10 Things You Can Do to Stay Sane and Productive While Stuck in Traffic

Everyone who commutes in Metro Manila, and other parts of the Philippines, is familiar with the term “May forever sa EDSA.” (There is forever in EDSA.) The phrase is meant to depict the long hours commuters spend in traffic when going to their work places as they travel through Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA).

No need to go insane when stuck in traffic.

I myself have sworn off commuting during rush hour but working people have to survive through the struggle each day to earn a living. Whether you’re driving your car or stuck in a bus or the MRT with other commuters, you can still be productive with the help of your mobile phone and headphones and I don’t mean listening to the radio.

Here are 10 things you can do to stay sane and productive while stuck in traffic.

1. Listen to A Podcast

A podcast allows you to listen to specific topics you are interested in and people you look up to. There are thousands of podcasts you can download online and listen to. You can even download mp3 versions of a video and listen to it instead.

Try searching for TedX videos on YouTube and convert it to mp3. You can also try podcasts from thought leaders who are also on these channels. One of the people I listen to is Tim Ferris and his podcast is available on his website The Tim Ferris Show and on iTunes.

2. Listen to An Audio Book

Ideally, you can spend your commute time holding a book in your hands and turning the pages. However, with the jam-packed state of public transport, being stuck on a bus or a train doesn’t leave much room for such a leisurely activity. So why not listen to an audio book instead?

With an audio book, you can still enjoy the adventures you want to read on the page without having to bring the actual book along. I like listening to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Plus, for some books, you can even pick the narrator so you can listen to someone telling you the story in a soothing female voice, a deep male voice or in some cases, even the author’s voice.

You can find free audio books at Open Culture.

3. Learn a New Language

Getting to talk to the locals in their native language when traveling abroad is a great experience. While you’re stuck in traffic, get ready for your next travel adventure by learning a new language. Pick a destination you want to go to and learn the language. Check out Open Culture for free language lessons.

You usually pick up on the conversational words by watching their TV shows. I know most of us have at one point or another encountered and maybe even got addicted to K-Dramas, so go and learn Korean so you can totally understand your favorite oppa without reading subtitles.

4. Memorize Your Favorite Song

What’s your LSS (Last Song Syndrome)? If you’re like me, you probably only know the chorus but the rest of the song escapes you. So, download your favorite song and listen closely to how it is sung. You can memorize the lyrics effortlessly this way too. Just remember not to sing along so you don’t embarrass yourself. Just hum along softly instead.

5. Memorize A Poem

Have you recently read a poem that you really love because you can relate to it so much? Then find an audio copy and listen to it to memorize it. This is a nice way to share something with your friends. Instead of passing the text to them and asking them to read, which they probably will be too lazy to do, recite it to them instead.

If you’ve got a piece you wrote, then record yourself while reading it so you can memorize it and impress your friends even more. Delivering it personally makes the message even more special and endearing.

6. Meditate

If you want to drown out the noise and let go of stress, then you can meditate. Meditation can be done with or without music. If you’re just starting out, use guided meditation music to set the mood. Be sure to concentrate on the activity so you don’t come out of the meditation more stressed instead of relaxed.

There are a lot of meditation audios you can download online. You can choose from music with someone guiding you to just pure nature sounds like birds chirping in the background or the sound of the ocean waves. Here’s a 15-minute meditation focused on healing. I use these kinds of meditation when I’m feeling menstrual pain for example.

Just remember to pick one that won’t make you feel drowsy. So test it at home first and see which meditation is most effective in relaxing you, clearing your mind and energising you.

7. Listen to Affirmations

Feeling down lately? Have someone tell you everything’s going to be alright by listening to affirmations. Unlike meditation, affirmations focus on words and phrases that affirm your goals so you feel better and more confident. You can also choose affirmations that target specific areas in your life from enhancing your confidence to healing or general affirmations that make you feel positive about life.

There are videos that you can convert into audio format that you can download like this morning affirmation but you can also write your own affirmations and record yourself reading it. You can listen to your own voice, as though it is your other self, telling you your best traits or the traits you want to develop. It may sound weird or even creepy but whether it’s your voice or someone else’s, it does work wonders to lift your mood and your perception of self-worth so you can pursue your goals more confidently.

8. Visualize Your Goals

What do you want to achieve today? How about for the long term? How would you look, walk and dress when you are finally successful? How will success feel? As you wait to reach your destination, ask yourself these questions and try to imagine yourself already enjoying success. Here’s one from Bob Procter that I often listen to.

No, you are not being self-centered but you are focusing on your goals and how enjoyable success can be. Just like dressing up for the job you want, you need to get familiar with the feeling of success before you even make it. This way, you can sustain your enthusiasm to pursue your goals and you attract more opportunities to realize it with the positive vibes you are generating from your visualizations.

When you visualize, imagine the positive outcomes and don’t nitpick on how it will happen. Just focus on the end result and immerse yourself in the feeling of enjoyment.

9. Breathing Exercises

You may be running late due to the traffic but instead of feeling anxious, breathe to calm down. You have a better chance of handling anything the day throws at you with a clearer mind and calmer attitude.

Follow the 4-7-8 breathing exercise routine and practice it at home. I do this when I am feeling overwhelmed with work so I can relax and refocus. Exhale through your mouth. Then close your mouth when you inhale through your nose for 4 counts. Hold your breath for 7 counts then slowly exhale through your mouth for 8 counts.

This may be difficult to do at first but just practice at home so you can do it anytime you need to.

10. Abdominal Exercises

No time to exercise but still dreaming of getting defined abs? That’s me for so many years now but I have found that there are some abdominal exercises you can do while sitting down or even while standing up.

Just try contracting your abdominal muslces and letting go. Try to hold each contraction for 8 counts. You should feel your stomach area tightening for the 8 counts. Don’t do it too excessively though because you might feel muscle pains the next day which would make it challenging to move or even laugh.

Make sure that you maintain an awareness of your surroundings as you commute.


For any of these options, be sure to maintain awareness of your surroundings so you don’t get victimized by pick-pocketers for example. Also, be sure to test audio materials at home so you know you wont’ fall asleep when you listen to them while traveling. There are meditation trakcs that make me fall asleep so I don’t use that when traveling to work. As much as possible, pick audio materials with playing time that you can adjust to coincide with your actual travel time.

We hope these tips will keep you occupied and productive as you brave through the daily traffic.

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