There is an old saying of the two things you can’t avoid: death & taxes. I think they are missing traffic. Not just traffic but mind-numbing, pulse-elevating, I’m-going-to-go-Michael Douglas-from-Falling Down–crazy traffic. Now some people don’t mind traffic as much. I am not one of those people. I like to think I’m a pretty calm man who possesses sangfroid and balance, but put me in a car with crawling traffic and I become the Hulk.
On a side note, I love the irony of car commercials. In them, the driver is careening around sharp curves on picturesque mountain roads, blasting over sand dunes, and zipping past waves on the beach. The one thing missing: other cars! Why don’t they make an honest commercial where they place the car in which they are enticing you to buy in a situation where it will be 70% of the time: snarling city traffic.
Either way, here are 6 ways to soothe your anxiety and lessen that chance of an apoplectic stroke the next time you are in commuter hell.
Change your mindset
Most of us hate traffic because it is slowing us down from reaching our all-important destination. “I have to get there now!” we fulminate as we bang our steering wheel. But really in the cosmic grand scheme of things, is it that important that we get there in time to jeopardize our health and safety? Do you remember the times you were late 10, 5, or a year ago, much less 1 month ago? No, but think of the stress you accrued because of it.
Cognitive Behavior Therapists specialize in changing your thought process from something negative to positive. So with traffic, perhaps it is best to think “I hate not moving, but let me use this time to pray, or plan the rest of my day.” “Let me find a random new artist on Spotify.” In particular if you are going to a destination to which you might not be looking forward, appreciate the fact you are not there yet. Enjoy the solitude, or the company of a friend.
Screaming and stressing over the fact you are not moving is not going to speed up the traffic. Tell yourself that. It’s akin to when I tell my students who are fretting after taking a test like the SAT, “There is nothing you can do now to change the results. It is out of your hands. Stressing about it what help. Learn to let it go and put it out of your mind until you get the results.” Or you drive recklessly to avoid traffic.
Since you are captive in your vehicle, why not use the time in an effective manner? One way would be podcasting. If you are not familiar with podcasting, it is essentially “talk radio times 1,000.” Similar to how the Internet has democratized people’s opinions podcasting has shattered droll AM talk radio. Simply download the app and search whichever topic “floats your boat.” Comedy, politics, health, movies, sports….you name it..there is a podcast for it. Use this time to learn about a new hobby, catch up on politics, or get a good laugh.
Books on Tape
Audiobooks have been around for almost 25 years. They are nothing new under the sun. But they do offer the ability to “read” a book while driving. Sure, you can still get the CDs of a book, but now with apps like Audible you don’t need to do that. Listen to some classics like Crime & Punishment, or even the stultifying dull Moby Dick, or try some self-help books featuring life coaches. Like podcasting, whatever topic tickles your fancy, it is there for the taking. Change the mindset, if you are stuck in the car, why not escape to a fictional world far away or learn more about the world?
Connected to podcasting and audiotapes, one could tap into the meditational world simply by putting on a mindfulness or meditation program. Since you are stuck in the car, why not work in deep breathing, finding your center, and your inner calm. Just don’t close your eyes for too long!
Similar to meditation, praying can take your mind to another place. I’m a Catholic so during Lent it is customary for me to pray a Rosary once a day. Sometimes even in Latin. On occasion I would pray a while in the car. It didn’t always lower my stress in gridlock, but it did make me focus on Christ and other people’s problems.
Though unconventional, just embracing your anger and frustration about being in traffic might be the best option. The benefit of screaming and banging your wheel is that it is cathartic, meaning it allows you to release pent-up energy. Similar to exercising or journaling, just unleashing that pent-up anger might relax you in the long-run, lower your blood pressure, and release some much-needed endorphins.
These are just a few options of how to lower your stress level in the car. You could augment these recommendations by making an essential oil car freshener, (Click HERE to see our recipe.) using an anti-anxiolytic oil like lavender. Try these out and let me know in the comments below if it helped.
Click HERE to see why conventional air fresheners should be avoided.
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