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Choosing Alternatives to Road Rage

By Hannah Slattery, LPC, NCC

During the pandemic, you might not have been driving as much, at least to and from work. So, you might have forgotten about potential stressors of being in the car such as having to deal with traffic, constantly filling up your car, or finding the perfect music station or podcast to listen to to pass the time. Now that other parts of life are slowly but surely returning to normal, it's possible that stresses associated with driving might also be returning to your life. Even if you never worked from home, there are just more people on the road than 6 months ago.

The oxford dictionary defines road rage as violent anger caused by the stress and frustration involved in driving a motor vehicle in difficult conditions.

Depending on the length of your work commute, amount of extracurricular activities, or grocery shopping excursions you have to go on a day, you might find yourself spending a lot of time in your vehicle. Just like our home, it’s important to make our car a safe and comfortable space. However, a lot of time, we end up creating a toxic environment. Others around us on the road might not be driving as fast as we would like them to or driving in the appropriate lane or being distracted by their phone or their passengers. This can cause us to get upset and test our ability to stay calm. When we become irritated at other drivers, we risk the safety of ourselves, the people in our vehicle, as well as the other drivers. We also might find ourselves screaming at the little old lady in the car next to us because we were trying to get into that lane. This is severely exhausting and if it is during your morning commute, you haven’t even gotten to work yet!

Here are some shocking statistics that might make you think differently about letting out that road rage:

  • About one third of Collisions Involve Road Rage

  • 66% of Traffic Fatalities Are Caused by Aggressive Drivers

  • Road Rage Leads to 30 Murders Per Year

Now I'm not trying to scare you, but these are facts! When your blood gets boiling because you were running late and ended up stuck in traffic, it’s crucial to start taking more considerations for what you can and what you cannot control. For example, if you are running late, what can you change about your morning routine that could possibly help you be more prepared in the morning? Is there a certain radio station, podcast, playlist that you could listen to that could help pass the time and help you feel more relaxed? Could you take advantage of the traffic causing a long drive and listen to that book you’ve wanted to read for years? Call your mom for that phone call she’s been requesting? Even better than doing something, what if you use the time to actively do nothing (other than drive of course).

How could you choose to behave differently if you’re regularly experiencing rage while driving? Screaming at the cars around you will fix nothing. It will increase your stress hormone, cortisol, which isn’t necessarily needed for this exact experience and will leave you irritable, distracted and pretty much leave you feeling miserable. What if you chose to send positive thoughts or prayers for the drivers around you rather than sending negative energy? What if you chose to imagine what the other driver’s stories are as you pass them? If someone is driving slowly, something to consider is that they might be lost. Practicing gratitude and radical empathy for others around you as you drive sounds like a much better way to start your day than spending it in anger and judgment.

The start of our day can be the predictor of how well the rest of our day will go. If you’ve just come into work after yelling and honking your horn for a good 20 minutes you might not be in such a healthy headspace to get work done, or interact well with other employees. Remember, you are only in charge of yourself, you cannot control what other people do.

If you or a loved one struggles with anger and frustration regularly, and may benefit from counseling, please contact us today to schedule an appointment!

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