Experts say the keys to cool-headed commuting are maintaining a sense of what’s in — and what’s not in — your control, and using strategies to defuse tension.
Feed your mind
You know that book you keep meaning to read? Listen to the audio version. Or try a taped course to learn a foreign language.
Take your time
Expect to encounter at least one or two delays along the way. And cover up the dashboard clock; watching minutes tick by is only going to add to your stress.
Soothe the beast
Listen to whatever music that you find the most relaxing. And Mozart is probably a better bet than Metallica. Several studies at the University of South Alabama have found classical music to be more mellowing than hard rock. (That’s right — it’s been proved scientifically.)
Easy does it
When you tense up behind the wheel, try relaxation techniques. Take deep, deep breaths. Also, scrunch up your shoulder muscles and then relax them.
Share the pain
Ask your human resources department about commuting options. Some firms pay bonuses to those who car-pool or ride bikes to work. (For more alter- natives, check out commuterchoice.com.)
Take Our Road Test
So, are you a crazed commuter? Rate your level of driving stress by considering these five traffic scenarios, using the scale from 1 to 5 (below):
A. A motorist just ahead of you is darting in and out of traffic.
B. You’re behind an extremely slow vehicle on a mountain road and can’t pass.
C. Another driver shouts at you and makes an obscene gesture.
D. You are dead-still in an endless traffic jam.
E. A car you’re trying to pass speeds up to block you off.
1 Not at all angry. You’re either a saint or a pushover.
2 Barely ruffled. Why get all worked up?
3 Fairly peeved. Your patience has limits.
4 Check the radiator. You’re ready to boil over.
5 You want a piece of me, pal?
If your total score is …
15 or lower You’re cool in the cockpit. We’d car-pool with you any day.
16 to 18 No angrier than the average commuter. We’ll drive to work with you, but we’re definitely buckling up.
19 or 20 You probably consider The Road Warrior an instructional film. Breathe deeply and slip some Norah Jones into the CD player.
21 or higher You’re a danger to yourself — and the rest of us. Put the tire iron down and get help.