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Sunday, October 2, 2022  

Minimizing Your Stress Behind the WheelPublished 12/29/2009

There are plenty of things today that can leave us feeling anxious and stressed - the economy, job security, energy prices, terrorism alerts. It’s a long list, and if you have children, especially teens, it gets even longer.
Unfortunately, driving an automobile these days is another major stress-producer for many of us. Heavy traffic or bad drivers can leave us feeling angry and upset, sometimes on a daily basis.
While there’s no way to make traffic jams or bad drivers disappear, there are things you can do to make driving less stressful.
When traffic or terrible drivers frustrate us, our immediate reaction is usually anger. We feel threatened by someone taking away our precious time or driving in a potentially life-endangering manner. A natural reaction is to feel angry, to want to fight back.
However, we’re also aware that fighting back is certainly not the right answer, but also usually an impossible or dangerous one. As a result you’re more angry, frustrated and stressed knowing there’s nothing you can do.
However, there are things you can do. Start minimizing such stress by remembering you can’t control the outside world, only yourself. Remind yourself it isn’t personal. Traffic and dangerous drivers would still be there even if you weren’t.
Next, stop letting the anger and stress control your mind. Turn on the radio or CD player and really listen hard. Try the old trick of counting slowly to ten. You want to replace thinking about what’s just bothered you with anything else.
You also want to physically relax your body, since anger makes our muscles tense and that helps increase stress levels. Try relaxing your muscles, one group at a time, first tightening up arm or leg muscles, then consciously relaxing them.
Anger behind the wheel can lead to dangerous situations. Stress behind the wheel can leave you feeling worn out and can, eventually, affect your overall health.
Being aware of when you’ve become angry and stressed, and working to reduce those reactions, can lead to a healthier and safer driving you.
And if you find that, despite your best efforts, you really can’t control your behind-the-wheel anger and stress, seek professional help. A counselor can offer stress management, anger control or relaxation training to help you be a more relaxed, safer driver, and a happier person.

The Counseling Corner is provided as a public service by the American Counseling Association, the nation’s largest organization of counseling professionals.

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