You press your teeth together and grip the steering wheel hard, till your knuckles are white. Your core temperature is rising, testosterone also increasing. Rage sets in and you begin to honk, yell, flash your lights and shake your fist at the driver in front of you. As if they can hear you or as if it will make them go faster. Road rage, something that we all experience in our lifetime. Some of us have learned to let go of it and others, well not so much. But instead of getting angry at someone/something you CAN'T control, take a deep breath, and think about these few things for a second.
1. THIS WAS NO ACCIDENT. Did you know that annually there are roughly 6,800,000 crashes per year in our country. Half of those are fatal. Road rages causes 66% of those crashes. That's a lot based on not being able to control your emotions while on the road. Since 1990 there has been a 51% increase in the accidents caused by rage. Road rage is a side effect of stress, for some it is considered a disorder to jump so quickly to rage. 7% of drivers actually have what is called "intermittent explosive disorder." It is the sudden onset of exaggerated feelings of rage This can often be a catalyst for violent behavior.
2. HAVOC ON THE BODY & MIND. Aside from the awful car accidents that road rage can provoke, it also takes a huge toll on your mind and body. Even if you make it home safely. You're really not as safe as you think. When we let our emotions over run us, especially when it comes to anger, our hormones go haywire. Testosterone, epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol all shoot through the roof and send your body and your mind into a "fight or flight" response. This is not good, this response is in our DNA to help us in dangerous situations, not to be angry that we didn't leave our house early enough. Allowing the mind to succumb to these urges also does a number on the psyche. Over time it can break you down and you're left completely rewired. Suddenly all you can think is negative, cynical thoughts all the time. Being this way also releases those nasty hormones that come from rage and stress.
3. HEART HEALTH. Oh yes, I said it. This highly affects your cardiovascular system. Even in the long run, in fact studies are showing more and more that road rage is DECREASING life span in humans. Not only does it elevate blood pressure, but it restricts blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. A study in 2012 found that the longer a persons commute was, the higher the blood pressure and BMI.
4. BRAIN FOG. If you're angry, you can't think straight, or even two feet in front of you. Road rage causes people to miss more turns, have more near misses on other drivers, and have panic attacks and overreactions than those who realize their mistake and calmly correct it. You rewire your brain every time you are negative or positive. They both affect the brain in very different ways.
5. DON'T ENGAGE. I had a boss who loved to use the analogy of vibenomics. Vibenomics is when one persons emotions start to slowly trickle down until everyone around them is feeling the same way they are. This can be positive vibes or negative vibes. Road rage is a hugely negative one that can turn victims into aggressors. Road rage has such a powerful effect on those around it that is can be difficult to NOT engage. But we shouldn't engage with those who are experiencing road rage. By portraying a calm demeanor we can positively affect those around us for the better. If that's not enough, here's another reason. A report from safemotorist.com found that of the 66% of accidents caused by road rage 37% involved a firearm. Oh and one more thing, 2% admitted to trying to run an aggressor OVER.
In short, there are things we can do to prevent road rage. You may be sitting there thinking to yourself "yeah right," as you giggle sarcastically to yourself; but if you haven't tried you can't knock it. So here are just a few tips to help.
1. LEAVE WITH ENOUGH TIME. Traffic varies in different parts of the country, even in different parts of the same state or city. Knowing your traffic patterns and when your rush hour starts and ends is important. Leaving your home/office/etc a few minutes early never hurts. You could run into construction, an accident, or even just get behind someone for an extra half mile who's going 5 under. DON'T GET ANGRY! It is your own fault here if you did not leave with enough time. Life happens, even on the road.
2. BREATHE, IT'S ONLY LIFE. And with that being said I mean that nothing is worth losing anyones life over. Or even causing harm to another. You can meditate anywhere and during traffic is a great place. You don't need candles, incense, or even to close your eyes. Simply breathe.
3. MUSIC MATTERS! Music does matter, and if you think I'm wrong then put on some heavy metal and drive ten minutes down the road to the store. On your way back play some relaxing jazz. Tell me you don't feel a difference? Music is vibrations, and our bodies and minds feed off those vibrations, even while we sleep. Our hormones react to the noises and sounds we hear daily, adding angry, fast paced music can override those hormones and send them into a raging spiral of furry. Stay calm, you will get where you are going when you are supposed to.
4. MINDFULNESS. This should never stop, even while driving. Being mindful is doing things like waving when someone is nice and lets you over during rush hour, or using your blinker to let other drivers know where you are going (though turn signal usage also happens to be the law anyway). Driving the speed limit, for gods sake just drive AT LEAST the speed limit, it is there in place for a reason. In fact this is a big reason why a lot of people begin to develop rage: being stuck behind Miss Daisy. Be aware of those around you, this sometimes requires slightly quieter music or staying off your phone while on the road (again, in many places now, being off your phone is also the law). NOTHING, I REPEAT, NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAT SAFE DRIVING.
5. YOU ARE NO MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYONE ELSE. Deep down inside we are all made of up the same things, right down to our very last molecule. And we forget that all too often. Speeding, raging, yelling, harming..... every time you do this you are telling the rest of us to fuck off and that you are definitely more important than anyone else. That your life is far more important than anyone else's. This is untrue. It does not matter if you're an award winning surgeon or you flip burgers; it does not matter if you're chairman of the board or you're a reserve member of the PTA. We all share this planet and we all share the same allotted amount of time on this Earth. Don't cut someone's time short to sit down and play a video game at home after work, or even to get to work in the first place. Carry yourself about calmly, and begin your unwinding while you drive. Don't worry about rushing, even Myth Busters showed us that speeding and weaving through traffic literally got you to your destination 30 seconds earlier. This is not worth the life of another.
So lower your stress by taking a deep breath! Put on some relaxing tunes and actually enjoy your ride home. We all have to take it, we all have to endure it, we are all in it.
Note from the Team.
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