Who Else Wants to Make Driving a Less Stressful Experience?

A recent Time Magazine story reported that Americans spend an average of 204 hours a year commuting, and for most workers, that means driving their car.

The same article cited numerous studies about the effects of so much time on the road, including increased levels of blood sugar and cholesterol, higher rates of depression and anxiety, and lower rates of cardiovascular fitness, life satisfaction, and happiness.

It’s no wonder that driving can put significant stress on your body and mind. You need to force yourself to stay alert. You wonder about what you’re missing while you’re stuck in traffic. You may even be fuming about another driver who cut you off or almost rear-ended you.

If you’re starting to think that the situation is out of your control, think again.

Take some of the stress out of your daily drive with these proven strategies:

Managing the Situation

1. Budget more time. Traffic jams are less frustrating when you’re not running late. Give yourself an extra 10 or 15 minutes for any trip.

2. Plan your route. Check online for construction work and accidents. On the other hand, ensure your alternate plans will really save you time and not take you too far out of your way.

3. Switch your hours. If your boss is cooperative, you may be able to avoid rush hour completely. Ask about telecommuting or coming in an hour earlier or later. Maybe you could do it part of the week or on a trial basis.

4. Bring entertainment. Stock up on audiobooks and podcasts. Listen to your favorite music. The time will pass more quickly and you may learn valuable lessons.

5. Turn off your phone. On the other hand, you might want to cut down on technology if your phone is distracting you. Turn the volume off until you reach your destination.

6. Sit up straight. Your posture could be creating aches and stiffness that make any irritation worse. Draw back your shoulders, open your chest, and lift your head if you have a tendency to hunch over the steering wheel.

7. Eat something. Is your stomach rumbling? Enjoy a small, balanced meal before you leave home. Pack a cooler with nutritious snacks like yogurt, nuts, and carrot sticks to keep in your car.

8. Sleep well. Driving when you’re exhausted is dangerous. Call a cab or pull over to avoid harming yourself or someone else.

9. Take breaks. On long road trips, stop and get out of your car at least every 2 hours. Walk around and stretch your arms and legs.

Managing Your Reaction

1. Breathe deep. Whether you’re dealing with backseat drivers or merging on a busy highway, use your breath to soothe yourself. Inhale and exhale fully and slowly.

2. Develop compassion. Instead of becoming angry with another driver who seems rude or aggressive, imagine the stress they might be under. Try to empathize.

3. Evaluate your role. Switch your attention from making judgments about other drivers to examining your own actions. Assess your emotions and question your assumptions. Be willing to forgive your fellow commuters when they make a mistake.

4. Lay off the horn. Remember that your horn is not a comment button. Use it gently and only when necessary to get another driver’s attention.

5. Play it safe. When you see driving that is clearly aggressive or erratic, keep your distance. Stay in your vehicle even if they pull over. If you want to do something constructive, report their license plate to the police.

Make driving more pleasant by thinking creatively about your transportation options and changing your attitude. You may be able to shorten your commute or at least make it more enjoyable.

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