may all be working from home until mid- or end-2021. While we all take measures to protect our physical health, we shouldn’t let our mental health go by the wayside. And pandemic or no pandemic, morning walks are pretty nice. It couldn’t hurt to stretch our legs for a bit. ◼︎

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