Transit delays are one of my main causes of stress because being late for work throws off my entire schedule. In fact, delays cause me so much stress that I often have recurring nightmares. The story typically begins as I oversleep my alarm, but only by fifteen minutes. You might think fifteen minutes isn’t a big deal, but we’re talking fifteen New York minutes, which can seem like an hour.

As the nightmare unfolds, I rush to the subway station, swipe my metrocard and get to the track, but the train doors shut out half my body. I try to shove my way in, but the subway car is packed. Forced to retreat, “I move away from the closing doors” and catch the next one fifteen minutes later.

When I get to Grand Central, I make my connection and head for the Constitution State (or is it the Nutmeg State). Before we move an inch, the conductor informs of a structure fire near Harlem-125th. We finally get moving after a fifteen minute delay, but the conductor comes on again and suggests that power lines are down in the Bronx. After another fifteen minute delay, the train now moves toward the state line, but heavy coastal winds knocked over a few trees and it takes fifteen minutes to get the branches off the tracks.

Miraculously, the train reaches my stop and I hop the first cab I see. Driving down the home stretch, we hit every red light along the way, which turns the five minute ride into a fifteen minute ride. My boss is furious as I arrive to work six hours late (seemingly). Right as she starts to yell, I wake up in a cold sweat. It was only a dream.

Sources & Effects of Stress:

Since all transit delays last fifteen minutes, even if you’re stuck for over an hour (according to the MTA), my “nightmare” may have something to do with real life. But when real stressful situations arise, our heart rate begins to speed up, sweating occurs, and anxiousness and/or panic sets in. On the opposite end, certain people are so acclimated to chronic stress that they’re immune to most of these effects. This is why stress is nicknamed “the silent killer.”

The source of your stress may be from one of the following reasons:

  • Traffic and other travel/commuting delays
  • Arguments
  • Failure to get work done on time
  • Interruptions or impromptu expectations (doing favors or helping others)
  • Mundane tasks (loading the dishwasher, making the bed, or taking out the trash)
  • Unhealthy eating or overeating
  • Lack of exercise
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Getting too much sleep
  • Excessive smoking or drinking
  • Drug use

Even though many of us feel the effects of stress, we don’t really perceive what it does to our body. For starters, chronic stress weakens our immune system and makes us more susceptible to sickness. If that’s not enough, stress also contributes to serious complications such as high blood pressure, premature aging, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.

As far as the eyes go, dry eye symptoms are worsened by stress. This is because stress triggers our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). When this is the case, normal tear production can be disrupted, which may cause discomfort.

Positive Stress Management:

The following ideas may help to manage stress positively:

  1. Exercise – Physical activity helps not only with stress, but with anxiety and depression as well.
  2. Change Your Outlook – It’s a big world out there, and it’s easy to focus on what’s wrong with it. Try redirecting your attention to some of the positive things in life.
  3. Face the Issue – Chances are you’ve dealt with this kind of stress before and/or the situation may not be as bad as you think. Once you get through the initial discomfort, things tend to get better.
  4. Talk About It – If there’s something on your chest, get it off. Healthy communication is an essential part of life and most problems can be reasonably worked through.
  5. Identify Negative Thoughts – Sometimes thoughts arise from out of nowhere. Instead of fighting the thought, analyze it to see if it actually make sense. It most likely doesn’t.
  6. Control the Things you CAN Control – Stress can be caused by situations out of our control (i.e., the Yankees are in 4th place). When this is the case, it’s our reaction that can be controlled (i.e., I know they’re trying to win).
  7. Have Some Fun – Life is short and it’s okay to enjoy it. There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun. When attempting this, make sure it’s on your own terms, and don’t feel guilty about it.
  8. Get the Right Amount of Sleep – Not enough sleep can make you feel groggy. Too much sleep can make you feel lazy. The right amount of sleep (night after night) makes you feel like a million bucks.
  9. Eat Healthier – I recommend an experiment for this one. Pick a morning, any morning. Eat three or four donuts, then analyze how it makes you feel. The next morning, eat some almonds, a couple of avocados, a few eggs, and some fresh fruit. Now, analyze how that makes you feel. Keep doing whichever one makes you feel better. Easier said than done, I know.
  10. Just Say No – We all have to figure things out on our own. Chances are, you don’t have the answer to other people’s problems. You may have some good advice, but only he/she can find the answer, if an answer is what’s truly being sought. Dealing with our own stress is hard enough, taking on more stress is like adding fuel to the fire.