The Zen of Driving in Rush Hour Traffic

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I don't know where you live, but in my home state of Maryland driving in rush hour traffic is like being in a Nascar Race.

I'm not kidding.

One time I was on the interstate and I was almost run off the road by an eighteen-wheeler. I guess I wasn't going fast enough for him, and the look he gave me as he passed me by confirmed this.

commuter trafficGeez, what's the deal with people these days when it comes to something as simple as driving on the road?

Is there a secret race going on that no one told me about? Is there a conspiracy to see who can get to the proverbial finish line of the daily commute?

I know what the real cause of rush-hour mania is, and it has nothing to do with reality.

It has to do with the fear-based mindset.

Whenever we feel threatened, whether real or imagined, our body acts as if there is a real threat occurring.

We go in fight or flight mode, and relief only happens once we reach our destination, whether it is to get to work or to get home.

The problem with this way of behaving when behind the wheel is that it is a vicious cycle that can lead to burn-out, stress related illnesses and even road-rage.

If you look at the daily commute objectively, you can see that it is a perpetual cycle that will go on forever until you make a change.

Every day it's the same thing. Hop into your car and deal with traffic jams all the way to work. It's the same experience when you get home. And Fridays are the absolute worst time to be in afternoon rush-hour traffic because most people believe there is an end to this madness; that is until Monday morning comes around.

My First Job

I started my first job back in 1993 after dropping out of Community College. I just turned 19 and I was super excited to be done with school and instead earn money.

The time it took me to get from my house to my job was around 30 minutes one way.

Not too bad considering the average daily commute time in the U.S. is roughly 2 hours round trip.

So, my first day going to work I left my home with plenty of time to get there; at least I thought I did.

I was really nervous on my first day going to work, and I arrived right on time that day, which was 10am.

When I left work that same day, I noticed that it also took me a long time to get back home.

So, each day I felt more anxious about the daily commute to and from work because it was a really long trip for me.

Each day on my commute to and from work I drove faster and faster, and became stressed each time I drove.

After a few months of doing this I had had enough.

I just couldn't do this to myself each day. It was madness I tell you, madness!

So, I started coming up with ways to make my daily commute less stressful and more enjoyable regardless of what was happening around me.

Here is what I came up with.

  • I bought a squishy stress ball. Yes, I would just squeeze that thing each and every time I drove to work, or from work.
  • I invested in some personal growth CDs. Tony Robbins became my best friend while I was behind the wheel.
  • I noticed things around me. You've seen those drivers haven't you? The ones with black sunglasses on, a serious expression on their face and in total tunnel vision mode. They are in total reptilian brain mode. I did the opposite of what they did. No sunglasses for me, and I actually took a second or two to notice the natural, beautiful scenery around me while driving. I allowed myself to relax more while I drove.
  • I breathed. I made sure I wasn't holding my breath while I drove. It's very common to hold your breath, or to breathe shallowly when in a stressful state. Breathe!
  • I intended for myself to be a calm, courteous and respectful driver even though other drivers weren't behaving this way. I simply made a mental point to behave this way when I drove.
  • Some days were easier than others. When I noticed myself feeling really agitated, I would relax my breathing and count to ten. Counting to 10 engages the mind in an activity which breaks up the mental reaction pattern of being agitated.
  • When driving on side roads I would pull over if someone was tailgating me. There's no sense in playing games with someone who is tailgating you. Just safely pull over when you can and let them pass you. I even had one driver yell out the window as he passed me, "I'm sorry." He knew tailgating me was dumb and dangerous even though he did it anyway.
  • Get a job close to home. My last job which lasted 11 years was only about 3 miles from my home. My round trip commute was only 10 minutes.
  • Avoid rush hour altogether. I work from home now and seldom have to deal with rush-hour traffic. If you don't work online, maybe your job would allow you to work from home on certain days. It doesn't hurt to ask.

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About the author

Justin Mazza

This post is written by Justin Mazza from Mazzastick. Stop by his personal growth blog to read more ways to improve your life and get yourself a free copy of his Overcoming Fear eBook.