The Most Important Driving Skill We All Need? The Answer May Surprise You…
Driving through New York City during rush hour can definitely increase the heart rate – especially if you’re carrying a heavy load and surrounded by drivers who are in a big hurry to get nowhere fast. But the Big Apple isn’t the only place where tensions can reach a boiling point, especially if you’re on a deadline and circumstances seem to be conspiring against you. As we all know, stress can make it really difficult to keep your focus on the important stuff – and unfortunately, as stress increases, so does the risk of having an accident or getting hurt. That’s why effective techniques for handling stress should be in every driver’s tool kit; stress management is a skill we all need to develop, for both on and off the highways.
So what can you do to regain control when you feel yourself getting worked up?
- Get Enough Sleep & Eat Well
Effective stress management begins long before you encounter a trigger; set yourself up for success by making sure your body and mind are at their best. Make sure that you’re mentally and physically prepared for the demands of your day by getting a good night’s sleep and eating balanced, nutritious meals. Taking care of the basics means that your body can do its job so that your mind can focus on the bigger picture.
- Identify the Source
This isn’t always possible, but try to figure out what it is about your current situation that you find stressful. Is being away from home more difficult on certain days than on others? Do you find yourself more stressed at a certain, consistent point during your workload? Figuring out the root cause can help you determine the most suitable way of addressing the stress, since different stressors require different solutions.
- Avoid Unnecessary Stress
Learn effective time-management skills and plan ahead to ensure that lateness isn’t a constant worry. Leaving early ensures that you have buffer time in case of unexpected delays – a big source of stress for many of us. Along the same lines, learn to say no rather than pushing yourself beyond your limits. You won’t be doing anyone any favours if you burn-out from taking on too much. Finally, drive defensively; don’t get angry or try to retaliate against aggressive drivers – let them have their accident elsewhere.
- Keep The Broader Perspective In Mind
Look at the big picture, or reframe problems to get a new perspective on the situation. Ask yourself: “Will this matter in a month? Is it really worth getting upset about?” If you feel as though you’re constantly falling short, it may be time to adjust your expectations; is it really reasonable to expect as much from yourself as you do?
- Practice New De-Stressing Activities
Try including stress-busting activities – such as reading, exercising, meditating, etc. in your downtime to help you clear out the mental clutter and give yourself some breathing space. When you feel stressed, practice deep breathing or listen to your favorite music to get back into the right head space.
- Focus on the Positive
Count your blessings, smile, take the time to recognize your strengths, and try to see the glass as half-full in difficult situations. When times are tough, do something nice for someone – you’d be amazed at how effective this can be in alleviating your own stress! It’s not always easy, but thinking on the bright side is definitely worth the work; studies have shown that this attitude can have positive effects not only for your mood, but also for your health. Focusing on the positive can also help you see more possibilities for yourself, which may be part of the reason why optimistic people tend to be successful people.
- Ask for Help
Remember that you can turn to your support network of friends and family when the going gets rough. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk through your stress.
Managing stress is never easy, but developing strategies can help ease the load. Learning to notice your body’s cues, to anticipate when you feel yourself getting tense, and to use calming strategies like the ones outlined here, will help you keep your mind clear and your focus where it belongs – on the road.