Road Rage to Mindful Driving
Anger is often triggered by feelings of loss of control, being unseen or unheard, or experiencing injustice. It is our body’s “alarm system” to tell us that something is not ok. Driving and anger do not mix well together because of how often the rules of the road are broken. When this happens, we may experience a feeling of injustice. When we’re stuck in traffic, we may feel a loss of control. When we get cut off, we take it personally as if the other person were sending us a message of “you don’t matter.” Living in big cities, like Los Angeles is a big vulnerability to road rage. Here are some tips on how to avoid losing your cool behind the wheel:
Not to be confused with distracted driving, but when you are occupying your thoughts with more enjoyable thoughts, you are less likely to engage in the angry thoughts. Some ideas to legally distract yourself in the car are:
-Listen to a playlist of nostalgic songs or music that you enjoy
-Listen to a podcast for something that interests you (true crime ones are always captivating)
-Listen to an audiobook
-Make a (hands-free) phone call and catch up with people
Change your expectations
Expect that there will be traffic and expect that people will break the rules! When we change our expectations around things that can be inevitable (especially in commute traffic), we aren’t as disappointed or shocked when something happens.
Don’t take anything personally
Everyone is on the road for a different reason. We don’t know their stories, and they don’t know ours. When someone cuts us off, they may be lost, late, or having a terrible day. It is not likely that the person saw you on the road and chose to affect you.
I also like to remind myself that most aggressive drivers are male ages 16-19. We know that their brain is not fully developed by that age, and the judgment that adults have differ from their brain.
Is there anything you can change?
When possible, we can act preventatively to avoid our anger triggers. Examples of this around traffic and road rage are:
-Adjust your schedule to avoid chaotic times. If you know that the school down the street from you gets out at a certain time and cars are frequently blocking your path, see if you can leave for your destination 30 minutes before or afterwards. If you are able to shift your work schedule an hour, it may make a huge difference in your overall happiness.
-Adjust your route to avoid chaotic areas. If certain roads or intersections tend to cause your stress, see if you can use alternative directions.
While you are in a situation where you can be triggered, continue distracting yourself by tapping into your “growth mindset.” Is there a way that you can choose to better yourself in this situation rather than being vulnerable to your angry emotions? Maybe being in the car is your time to learn a new language or listen to a book on a topic you have always wanted to learn.
It’s important to remember that anger is a normal human emotion that everyone feels. Like other emotions, our anger can be managed. We have more control than we think if we plan preventatively.
You know that you will be sharing the road with others. It will help to remind yourself of the following:
1- I am sharing the road with others.
2- All people will not be driving to my preference, so prepare myself for my expectations to be violated.
3- There are teens driving that don’t have the capability that I do when it comes to using good judgment.
4- We have police officers to offer consequences to dangerous drivers. I can call in my concern. But it is not my job to teach everyone a lesson.
5- Check my ego before I drive. It’s really not about me.
Anger Management 818 offers group and private sessions to help people better manage through their aggressive behavior. Make a change today, and live a more peaceful life!