by: Joshua Peters, M.A., R.P.
In our modern commuting lives, there may be nothing less infuriating than traffic and congestion. No doubt, in recent years there has been a notable jump in commute times across most Canadian cities and as a result a more significant presence of “road rage”. You might be all too familiar with the trademark experiences of road rage: the honking horns, the screams from passing cars, or the casual use of the middle finger. However, we’re less likely to have ways to help deal with the stress caused by traffic and congestion.
Here are some great tips to put the brakes on road rage:
1. Listen to audiobooks – Find and explore new subjects of interest to you that will both expand your mind as well as allow you to focus on something other than the cars around you.
2. Take Deep Breaths – This simple strategy can be quite effective in reducing stress. Try this: Get comfortable in your car seat, take in a deep breath in for four seconds, then hold this breath for seven seconds, and slowly breath out for another eight seconds. Try to relax your body as you slowly release this breath.
3. Get out of your head and into your body – Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our heads we forget about the rest of our experiences. Try this: While paying attention to traffic get comfortable in your car seat, start to notice where your body is making contact with the car, focus on a particular sensation, try to hold your concentration on the feeling, note any distractions, and then try to move your attention back to the sensation. To deepen this exercise, include deep breaths.
4. Be curious about the experiences of those in the cars around you – When we are face-to-face with someone, we can more easily experience empathy for others – but when they’re a car-length away, understanding can sometimes become difficult. When driving, try to imagine the lives and faces of the individuals in the cars around you. Like you, they’re bound to make mistakes. This empathy technique can help reduce feelings of anger and frustration.
5. Explore your musical tastes – Music can be an excellent way to decompress and bring feelings of happiness to commuting. However, it’s best to take notice of what type of music you’re playing. Is it aggressive or angry? It might not be the best time to explore this type of music when you’re behind the wheel. Try something more uplifting, relaxing, or neutral to keep calm and avoid anger.
6. Take the scenic route – Though not always possible, occasionally adding a few minutes onto your commute may be worth it to avoid congestion. Sometimes an extra ten minutes down a picturesque tree-lined street is ideal in comparison to a gloomy and congested highway.
7. Make congestion part of your decompression – This cognitive shuffle can help turnaround the way you feel about your commute home. Try looking at this period as a time you can leverage. Shift this time from being lost to instead being a valuable part of your day to disconnect, explore, or grow using some of the other strategies discussed in this article.
These tips should help you lessen some of the effects of road rage and traffic congestion. However, if you feel like your anger still feels out of control, it might be time to seek help. Skilled clinicians at CFIR can help you understand your experiences of anger and support you to build a more resilient and healthy self. Click here to book your free consultation now.