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Seen At 11: Stressful Commute Could Be Taking A Toll On Your Health, Experts Say

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Over the past few months, commutes on the rails, roads, and in the air have faced worse than ever delays and cancellations.

Worse than the angst of being late for work or a missed appointment, the stress of it all can literally be making you sick.

Commuter Jennifer Tang said she's endured plenty of subway delays, but says one in particular -- a power outage in January -- drove her to the breaking point.

"I was mentally and physically exhausted, I had this terrible shaking inside of me," she told CBS2.

A few weeks later, she says a doctor took her blood pressure and told her it was very high. Dr. Susanne Cooperman is a psychoanalyst who treats patients with extreme symptoms brought on by stressful commutes.

"The anxiety builds and builds, the adrenaline courses through your veins," she said. "It affects every cell in your body. You can become sick physically, but also emotionally."

Dr. Cooperman adds it also can impact sleep and concentration.

"It's more toxic to your body than PTSD," she said.

Kate Lawrence has what's known as "avoidance fears" and has completely stopped taking the train.

"My legs are a little shaky, my heart is racing," she said.

For Lawrence, Dr. Cooperman recommends taking small, slow steps to get used to it.

"So take a friend," she said. "Try to drive the subway for just one stop."

Even CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg has had his share of commuter stress.

"Whether it's planes, trains, automobiles, any type of transportation. The stress level goes up," he said. "So it's not a matter of whether or not you're going to get stressed, but how you're going to manage it."

Greenberg says having plenty of reading helps him stay calm. Dr. Cooperman says that's just one basic coping skill, something she teaches her patients to help them through difficult commutes.

"When you feel physically uncomfortable, just keep breathing, bringing it down, chat with people next to you," she said. "Try to normalize the experience."

Research shows a longer commute makes us less happy. There's added stress and resulting conditions, so those coping skills -- ranging from reading to taking a lunchtime walk -- are a must to stay healthy.

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