Emotional Fitness

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Surviving a Man Made Disaster - How Los Angeles Eased the Pain of CAR-Mageddon

Los Angelinos ready themselves for a major freeway closure.

 L.A. Residents braced for a 10-mile shutdown of one of the busiest freeways in the world - the 405.

They’ve been talking about it with trepidation for weeks, and then it came. Those who could are left town, but for many who must make the drive, the closing of the 405 Freeway was a highly stressful event. Here are the tips they used to help them through, what proved to be, a peaceful weekend.

Make a driving plan. Know the available routes, and plan your trip. Visit www.sigalert.com/LosAngeles for up-to-the-date information. Check your Google traffic alerts to stay informed. And if you wondered why you invested in a smartphone…

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Mentally prepare. If, say, you have to go from the Valley to the airport, and they are saying it could take up to three hours… get your head in the right place. You will be able to make it. Visualize the trip going smoothly, open your sunroof, and enjoy the summer air. You have to make a positive experience out of it. This isn’t a lifestyle choice; it is a sound psychological technique that will work for a short-term situation like this one. You can do it.

Calm yourself. Listen to music, plan your mix or CD choices, and know that you can sing at the top of your lungs. Bring a friend to harmonize with. Hey, Steven Tyler may hear you.

Eat, drink and be merry. Avoid caffeine, which can make you extra jumpy and need to pee. In general, avoid too many liquids if you might get stuck in bad traffic. Bring a PowerBar or a snack.

Be productive. Make a call (safely with headset) you’ve been putting off, or call a friend you’ve wanted to catch up with, but no texting at the wheel, even if the traffic isn’t moving. It is going to feel better to be productive or social, especially if you can’t move. Besides whomever you’re talking to may hear about a new alternate route.

And if all else fails… 

Use public transportation. Another good one, but not if you have never done it before. You might be a little nervous trying the Metro for the first time. So do your research, check out the Metro Trip Planner at www.socialtransport.org. Other forms of public transportation that may help you are airport shuttles, which make other stops, and your local area dial-a-ride. And if you have the cash, you can always hire a town car. 

If you live near the danger zone:

Make it a stay-cation. Reconnect with your partner. Give each other a massage, send out for dinner or even breakfast, go to the movies, stay in bed for a day and rest. Avoid the panic and just be together. It doesn’t matter what you do. Vacation-ize. Pretend you are away, and do some things in your own neighborhood that you haven’t gotten around to yet.

Be productive. Clean out a closet or do that weekend task you’ve been putting off forever. It will renew your spirit and give you a feeling of accomplishment.

Get neighborly. Have a block party, knock on your neighbor’s door, and say hi.

Play in your garden. Or pretend you have one. Sit outside with an ice-cold class of lemonade.

Don’t pull out of the driveway. Yeah, I know, duh! But I guarantee you that someone is going to think, “Hey, everyone is staying home, so I can get to the beach easy!” Put on some comfortable shoes and take a walk.

Think positive, it will all be over soon. Keep your eye on the prize. When this is all over, we will have a new, improved 405, and won’t that make everyone’s life easier and more stress free?  Remember the Olympics? We were all warned it was going to be a nightmare…


Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, columnist, and radio host. His latest book is The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.


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