Traffic congestion is a frequent source of stress, anger and anxiety — and the problem, like your car in a traffic jam, isn’t going anywhere soon.
Spending hours stuck in traffic may take a toll on your health and happiness. Along with the potential for stress, it increases your exposure to traffic-related air pollution. And that, in turn, may raise the risk of having a heart attack or asthma flare-up.
Protect Your Health
The best solution is to steer clear of traffic congestion whenever possible. This can be a challenge if your commute to work or school passes through a high-traffic area. But keep an open mind about possible ways to reschedule or reroute your drive.
Reduce Your Stress
Once you’ve done what you can to avoid traffic jams, the next-best solution is to face them with greater equanimity. You can’t control the bottleneck around you, but you can manage your reaction to it. These evidence-based tips help you stay calmer and more centered in the midst of bumper-to-bumper chaos:
- Inhale, exhale, repeat. When you start gripping the steering wheel like a vise, take some deep breaths. This is not only a proven technique for eliciting relaxation. It’s also simple enough to do behind the wheel
- Redefine the situation. Rather than thinking of the traffic snarl as an obstacle to getting where you want to be, tell yourself it’s a welcome respite from work or a golden opportunity to listen to your favorite radio show
- Curtail angry reactions. Don’t expect to eliminate every negative feeling. If you feel a flash of annoyance when a driver cuts you off, that’s okay. Notice and accept what you’re feeling in the present moment — and then move on to the next moment. This helps stop you from fuming over the other driver’s behavior, so a split-second of irritation doesn’t turn into full-blown road rage
- Quell anxious thoughts. Likewise, if you feel a twinge of worry over being late, approach it with the same mindful attitude. Notice and accept the feeling, and then let it go. Turn your awareness to what’s happening in the present moment: the sight of vehicles moving (or not) around you, the sound of sirens in the distance, the feel of your foot on the pedals
- Put on a happy face. When you’re doing 10 miles per hour in the fast lane, smile. If you’re able to see the humor in the situation, that’s a great stress reliever. But even if you’re faking the smile,research suggests that going through the motions of smiling may reduce the intensity of your body’s stress response
How stress hormones work?
We have a few different stress hormones that affect our bodies. Adrenaline, nor adrenaline and cortisol are stress hormones called glucocorticoids that are essential for us to function properly in the face of danger. While these hormones can be useful in helping us to learn and form new memories, too much of them can be unhealthy. When our lives are filled with chronic stress, we can enter a state called cortisol dominance, which negatively affects learning, attention span and memory.
“SEEK GENTLE COMPROMISE. MANY STRESSFUL SITUATIONS – EVEN THOSE THAT CAN’T BE ENTIRELY ELIMINATED- CAN BE ERASED THROUGH NEGOTIATION”