There's nothing that can make your blood boil on the road like a bad driver. Before you loose your cool, follow these 8 tips to stay calm in the car this summer travel season.
1) Trade in that pine-scented air freshener for a peppermint candy or cinnamon stick.
In a NASA-funded study, scientists from Wheeling Jesuit University monitored the emotional responses of 25 college students during simulated driving scenarios. The volunteers reported that peppermint lowered their feelings of anxiety and fatigue by 20 percent. Peppermint and cinnamon each decreased their frustration by 25 percent, increased alertness by 30 percent, and made the ride seem 30 percent shorter.
You can buy peppermint and cinnamon oils and aromatherapy diffusers for the car at health food stores.
2) Lend support. Learn to accommodate other drivers, says Dr. James. Instead of competing with them, support them. "If they want to enter the lane ahead of you, make space. If they want to pass you, move over and let them. If they want to cut you off, slow down," he says. "When you're a supportive driver, not only does the stress vanish, but you also begin to enjoy traffic," he says.
3) Do it right. "Try life in the right lane," Dr. James suggests. People often avoid the right, or slower, lane because they fear losing time. But if you drive in the slow lane, you'll keep pace with less aggressive drivers and may realize it's not slow after all, he says. Research shows that the average commute in the United States is 25 minutes. Driving in the fast lane generally saves about 10 percent of that time. So the commuter who rushes arrives at his destination only 2 to 3 minutes ahead of the slower driver. Don't believe it? Time yourself and see.
4) Control yourself. Don't let other drivers do it for you, says Dr. Nerenberg. He asks aggressive or angry drivers: "Do you want to turn control over to those people you're calling idiots, or do you want to keep control for yourself?" Losing your cool is turning control over to them. Once you become aware of what they're doing, it's easier to commit to keeping calm on the road.
5) Listen up. "Backseat drivers have a bad reputation," says Dr. Nahl. But they may have a point. So listen to the "complaints" of your spouse, your children, and others who ride with you. They are witnesses to your driving.
6) Be responsible. To your passengers, that is. "A lot of drivers feel: 'I am the captain of my ship. You just put up with how I drive,'" says Dr. James. The driver controls the air conditioner, radio stations, speed, and just about everything else.
Instead, ask your passengers about their preferences. They'll likely appreciate the respect, and you'll feel better about yourself and calmer while driving.
7) Get silly. Feeling tense behind the wheel? Try making animal noises, machine sounds, or whatever you find amusing. "Laughter not only interrupts your negative thinking or anger, but also unloads the stress," says Dr. Nahl.
8) Forgive and forget. If you are the "victim" of an aggressive driver, remind yourself that retaliation isn't worth it. Think about the people waiting for you to arrive at home. "You don't want to do anything that would endanger your life or anyone else's," says Dr. James. "Tell yourself, 'It's just not worth the hassle.' "
Tell us: How do you handle road rage?
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