Reduce your road rage with this expert advice
By Lori Murray Posted February 11, 2010 from www.womansday.com
If your daily commute is fraught with traffic congestion, road rage and irresponsible drivers, you’re not alone. Since 1987, the number of miles driven in the United States has increased 35 percent, while the miles of pavement increased by only 1 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s too many automobiles and not enough roads to accommodate them all. Fortunately, the following sure-fire tips will help to alleviate the angst and put you on the road to a healthier commute.
1. Don’t rush. Perhaps nothing is more stressful than not having enough time to reach your destination, so plan ahead. “Take a few minutes in the morning or in the evening to set your intentions,” says Terri Kennedy, PhD, MBA, president of Power Living Enterprises and Yoga Alliance board member. “This puts you in control of your day.” Plan what you will wear and gather everything you need—cell phone, keys, lipstick—in one place.
2. Relax your body. Mentally scan your body from head to toe to find the tense areas, which will probably be in your shoulders, neck, head or back. Then physically drop those areas, says Leslie Mendoza Temple, MD, medical director of the Integrative Medicine Program at NorthShore University Health System. This will help to release the tension.
3. Practice breathing exercises. Reduce stress by slowing your breathing. Simply inhale through your nose and then exhale. Gradually increase the exhalation phase so that it is longer than the inhalation phase, says Dr. Mendoza Temple, increasing the ratio from 1:2 to 1:3 and then 1:4. “This calms the heart down immediately,” she says. “When you think about breathing, you can’t really think about much more, which makes it a positive distraction.”
4. Sit up straight. Like breathing, being conscious of good posture helps to eliminate negative thoughts. “Make sure your shoulders are toward the back of the seat and your lower back is supported. Elevate your hips a little so they are higher than your knees, and don’t hunch forward. You don’t want tension between your shoulders,” says Maryanna Klatt, assistant professor and mindfulness meditation researcher at Ohio State University.
5. Take alternate routes. Drivers who have a choice of routes feel more in control of their commute, and a change of scenery helps to alleviate boredom. Even a regular route takes on new meaning when you notice small changes like flowers blooming in someone’s yard or a new building under construction.
6. Listen to books on tape, a podcast or relaxing music. This puts you in the right frame of mind, which is a great alternative to hard-core news that could elicit frustrations. “Choose something that enriches your life so the commute is enriching you rather than draining you,” says Klatt.
7. Don’t multitask. For every two seconds you look away from the road, you are twice as likely to be involved in a crash, according to the American Automobile Association. So put away any hand-held devices, apply your cosmetics before you start to drive and satisfy your food cravings off the road.
8. Avoid road rage. This is all about being in the right frame of mind. If you’re not rushed and you’re not multitasking, you will be more relaxed and less likely to react in a negative way. Use the breathing exercises or count to prevent yourself from reacting negatively. “Pause and say, ‘How can I respond with compassion?’ The pause allows you to calm down,” says Dr. Mendoza Temple.
9. Plan ahead. Use your car’s GPS to navigate and/or equip yourself with a paper road map. You’ll be prepared if you’re unexpectedly forced to take an alternate route.
10. Carpool for the social aspect. If you enjoy being with the other carpoolers in your group and the conversation is good, time passes quickly. It also keeps your driving manners in check since you will naturally behave better.