How Your Commute Can Impact Your Entire Day

May 14, 2019 | Categories: emotional intelligence, stress

person holding steering wheel

Road rage hardly needs an introduction. We know what it looks and feels like, and if you’ve never experienced it, you may be part of a rare 20% of our population. As for the rest of us, we report experiencing significant anger, aggression, or road rage at least once a year. If you happen to live in Arizona as I do, that number may be significantly higher.

Egregious acts of lawlessness on the roads can be extremely frustrating, especially when the other person’s disregard causes a near accident. In a split second, you may go from calming cruising along to wanting to pull someone out of their car and teach them a thing or two about the importance of roadway courtesy. How we deal with road rage really comes down to our level of emotional intelligence (EQ), specifically the self-regulation component of EQ.


Origin of road rage

I’d like to consider myself a calm and patient person, yet when I get behind the steering wheel in my giant box of metal, I become confident and fearless. That increases when I feel that I’m on the defensive. One study shows that personal factors such as age, gender, beliefs, or your mood can determine the level of anger and road rage you experience.

Additionally, we often “personalize” incidents that happen on the road. Close calls may simply be due to the fact that other drivers aren’t paying attention, yet we often react as if they did something to us intentionally. Judgment and decision-making go out the window and we turn from Jekyll to Hyde in the blink of an eye. This is when it’s most important to tap into our EQ and realize that, regardless of why they are driving poorly, it has nothing to do with us. We shouldn’t take any ownership of the situation. Instead, just let it go.


Recovering from road rage

So, how does this relate to the rest of our day at the office? As we cross paths with hundreds of drivers on our morning commute, it’s almost impossible to leave the emotion of negative road experiences behind as we lock our cars and walk toward the office. The intensity lingers as we check our inboxes and begin firing off emails and messages to coworkers. The negativity carries over into other aspects of our day turning minute issues into problems that feel much worse than they really are. Why does this darn coffee machine take so long to brew a cup of coffee?!

The commute is often overlooked as an opportunity to ensure your day runs smoothly and positively. If you drive a vehicle, you play a small part in the complicated dynamic of traffic patterns and commuting. Are you someone who contributes to making the commute a pleasant relaxing experience or might you be the cause of other people’s frustrations? Your small part could have a big impact on the overall commute if we all work together on improving our personal driving experience.


5 tips for improving your commute (and by extension, your day)

What can we do on the road to ensure we have a better day at work? Try incorporating at least one of these things into your commute each week. After five weeks, revisit how you feel after your morning commute. Chances are, it will have improved and what previously seemed like a chore may have evolved into something you actually enjoy.

  1. Leave earlier! Rushing around is more likely to intensify your irritation with other drivers. Leaving 10-15 minutes earlier than you normally would will help you feel calm, cool and collected.
  2. Drive mindfully. When you drive, just drive. Distracted driving is still an increasing issue. Despite technology advances, 49% of drivers are still holding cell phones in their hands.
  3. Get more sleep. When our children are cranky and fussy, we put them down for a nap. It’s amazing how pleasant they are to be around after some extra rest! That goes for us too – while a nap at work may not be feasible, taking responsibility for your sleep at night could make a big difference on your morning commute.
  4. Don’t respond. We tend to feed off of road rage behaviors. By participating in the rage, we continue to pass this along to other drivers which then carries on with us throughout the day. Instead, try to resist. If another person cuts you off or tailgates, just slow down or change lanes and move away from them.
  5. Breathe. Take a few deep breaths in and out, perhaps even letting out a very intense sigh. If somebody cuts you off, instead of honking or yelling, take a deep breath and say aloud, “I hope they arrive to their destination safely” and then just keep on keepin’ on.

 

The road to a better commute

When a person encounters a highly stressful situation, it can take 3-4 hours to recover from that stressful event. During that time, everything is affected, including interactions with coworkers and the quality of work performed. Learning to raise your self-regulation will help limit the instances of falling victim to these situations, leading to more peace and harmony in your life.

When you feel good, you perform better. Momentum builds and you accomplish so much more. Whether or not we realize it, so much of that starts with our morning commute. Put the phone down and pick a lane. When someone around you drives discourteously or flat-out breaks the law, let karma be that person’s judge and jury while you relax and enjoy the ride.

 

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About the Author

Sarah Merkle

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