Stressed drivers: How to stay calm when behind the wheel of your car

Stressed drivers

Stress experts say deep breaths could stop drivers getting angry at the wheel

Stressed out drivers seem to be a fundamental part of modern motoring. Whether the anxiety shows itself through rude gestures, driving aggressively or ignoring basic good manners and the rules of the road it’s there, eating away at many of us.

In 2015, the UK government’s Health and Safety Executive claims that more than 105 million work days a year are lost in the UK through stress, costing employers £1.24 billion. Stress is such a problem that in 2015 Jaguar Land Rover revealed it’s developing a range of in-car technologies aimed at reducing the number of stressed and distracted drivers. Unfortunately, they’re still a number of years away from being fitted to cars we can buy. So to help drivers stay chilled behind the wheel, here are some stress busting tips that can be put to good use today.

Stressed drivers: Are you sitting comfortably?

Your in-car posture can have a dramatic effect on how you feel in the car, which in turn can affect how you react to various situations. A 2015 survey by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) found that four out of five people suffer from back pain. For 40 per cent of those it’s aggravated by sitting down, which you can’t help doing in a car. And if you’re in physical pain, you’re not going to feel at your best towards your fellow man.

Stressed drivers: Smoothly does it

The more aggressively you drive, the more aggressive it will make you feel. This is because constant sharp acceleration and braking makes you have to adjust your body constantly. This can cause strain in your back, particularly around the lower lumbar area, which promotes feelings of stress.

Stressed drivers: Exercise it away

Stress is the body preparing to take something on (fight) or run away from it (flight). If you can’t do either, like when you’re behind the wheel of a car, it makes you become angry, irrational and erratic. Neil Shah director of The Stress Management Society and Author of The 10-Step Stress Solution said: “Take some deep breaths. The more oxygen you can get into the brain, the calmer you’ll become. If you’re in a traffic jam and it’s safe to do so, you could also try stretching and releasing muscles in your arms and legs. And concentrate your mind on what you’re going to have for dinner or what you’ll do at work when you get there rather than what’s winding you up.”

Stressed drivers: Forgive and forget

Chances are the driver who has irritated you didn’t do it on purpose. So don’t take it personally and don’t let it get to you. Bill Fox who specialises in conflict management training said: “You probably know nothing about the person who has just cut you up. They may be a violent psychopath who’s just split up with their girlfriend and lost their job. And they could be carrying a weapon so it’s safest to just let it go.”

Stressed drivers: How would you react out of the car?

Before you give another driver an abusive hand gesture, ask yourself what would happen if neither of you were in a car. “If you’d just bumped into them in the Post Office, you’d probably simply both apologise to each other,” said Bill Fox.

Stressed drivers: It’s all in the planning

Being on the road is stressful enough without making it harder for yourself. If you leave late, thinking you can make up time in the journey, you’re setting yourself up to get stressed. Leave in plenty of time and if there’s a small delay on the way, it won’t be a big deal. Equally, plan your route or take a sat nav. There are few more stressful things than getting lost, particularly if you’re late as well.

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