An enjoyable summer is behind us, the kids are back in school, fall is in the air, and everything seems just right…until you start driving and get caught in traffic! Suddenly it seems like the heat of summer is returning, only it’s all concentrated under your collar…
It’s easy to get upset in traffic; after all, our best laid plans have been disrupted in ways seemingly beyond our control.
We get a little spoiled during the summer months when traffic congestion eases a bit. We’re able to leave a little later for work, or drive a little more leisurely on our way to appointments, and then as August ends, wham! We’re quickly reminded we have to plan our morning commute better.
And that’s what it takes – planning. You can’t control the traffic lights, or the buses, or the poor driver ahead of you, so take control of the things you can control. Here are some tips for keeping your cool when the road you’re traveling on reminds you of a parking lot:
Plan ahead – there’s usually a small window of time each morning that if caught can help get you going where you need to go in short order; so, catch it! Go to bed a little earlier and then set the alarm a few minutes earlier to get you and your car moving safely through the streets before traffic gets bad.
Search out alternative routes to your destination – back roads are often less congested than main thoroughfares, and more scenic.
Breathe – when upset we typically take shallower breaths, which means a little less oxygen being delivered to our bodies, which can be irritating , which gets us upset, and we breathe a little less deeply, and – well, you get the picture. When you find your self stuck in traffic take a big inhale through your nose to a count of 4, hold your breath to a count of 7, and exhale through your mouth to a count of 8 (you can practice this 4+7+8 breathing exercise with Dr. Russ). Repeat the cycle, but no more than 4 times. Simply performing this breathing exercise can take the edge off your frustration.
Enjoy the moment – how often during the course of your day do you get to stop, I means really stop? Looked at another way, the time you spend stuck in traffic is time to think, time to listen to a favorite song, even a little time to rest if you frame the experience in a positive light.
Don’t beat your self up – so maybe you didn’t leave as early as you could have and now you’re in slow-moving traffic with a fast-moving pulse trying not to be late. Lighten up – you’re going to get to your destination, you didn’t create the traffic jam and you can’t control it. “It is what it is” – just don’t make it worse by taking unnecessary chances that could result in an accident, or at least an angry glare from the driver of the next car over.
Give public transportation a try – let someone else handle the headache of driving in traffic as you relax with your fellow citizens in comfort. Maybe you’ll read the newspaper, listen to your iPod, or bring a book along to read. Or maybe you’ll just relax and take it all in, really being present in the moment for a change.
Yes, it’s a hassle being caught in traffic, but it’s really only a minor hassle in the grand scheme of things. That is, until we get all wound up and vent our frustration in unhealthy ways. Take control of what you can to avoid daily traffic in the first place. If you do get caught in traffic, there’s little you can do about it except make the journey as peaceful and enjoyable as possible. So instead of losing your cool, just be well.
** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **