Rage on the Road: How to Get the Most Out of Your Commute
We’ve all been there, stuck in traffic, cut off by someone who appears to be on crack, running late and being surrounded by slow and stupid drivers. Some of us yell or yell at the person with a lot of cussing. Some of us yell at the person or honk our horns. And all of this accomplishes nothing, except increased heart rate and blood pressure, muscle tension, honking the horn and yelling briefly to ourselves. Yelling gets the anger out of our systems quickly, and honking the horn alerts the driver that they did something wrong. Maybe they didn’t mean to and will be more careful. Maybe they’re a selfish psychopath and don’t care. We can’t control that part. It is important to know something about people, and this is a useful generalization: People are in their own world and think it revolves around them. Many people are stressed and make bad decisions. Many people don’t mean to do the stupid things they do on the road, and many don’t care. Nothing we do on the road will change them, as they will need psychotherapy or a near death experience for that. So don’t take it personally. I know it is hard when someone nearly kills you, but in other cases try as hard as you can to remember that it’s about them doing what they do and not you. Now for what you can control: Yourself.
Here are some tips to keep you from becoming homicidal while on the road. For starters, learn how to do deep breathing (read my blog here on deep breathing) and practice it daily. You can do this while driving with your eyes OPEN. Take deep breaths while reframing your thinking rather than thinking “you stupid asshole, are you on acid.” Try breathing and thinking that it isn’t worth getting wrapped around the axel over or getting yourself sick. Try thinking that maybe the person is sick or just had a root canal or something. We have all driven while in pain or upset and have made bad decisions. Nobody is a perfect driver.
Focus on the nature around you: the clouds, the trees, the birds, butterflies and dragonflies etc. It is calming and grounding, but please stay alert.
Listen to music that helps you go into a mini trance (aka highway hypnosis where you are paying attention to the road, but are calm and centered and sometimes miss your exit). The type of music will vary from person to person. For instance Metallica results in more speeding for me, while Tool takes me to my special place that I call Toolland. So find music that takes you to your Toolland. It will help in keeping you from focusing on the stupidity on the road around you.
Listen to audio books. You can buy them or rent them from the library. Listen to anything you want, albeit it fantasy, self help or educational books. Also consider learning a language via an audio book while driving. Now that is a great way to get the most from your commute. Please don’t do this if you can’t multitask enough to be safe driving.
Talk to someone with a bluetooth. Talk to someone you haven’t had a real connection with other than texting or social media. Talk to someone you can vent about your day to. It helps pass the time and allows you to connect with people in a meaningful way. Obviously if you aren’t driving alone you’ll have someone to talk to. Do not follow social norms and look at the person while driving or while in the passenger seat, as it will encourage the driver to look at you. Talk while looking at the road. If alone, talk to yourself. It is a good time, and sometimes the only time, to process issues you are coping with and to ventilate about your day. Let those frustrations out, so you don’t take them home with you.
This next one is metaphysical and may seem strange, but humor me. You can’t say something doesn’t work unless you put in 100% effort. On each hand place your middle finger and thumb together. This helps reduce agitation. You might only be able to do this while at lights or stop and go traffic. At the very least, this strategy shifts your focus away from distressing thoughts and also keeps you from flipping someone off.
If you dread going home for whatever reason, stop somewhere close to home, perhaps by a bay, lake, park, parking lot or somewhere where you won’t be disturbed and do some deep breathing. Allow yourself time to decompress. You will return home with a better attitude, and the effects will rub off on others in your household, including your pets. Then work on training your family to allow you 10-20 minutes to unwind with no interruptions. Everybody needs some alone time. Everybody and daily.
Let’s face it: Driving is a waste of time we will never get back, so make it count. Relax, connect with yourself and nature. Basically accomplish something during your commute. It can be as simple as being mindful of what you are thinking and feeling. That is worth the trip. In sum, do something positive to make your trip more than getting from point A to B.