This is a guest post from Sarah Landrum of Punched Clocks, a career and lifestyle site for young professionals. Sarah is also a freelance writer for various career and productivity sites including Personal Branding Blog and Business.com. Her writing has been published on sites such as Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Fast Company, The Muse and Levo.
You’re stuck in traffic. Everyone else is tooting their horns like crazy, and you feel like doing the same. You want to stay calm, but goodness knows you’ve wasted so much time in traffic already.
Lucky for you, you get to read this post. If you do one or more of the things we’re about to outline, you’ll be well on your way to kissing those stressful traffic hours goodbye.
Be Aware of Your Anger
It’s okay to feel angry. That’s a natural reaction to getting stuck in traffic, a situation which makes you feel cornered and brings out your animal instincts. What makes your anger “good” or “bad” is what you do with it. As any mental health professional will tell you, the first step to managing anger (or any other emotion) is to acknowledge it.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
The moment you realize you’re angry, breathe deeply. Breathe from your gut, not from your chest. As you inhale and exhale, repeat soothing words to yourself like “It’s okay” or “Relax.” Then, visualize an image or memory that makes you smile.
Play a Game
Come up with a way to kill time while you’re stuck in traffic. For example, you can count the number of license plates with a certain letter, a certain number, etc. If you have a companion, you can play “I spy” with them. It sounds silly, but it works!
Whip Out Your Music Player
Studies have consistently shown that music affects your mood. If you listen to punk rock, your adrenaline levels shoot up: If you listen to slow piano music, you slow down too. Sounds intuitive, right?
What’s not intuitive is the timing of the music. Once you feel your blood pressure rising, it’s important to switch to relaxing music ASAP. Otherwise, your favorite artist won’t be as effective in helping you chill out.
Listen to a Podcast
If you need something longer than a song but shorter than an audiobook, most podcasts will do. Not only will you learn something new, but you’ll also feel like you’re not alone, since a podcast is like a well-read and talkative companion.
There’s no “right” or “wrong” podcast to listen to when you’re in traffic. Just pick the ones interesting enough to hold your attention for at least 20 minutes.
Here are some of Ciara’s favourites:
Listen to an Audiobook
Then again, your trip may take a few hours or so. If that’s the case, an audiobook will be more suitable. Start off with books that can make your commute better. As with the podcasts, pick something that you’re genuinely interested in, rather than something for the sake of killing time.
Record an Audio Journal
If you’d rather be more proactive with your time, an audio journal might be just the thing you need. Aside from working wonders for your mental health, journaling can also strengthen your immune cells. Start off your journal with a phrase like “Today, I…” and let your thoughts rip from there.
Record an Audio Story
Instead of passively listening to someone else’s audiobook, why not record your own? You can always edit out the “um” and “ah” bits once you get home. Besides, your “book” doesn’t even have to be in audio form. Let your imagination run wild on the road, and start off by asking “What if” questions like “What if a purple giraffe suddenly jumped on the car in front of you?”
Sing Your Heart Out
Unless you’re auditioning for the next season of “The Voice,” it doesn’t matter if your singing is off-key 90 percent of the time. As long as you enjoy it, singing can reduce stress, ease anxiety and boost endorphin levels. Close your windows, turn up the “minus one” versions of your favorite songs, and belt it out.
Re-Adjust Your Schedule
Even after all of the above, you may still not feel better. You might be worried that the person you promised to meet at 2:00 p.m. sharp — won’t be too excited about getting stood up for an hour. Pull over and call whoever’s expecting you at the end of the road, tell them you won’t make it on time, and give a sincere apology. Use this time to breathe in and out, in and out, check your planner, and see which tasks can be moved to another day. The traffic may be out of your control, but your schedule isn’t.
That wraps up the ten possible solutions to your traffic woes. If you have anything to add or have any thoughts on these tips, let them rip in the comments!
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