You're late, AGAIN! Traffic is at a dead stop, drivers are anxiously jockeying in and out of lanes, and some jerk just cut you off to gain five meters. Is the daily commute enough to make you TOTALLY lose it? Well, you're not alone. Traffic and stress can make otherwise mild mannered people turn ugly – 5 million Canadians were victims of road rage last year. Dr. Lucille Peszat, a Psychotherapist at the Canadian Center for Stress and Well-Being, suggests the following tips to help turn rush hour into happy hour.
1. Beat the clock
Timing is everything! It may sound elementary, but leaving yourself a little extra time to reach your destination can make the difference between a rushed, stressful commute and a smooth trip.
• Leave 20 or 30 minutes early. The extra time will give you a buffer zone if you hit a traffic snag, and allow you to arrive at work calm and unruffled.
• Take advantage of up-to-the-minute traffic reports – a heads-up on an accident or road closure will give you enough time to consult a map and plan a detour.
• Experiment with different routes to work – a more circuitous course may actually be quicker if it's less traveled. And a change of scenery can be refreshing, too!
2. Boost your productivity
Since you're stuck in the car anyway, why not use the time to strike a few items off your to-do list?
• Consider a GPS system – plan your route and reach your destination as quickly as possible.
• Invest in a hands-free headset for your cell phone – you can dish the dirt with the girls or confer with a colleague during the ride home!
• Forget pen and paper, a digital voice recorderwill allow you to stay on top of things at work and at home – memos, grocery lists, scheduling, etc.
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3. Turn confinement into contentment
Change your thinking. Instead of feeling trapped in the car, use the time to unwind and indulge yourself!
• To make your trip more pleasant, pack your favourite beverage — be it a thermos of soothing herbal tea or a caffeine-packed bottle of Bawls.
• Check out the amazing selection of audi available. Escape into a fictional world or put your time to good use learning Mandarin.
• How about an aromatherapy car diffuser? Scents widely considered to be relaxing include peppermint, vanilla, lavender and patchouli.
4. Soothe the savage beast
"Research has proven that music can calm people down," notes Dr. Peszat. Charmain Dennison, whose daily commute between Brampton and Scarborough, ON can take from anywhere from 1.5 to 4 hours, says "I swear by Lenny Kravitz — he makes the drive bearable!" Choose the tunes that soothe YOU…
• Many people find that classical music decreases feelings of stress— a little Mozart could be relaxing and perhaps make your mind sharper at the end of the ride!
• For nature lovers, the sound of the pounding surf, the wind in the trees or the chirping of frogs creates a sense of tranquility.
• Try out the New Age sounds of the synthesizer and pan flute to create an oasis of calm in the middle of rush hour.
5. When you lose your cool
Dr. Peszat recommends trying to diffuse explosive situations before they get out of control, "Getting angry won't help you, and provoking someone while in a fit of fury could have serious consequences." She suggests the following steps if you feel yourself teetering on the verge of road rage:
• Take a few deep breaths and calm yourself down
• Analyze the situation — is it that you were cut off or the fact that you're going to be late for an important meeting the real issue?
• Address the problem, if possible.
• Accept the things about the situation you can't change — like a long line of cars between you and the nearest highway exit!
And if you fear you're about to succumb to a fiery moment of road rage, Dr. Peszat has one final piece of advice on how to blow off a little steam — roll up the window and scream!
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