You know how it goes. You hit the snooze button on the alarm one too many times; the kids were dawdling; and then you couldn't find your keys. Suddenly, you are running late for work, and to top it all off, traffic is at a standstill. It's enough to make even the most even-tempered person feel stressed out.
Commuting to work -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- is a fact of life, and so are traffic delays. In fact, a recent national survey showed that on average, people spend at least four hours a week in the car just traveling back and forth to work. That's a lot of time to be aggravated and behind the wheel. But fear not: There are several simple steps to reclaiming the calm in your car.
In fact, how you feel on your commute can be controlled even before you get behind the wheel. Although a lot of people begin their day with a strong cup of coffee, many registered dieticians suggest that you switch out your morning travel cup of coffee with green tea. Coffee might wake you up, but the tea is naturally soothing and promotes relaxation.
A good chuckle always lowers your stress level, so try listening to a comedy podcast or tuning in to a comedy channel. Or listen to an audiobook. Finding out what happens next to the main characters is bound to provide a safe distraction.
If you happen to get stuck in traffic, are waiting on a slow train to pass or are just plain having a bad morning, remember to look around. Everyone on the road is waiting right along with you! Take that opportunity to take a few deep breaths, roll your shoulders, stretch your neck from side to side and loosen your grip on the steering wheel. Traffic might still be tied up, but the tension in your body will be a lot more bearable.
Moreover, getting upset in traffic gets you nowhere and reckless driving certainly won't make traffic move any faster. You'll just be more agitated, and you could even have an accident. In fact, road rage -- where flaring tempers mix with 2-ton machines -- continues to be a problem on America's roads. However, there are solutions that can at least reduce the number of road rage incidents.
People who are easily angered by slower drivers, detours and other traffic disruptions can be taught to be more aware of their responses and modify them to reduce accidents, according to research published last year by the Society for Risk Analysis.
That "let's calm down" approach is applauded by wellness expert and author Scott Morofsky. "Sometimes there's this tendency to throw on the brakes when someone is tailgating us, or use an obscene gesture at an aggressive driver," he says. "But when you encounter an aggressive driver, you don't want to engage them or do anything to further agitate them."
So what are some of the behaviors that aggravate other drivers? The No. 1 culprit is drivers who are texting, according to a 2015 Road Rage Report by Expedia.com. Other offenders are tailgaters, left-lane hogs, slow drivers and drivers who are multitasking.
"Probably all of us at some time have been angry and someone wisely told us to take a deep breath," Morofsky says. "That's actually good advice, because breathing and taking in oxygen plays an important role in every area of our health and well-being."
Remember, no matter what time you leave home you are still bound to encounter traffic issues. However, if you change your mindset you'll probably arrive at your destination a little more relaxed -- and maybe you'll even have a smile on your face.