Probably the most stressful thing about driving right now, is the price of fuel. But when you’re on the motorway, trying to get to work, or on a weekend road trip, there are many other things we can agree on that make driving stressful and raise our heart rates.
Being stressed when we’re driving can have devastating consequences. We may be distracted, or in situations where accidents are most likely to occur, so we must recognise the signs and deal with each stress safely.
What is stress?
According to the NHS, ‘stress’ is how our bodies react when we feel threatened. This can sometimes improve the situation we are in, in a positive way. Such as at work when we are faced with a heavy workload or when it comes down to family demands at home because we feel motivated to achieve more.
However, it can also prove as a negative. Stress affects our mood, body and our relationships. This, in turn, shows up as anxiety or irritability, which can have a crippling effect. If this stress carries on for too long, it can also cause exhaustion and burnout preventing us from doing the simplest tasks.
Therefore, starting the day off with a stressful drive may knock on our productivity levels at work or strain our relationships, such as the school pick-up.
With 9 in 10 people experiencing stress while driving, understanding how to recognise the signs and deal with the stress safely is very important.
Avis compiled a list of the top ten driving stressors that were the most frequently mentioned on driving-related threads on reddit.com and then consulted mindfulness experts for suggestions on coping in these situations.
While some of the most frequently mentioned anxiety-inducing driving situations rely on other drivers, such as cars driving too closely behind you, drivers not indicating properly, and lane hoggers, there are some elements of driving that you can focus on to make you feel more in control of the situation.
Four tips for a stress-free drive
Take deep breaths
Inhaling and exhaling are extremely effective and powerful in calming the mind. The best way to do this is to take a deep breath through the nose, helping your lungs to stretch and then exhale slowly. If you can perform this breathing technique five to ten times, you will see a difference in your stress levels and be able to calm down.
Give yourself extra time
Allow yourself to have some extra time when commuting. Especially if you are travelling to a new destination, some extra time should be considered to ensure you have time in case you get lost.
Pull over and take a break
If you are in a very stressful situation, it is always a good idea to just pull over safely and have a break. Take a couple of minutes to calm down and collect yourself mentally and physically.
Listen to music
Music has been proven to reduce anxiety, elevate moods, and calm the mind and body in stressful situations. So, why not turn on the radio or play your favourite playlist?
The Helpful Coach, Emma Tomes, also encourages people to pull over when driving feels overwhelming. Once in a safe space, she recommends this 5-step technique to help people feel grounded and aware of their surroundings before continuing the journey.
- Acknowledge five things you see around you in your surroundings.
- Acknowledge four things you can touch around you.
- Acknowledge three things you hear. Focus on things you can hear outside of your body.
- Acknowledge two things you can smell, which may be your car freshener lingering in the air.
- Acknowledge one thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like gum, coffee, or a sandwich from lunch?