How To Reduce Stress While Driving – The Cold Hard Truth

I go back and forth with myself all the time on the discussion of how to reduce stress while driving. Even if you aren’t a high-stress individual, everyone is affected by stress while driving at some point or another. I am someone who commutes 30 minutes to an hour to and from work every day crossing state lines into the City of St. Louis, so this is definitely an extremely relatable and important topic for me.

Warning: Honesty is about to slap you.

1. Mama always told me, “Expect the unexpected”.

This seems pretty simple to comprehend and I’m sure many others follow the same concept while driving. Even so, I can expect someone is going to cut me off, slam on their breaks for no reason, or swerve all over the road because their texting but that doesn’t make me want to throw them the finger any less.

To really put a positive spin on this, like almost everything else in life, you really just have to accept that sh*t happens, LET IT GO. It may seem a little naive or impossible to look at it as “no big deal” because other people’s actions on the road can sometimes lead to life or death situations. However, if you are always expecting the unexpected you should be able to avoid those situations for the most part (fingers crossed).

Maybe it’s the years of commuting to work that have me so accepting of these things, but if someone cuts me off and I have to tap on my breaks, who cares? You know damn well you’ve cut someone off before, I know I have plenty of times.

At that point when you’re throwing your hands in the air and cursing someone who can’t even hear you, you are being a downright hypocrite.

Sure, I get it, what they did wasn’t cool and it inconvenienced you, blah blah blah. Suck it up, sweetheart.

Stop wasting your energy on something so trivial. The average person spends over 3 years of their life driving. This simple switch of mind-set could save you hours and possibly years of being stressed out and angry at random people on the road who you are never going to see again.

When you expect the unexpected while driving or in any aspect of your life and you accept all of the possible outcomes, the outcome loses its power over you.

2. Be the Person Who Lets Other People Merge

This is probably my favorite form of stress reduction while driving. If you are one of those people who act like your spot in traffic is your most prized possession and you never let anyone merge, I hate you.

Seriously, I actually hate you.

Literally every single person who has ever driven in their life has needed to merge into a lane at some point. Whether you are the one who lets them in, they are going to get in? So what did you accomplish really, a few spots ahead in traffic that is moving 5 mph?

This honestly makes me LOL.

Maybe it’s just the weirdo in me, but there is something about letting someone merge willingly because I am genuinely trying to be a nice person that brings me a sense of relief and happiness.

So sure, I’m selfishly letting someone merge because it makes me feel good inside, sometimes they even give me a little wave of appreciation. You should try it!

3. Reduce Stress in Other Aspects of Your Life

When you look at the bigger picture, happy people are not mean or hateful to other people. Happy people are not bothered by the little inconveniences or troubles that life brings them. Happy people want other people to be happy.

Happy people let other people merge!

On a serious note, it really is something to think about. If you are happy in other aspects of your life you aren’t going to have such a short fuse while driving. You aren’t going to feel the need to start a solo mosh pit in the driver’s seat of your car because someone cut you off. If you are someone who has seriously bad road rage, look at other aspects of your life and see if there are any areas you think could use some work.

For those of you who have terrible anxiety while driving because of constant worry and terror… I’m sorry this blog isn’t really for you.

I know this is also another really important topic that shouldn’t be discredited, and you should definitely talk to someone about how to reduce severe anxiety while driving.

FOCUS ON BEING HAPPIER

In my opinion, the best answer to how to reduce stress while driving is to reduce stress in all other aspects of your life. When we’re behind the wheel, it’s almost like we give ourselves permission to act like crazy people and take it out on others on the road. Happy and stress-free people don’t act that way.

It sounds harsh and I don’t want to accept it either, but I can say from experience when I am unhappy in my personal life I find myself having greater road rage than normal. Please see my other blogs on stress reduction to find ideas and techniques on how to bring a little more peace into your life and hopefully while you’re driving!

22 Comments

  • Katja

    Hi.
    Interesting post. I used to have real problems. I was driving to work at least two hours a day if it was a good day. I could get so stressed because of the other drivers, that when I came to work, my hand would shake. I have decided I can not live like that, I started to listen to audiobooks, and now I enjoy the ride. I look at it as my time for myself. Of course, it probably helps that I listen to self-help books and how to change your thinking. But now I hardly ever get frustrated. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading your post.

  • Karen

    I really needed to read this! The only time I get wound up is when I drive. The funny thing is that I apply the “expect the worst” attitude when I fly and it helps, but I’ve never thought about using it on the road.

    I’ve got to run an errand here in a short while, so I’ll have to apply it! Thanks!

  • carol

    I am from a small island in the Caribbean and most people are driver friendly, always allowing others to merge. People thank you with a little hand wave, a little nod and a smile. Of course, you smile back. Just this small gesture of kindness can help your day to start well. So yes, this helps to relieve stress.

  • Stephanie

    That’s true. We don’t really know what the other side of the road looks like once we leave our homes, and even then sometimes things happen in your home as well. I don’t drive but I do get really anxious whenever I’m with someone and they’re driving. I had to give up on driving due to my anxiety. I was always really jumpy and didn’t really manage well all the madness that the roads offer. Listening to my favorite music can really calm me a little too whole im on the road. 

    • Kay

      I am so sorry to hear you had to give up driving due to stress. Music also is a huge factor in my attempts to remain calm on the road!

  • Shifts

    Hi Kay. Thank you for sharing the cold hard truth on how to reduce stress while driving. While driving, there are many situations we might encounter, but if we expect anything from anyone at anytime, we’d be prepared always to handle things peacefully. Just like your momma told you, I too always expect anything from anyone. I don’t get surprised by any happenings in life. Nice read.

  • Sharon

    Hi Kay,

    I can relate to all these. Over the years, I have tried and still trying to calm down during driving. Some drivers are nice and some nasty and inconsiderate. It is fine to let a driver merge but the least he/she can do is on the indicator. Some just don’t do that. 

    Two things that make me mad on the road are drivers not using their indicator for turning, merging and other need to. And drivers who road hog. When I overtake them, they are one hand on their mobile! Can you believe they are drivers who actually watch videos while driving if not scrolling their social media?

    Let’s chill. Play some music, hard or slow depending on the mood 😉

    Like your post!

    Sharon

    • Kay

      I completely understand your frustrations here Sharon! I have seen it many times myself! Thank you for sharing, your input is valued greatly! 🙂

  • Nate Stone

    Hi Kay, 

    Interesting article subject, I live in LA so I can very much relate to this article!

    When you are driving in LA, the only thing you can expect is to run in to bad traffic regardless of the route you take, so when I eventually learned to “let it go” & just accept this was likely to happen, I certainly felt less stressed!

    I hadn’t considered allowing people to merge as a method to release stress, I’ll certainly give it a go though, as it makes minimal difference to my arrival time here!

    • Kay

      I have been to New York once to visit and I can’t even imagine dealing with that every day! It makes St. Louis look like a piece of cake! I am glad to hear you decided to just let it go, it truly does make a huge difference. Not only while driving, but in other aspects of our lives as well.

  • Techie

    There is no profit, no benefit nor gain in cursing people became of reckless driving.

    Lol. You seriously hate them because they don’t let people merge? 😆 That’s very funny my dear.

    I wonder what they gain when they don’t let people merge; maybe their car will begin to fly because they didn’t let others merge. LoL; it is always good to be kind. It gives us peace and joy.

    Good vibes!

    • Kay

      LOL thank you for laughing with me on that one!! You ask a great question that I am sure I will be searching for an answer for it for many years to come! 🙂 

  • John

    For many people, the truth is truly hard to accept and this is the main reason why they usually drive recklessly. Carrying all that stress when they drive. Many times, we go through hectic days at work or at home and what is actually needed is to chill out. Your tips to help relieve the stress behind the wheel is very nice. I like that a lot. Good work you have here!

  • Robert

    Like so many other people, this is a topic I can relate to. Most of drive and some like me drive as part of our jobs. I am behind the wheel of a car for 8 to 10 hours straight as a medical transport driver. I have seen some really crazy things when driving. Tailgating, speeding, even racing between two or three cars in and out of traffic. I’ve seen weaving drivers, drivers stopping short and even elderly drivers driving the wrong way on busy one way streets.

    Though it is important to be stress free when driving it is especially important for me and anyone else who transport others fr a living because you are not just responsible for your life and the life of others on the road but also those you have in your vehicle. I agree and do your first two points. I do expect the unexpected and let others merge, but it angers me when others do not return the favor even if they are not able to move more than a few car lengths to begin with.

    Getting stress out of other parts of your life is nor just good for reducing it in driving not having stress can even save your life, seeing how stress can lead to many deadly diseases. Though this type of stress is not as easy to control as your first two points, there are things we can do to help. I personally do the 4-7-8 deep breathing exercise which is known to help relieve stress and anxiety. It takes no more than one minute and 16 seconds and I highly recommend it to others.

    • Kay

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Robert! I am glad to see you already have your personal technique in place that works for you, I love to hear what other people are doing to help reduce their stress! 

      You are so right in saying reducing stress can save your life, the long-term effects are insane!

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