How to drive in traffic without the stress

Stress is present in every part of our lives, it seems. But is there a way to eliminate stress on the road? Experts weigh in on tried-and-true tips to alleviate stress while driving.

Stressed woman in car

Try tapping

Aimee Serafini, a women’s empowerment coach and an energy psychology practitioner, is an expert on stress relief. But she also is triggered by traffic (which ultimately caused her to move out of Los Angeles). So how does she deal?

She says, “Since I left Los Angeles, I learned about a great technique that I can use in the car when I find my patience starting to drain. It is a simple process called EFT (i.e. tapping) which helps calm you down in any stressful situation. It involves lightly tapping on eight different acupressure points while venting my frustration. I rant about the other drivers and tap, and at the end I feel calm again. I loved it so much that I got certified in the technique so I could teach it to all of my coaching clients. I love having that tool in my back pocket!”

The eight tapping points are as follows:

  • Three are on the bone surrounding your eye — where your eyebrow starts near your nose, the corner of your eye and directly under your pupil.
  • The fourth is between your nose and upper lip.
  • The fifth is in the dent of your chin.
  • The sixth is just below your collarbone an inch in from the breastbone.
  • The seventh is under your arm where your bra strap is.
  • The eighth is the top of your head.

Work the fire point

Sara DiVello, a registered yoga teacher certified with the Yoga Alliance, says, “Draw the tip of the tongue to the little mound of flesh right behind the top two front teeth and press there. You’ll feel your face release and your shoulders drop.”

She adds, “When we’re stressed, the forehead wrinkles, the shoulders tense up and the jaw clenches. We often feel those areas of stress. However, the nerves that innervate the jaw also innervate the pelvic floor and toes. So whether or not we’re aware, those areas may be clenching too. When you relax the jaw with the fire point, you may feel a staggered relaxing response travel down the body.”

Leave in plenty of time

John Z. Wetmore, producer of Perils For Pedestrians television series, says, “The stress and frustration from starting late and running late can also have an impact on safety. You are more tempted to exceed the speed limit. You are more likely to accelerate through a yellow light you should have stopped for. You will hurry to make a turn in a small gap in traffic without first checking for pedestrians in the crosswalk. Your margin of safety suffers when you are in a hurry. So to avoid stress, leave early enough that you will arrive on time even with all the annoying delays that you are likely to encounter on the way.”

Be thankful

If you find yourself stuck in traffic, be grateful, says Karen Sherman, Ph.D., a psychologist, author, internet expert and professor. She says, “Think about the situations differently… maybe there’s a tie-up because of an accident, and thank goodness you’re not in it.”

Don’t take it personally

Michael Soubirous, a retired California Highway Patrol lieutenant and contributor to a weekly traffic column, says, “If someone cuts you off, let it go. You never know the mental state of the other party and maybe they simply made a mistake. Drivers are not perfect. Don’t expect perfection. Relax and enjoy the ride.”

Reframe the situation

Sherman advises using the time you’re driving in traffic wisely. She says, “Reframe the situation since you can’t change it… It’s a great time to put on music and relax.”

She also suggests using this time “to do muscle relaxing and deep-cleansing breathing. Both will calm your nerves down so that you don’t increase your stress levels.”

Fight traffic stressors

  • Hitting all the red lights — Use the time at the red lights to find your favorite song on the radio.
  • Construction detours — Before hitting the road, check the local news or road information hotline to make sure your planned route is clear.
  • Other drivers honking their horns or riding your tail — Zone them out (but still pay attention to the road!). Turn up the radio or think positive thoughts to relax yourself as you drive.

More on stress relief

Secrets of stress-free family travel
Stress relief through technology
Give meditation a try


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