By Jamie Sussel Turner ~
If you drive you’ve got stress.
Here’s one small example:
My husband and I are captive in bumper to bumper traffic on a nine-hour drive to Toronto. The signs warn us that two lanes are closed up ahead. I can’t stop watching a woman in a gray Hyundai who keeps pulling inches from the car in front of her, as if tailgating will save some time. All I can think is, She’s about to cause an accident.
I see her elbow hanging out of the car window, her hand tap, tap, tapping the side of her car. This is one anxious driver. To be honest, that might have been me years ago. I would get annoyed by every minor traffic tie up and driver who cut me off. All this driving stress isn’t good for us. It can raise our blood pressure, result in angry outbursts, and put stress on our relationships.
Driving can be hazardous to our health—even without accidents!
So, what’s going on?
Well, there’s a lot that’s out of our control when we’re driving. This can make us very reactive. We also have habits from decades of driving that feel impossible to break.
Thankfully, I’ve come to learn that we don’t have to be stressed when driving. We really can stay calm in this kind of situation. We just need to realize we have options and be willing to try them out.
Then we can learn to become less crazed and more calm drivers.
Here are my best 5 tips:
1. Spot your stress: Notice if you’re tightly gripping the steering wheel or holding your breath. These are signs of stress and when you spot them you’ll realize that you can make a choice to calm down.
2. Breathe: Press a mental pause button and take a few deep, calming breaths. You’ll slow your heart rate and give yourself a moment to think.
3. Talk to yourself: Our negative thinking can kick our stress into high gear. So, when a driver cuts you off, instead of thinking this, “What an idiot,” try staying curious with thinking like this, “I wonder what’s going on with that driver?” or gratitude with thinking like this, “Thank goodness we didn’t crash.”
4. Leave a colossal cushion of time: Extra travel time equals extra calm. Being in a rush exacerbates our stress. So, estimate your trip’s time frame and add a substantial time cushion.
5. Be grateful: Focus on what’s good in the same moment when you’re feeling stress. After spotting a hidden police car, I recently realized that the slow as molasses driver in front of me may have kept me from getting a speeding ticket. Gratitude is one of the best antidotes to stress.
Some of the seemingly calmest people I know have a completely different 4-letter word type of persona when they get behind the wheel.
When I shared this post with my chill 87-year old neighbor, Sheila, she cracked me up with her strategy for handling annoying drivers,
“I curse at them. And even though I know they can’t hear me I feel better.”
If a momentary release of tension works for you, go with it! But also realize that the above five tips can be helpful too.
So, I’d say that calmer drivers are safer drivers and we can all have less driving stress when we make the choice to choose calm.
For more on how to live a less stress life check out my award-winning book: Less Stress Life: How I Went from Crazed to Calm and You Can Too