Take A Calming Breath.
The traffic in Colorado may feel like it is taking time that you don’t want to share.
Being on the road can be a freeing experience in some ways but being part of traffic can be frustrating and stress inducing.
When you begin to feel overwhelmed with the experience, a next step can be to take a breath.
Deep breaths are a simple way to reduce anxiety while you are still in the car.
To help yourself get mindful and lower your heart rate, exhale for longer than you inhale.
If your inhale is a count of 4, allow yourself to exhale for a count of 6.
By blowing out air, you are helping yourself get to a more relaxed state without much effort. Engaging in relaxing deep breaths is a very helpful way to reduce anxiety and tension throughout your body while still on the road.
Engage Your Senses.
Anxiety can heat up your body when it begins moving through you. When you start to feel a dampened forehead while you are driving, a way to help yourself is to turn on the air conditioner or roll down your windows.
If you have a phobia of driving, one of the most beneficial ways to help yourself is exposure therapy or EMDR therapy. You may have to take a risk and get on the road.
A stress-related symptom may present itself, but engaging your senses can help.
For example, the fresh air can help you feel less suffocated, even if the roads are crowded. If the noise on the road sounds too loud for your comfort, you also have the option to turn on your air conditioner.
Help yourself cool down when you start to feel your driving anxiety increase.
A way to engage your sight is to notice the road ahead of you. Instead of looking immediately in front of you, take in the big picture. This can happen when you are at a complete and safe stop.
It may feel like you won’t ever get out of the traffic. Rather than focus on what is right ahead of you, help lessen driving anxiety by looking toward the scenery around you, safely. You may feel a sense of relief.
It may also be helpful to chew gum or have pleasant scents in your car while you drive, which can help lessen driving anxiety and associated anxiety symptoms.
Chewing gum can be a safe distraction while driving.
Smelling scents like peppermint, eucalyptus, citrus – whatever you find calming can help reduce tension and stress while driving as well.
Distracted driving is not the goal when you engage your senses; however, there are safe ways to utilize relaxation techniques while you are still behind the wheel.
Anxiety can be lessened when you engage your senses, and though driving may feel restrictive, there are safe options to help you empower yourself while on the road in traffic.
Recently, the GPS driving app, Waze has partnered with the meditation app, Headspace “to put you in the right mindset to take on the roads”.
According to Waze, “to find a way to help combat the negative effects of traffic and encourage drivers to enjoy their drives, on the heels of World Mental Health Day, we turned to our friends at Headspace, a global leader in mindfulness and mediation [to help change people’s mindset and experience while on the road and in traffic].”
Focus On Your Body.
Unhelpful, fearful and/or sometimes thoughts of rage can enter your head while you are driving. Instead of focusing on the thoughts, get back into your body.
When you experience anxiety on the road, check in with yourself. Ask yourself if fear is playing a part in your decision making. Fear can induce anxiety, so help yourself do a body scan when you are safely stopped.
If you need to pull over to help yourself with driving related anxiety, make that decision for yourself. A car accident may increase driving anxiety, so be safe as you select methods that work best for you.
If you notice your anxiety increasing, affirm that for yourself. If you are noticing low blood sugar, eat a snack. It may be helpful to carry snacks in the car so that you can engage your senses to lessen nerves in a stressful situation like traffic.
When you focus on your body and what you need, you can shift your perspective of (not attention to) what is happening on the road. If you are stuck in traffic, you also have the responsibility to become part of the solution for yourself.
Talk Through It With Yourself.
Ask Yourself, “How important is it?”. When you are in traffic, everything can start to seem like a big deal. Traffic can cause frustration, overwhelm, and anxiety depending on how stuck you feel in the moment. It may even lead to road rage.
When things become extreme, it may be a good time to ask yourself the popular slogan of “How important is it?” This can help when a car cuts you off, stops suddenly, or is following you too closely.
These are undoubtedly annoying habits on the road, but you still have options. You have choices to make, and you can empower yourself by presuming positive intent.
You still have the choice to adhere to safe driving by appropriately switching lanes, slowing down, and taking a pause before you shift.
One annoying habit in traffic doesn’t have to ruin your whole drive or increase your anxiety.
Remind Yourself That The Moment is Temporary.
When you are stuck in traffic, it can feel like the process is going to take forever, especially if you have a phobia of driving or intense anxiety.
You may feel like you will not arrive at your destination at any point.
Part of building resiliency is to know that things are temporary. When you tap into tools that are already within you, you can lessen driving anxiety.
Traffic can be a frustration, and you can make things last even longer with poor decision-making. Instead of coming from a place of extreme fear or overwhelming frustration, maintain safe driving with supportive mental health choices.
Shifting your perspective with a scenic route, enjoyable podcast, or deep breaths can help you to realize that this won’t last forever.
If you know that you are stuck in traffic before and after work, leave at a time that feels comfortable to you.
Setting clear expectations and boundaries for yourself can help you to realize that moments are temporary, even traffic.
As Colorado becomes more populated with people, the chances of traffic will increase. You have choices that you can make, tools that you can use to help you, and enlist compassion for others on the road.
Build up your reservoir of patience so that the next time you drive you will feel more empowered to select strategies that work for you.
If you struggle with anxiety that is difficult to manage while you are driving, reaching out for therapeutic support can be helpful. To learn more about therapy for anxiety, reach out to our team for support today.
Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC
Read More: “What To Know About Therapy and If Therapy Is Right For You”