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Source: Unsplash. Creative Commons Zero.

Many of spend time in our cars feeling angry and frustrated due to heavy traffic or other disruptions. Here are some practical tips to make driving a more pleasant experience.

- Prioritize "problem focused coping" before "emotion focused coping." Problem-focused coping is when you use practical solutions to prevent or minimize problems, rather than just trying to cope with your emotions better. 

- For example, use a maps or traffic app to find out if you should take an alternate route due to an accident or slow down, even for routes you drive often, like your commute.

- Don't drive in rush hour if you have another option. Consider traffic when you're planning shopping trips or friend catch ups.  If traffic is a large problem, consider solutions like requesting to move your work day by an hour (start an hour later/leave an hour later), where relevant.  Don't rule out options like this before you've actually explored them thoroughly.  Sometimes we close ourselves off to potential solutions before we've really considered them.

- If you get extra stressed due to a tendency to run late, try always adding 15 mins to how long you expect it will take you to get anywhere.

Unsplash. Creative Commons Zero.
Source: Unsplash. Creative Commons Zero.

- Be organized. Have entertainment available so you can enjoy your driving time. For example, load podcasts or audiobooks, and keep your phone charged.  I have an older car so my phone doesn't connect to the car speakers.  Therefore, I use a $20 bluetooth speaker in the car so I can easily hear podcasts and have better sound.  

- Develop routines that ensure you always have something to look forward to while you're in the car.  Perhaps every Sunday you explore new podcasts or download an audiobook from your local library.

- If your workday and your commute are both intense, consider putting a time buffer in between e.g., go for a walk around the block at work before you drive home.  Having a wind down routine at work can help too e.g., spend the last 30 mins of your work day planning ahead for the next day.

- Switch up your transportation choices from time to time.  For example, let's say you always drive and could take a bus, but the bus would take an extra 15 minutes.  There might be sometimes when you'd prefer to take the bus and not need to drive yourself. Likewise, you might carpool with a friend once a week or once a fortnight to give you a chance to catch up with each other.

- Use harm minimization strategies.  For example, use a cooler bag to bring your shopping home. That way a traffic jam doesn't result in your ice-cream melting. You can usually ask for ice at the supermarket if needed.  These types of strategies will reduce the stress you feel because your frustration isn't compounded by these other problems. 

- If you have a smart phone, set it up so you can easily let people know using voice commands if you're running late.

- Be as physically comfortable as possible in the car.  For example, you might change out of your work clothes before leaving the office.  If you arrive home desperate for a coffee, snack, glass of water or needing to pee, attend to those things before leaving work, or take a water bottle in the car.

- In terms of managing your emotions, when you are stuck, accept it rather than trying to change lanes constantly to save 5 mins.

- If someone is driving legitimately dangerously, consider reporting it.  Turn your anger into a behavior that keeps everyone safer.

- If you're feeling easily irritated, take it as a sign you need some more breathing room in your life.

Author
Source: Author

Alice Boyes is author of The Anxiety Toolkit.  Get the first chapter free when you subscribe to my blog articles. You can read my post archive here.

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