How To Do Life

Fresh ideas about career and personal issues

Driving While Relaxed

Eight techniques for replacing road rage with commute calm.

Gemma Longman CC 2.0
Some people are preternaturally calm. They can be in gridlock for an hour, with drivers cutting in front of them, and they remain in the zone. Alas, others’ blood pressure soars at the first brake light.

It may be impossible to convert a physiologically triggered Type A who secretes lots of adrenaline in response to stressors into a Type B. But it may be possible to take some of the edge off driving’s stress.  Might any of these strategies help you?

  • Leave extra time. I know that Type A people, addicted to adrenaline, have a hard time doing that, but if you allow an extra 10 percent of time, you will feel so much better during your drive. Those few minutes provides a comfy cushion against driving’s slings and arrows.  Worst case, you arrive a few minutes early.
  • Have an audiobook at the ready. Immersed in the book, you may care less that you’re in traffic.
  • Listen to music with full attention. We often listen to great music with one ear. If you really listen to its nuances, you’ll derive pleasures greater than you might imagine.
  • Make phone calls, business or personal. Type A’s love multitasking and thus by taking care of your phone calls while driving, traffic can be your friend. You may even be more relaxed and less rushed in your phone calls knowing you can’t be doing anything else.
  • Remind yourself that releasing adrenaline and cortisol is unhealthy, especially if frequent. If you’re the typical commuter, you’re going to be in that traffic mess five days a week. If you let yourself get upset each time there’s traffic, it will take a toll on your health and certainly on the kind of human being you’ll be when you reach your destination: You’ll likely be more curt and/or tired.
  • When you hit that traffic, breathe slowly and deeply, taking twice as long for your exhalation.
  • Feel empathy for your fellow driver. The person who’s cutting you off is probably in a real rush or a lesser human being than you are. In either case, be grateful for you and your situation. Yes, I know that’s easier said than done.
  • If possible, take your dog or cat with you and pet them as you’re driving. My doggie, Einstein often sits on our lap when my wife or I are driving. If he’s not and I’m stressed, I call him over. He’s my stress buster. It’s hard to be stressed with a sweetie pie nuzzled up against you and making contented noises as you pet him.

Doing the above will not only de-stress your drive but make it seem shorter.

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia.

Marty Nemko is a career and personal coach based in Oakland, Ca. and the author of 7 books. 
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