Driving to relax

A few ideas to stay relaxed whilst on the road.

A great cause of stress in day to day life can come about whilst driving a car. Most of us have to drive in order to get to work and be with family and friends. Yet this necessary activity does not need to be a source of stress; rather a chance to enjoy the ride and relax. Here below, can I share with you; ten ideas of driving to relax:


1. Combining journeys

Consider how many errands you can combine in one journey. For example: go shopping on the way home from work; book appointments in town on the same day; arrange to visit far away friends and family on the same day; give a lift to a neighbour going the same way.

The great circle route

If you have to use your car and drive; then try and combine as many journeys as possible. Not only are you saving time; you saving fuel, the environment and reducing your risks of becoming stressed whilst out on the road.


2. Allow time and plan your journey

Do not put yourself under pressure; by leaving the house too late and trying to make up by speeding to your destination. If you are driving on unfamiliar roads or to a faraway destination; check traffic reports and plan your journey to avoid traffic jams and roadworks. The AA have a great website; here is a link: https://www.theaa.com/route-planner/route

If you are just driving the regular commute to work or to the next town to see family and friends; why leave late and rush? It is kind of paradoxical; that the more organised and prepared we become, the more time we are actually relaxed. This is because nothing comes as a shock in our schedule.


3. Clean and declutter your car and windscreen

Keep your car clean; especially the windscreen. This is because our peripheral vision notices movement; so take down those air fresheners.

Where is the road?

In addition try and keep the windscreen; both inside and out clean. This is because our eyes are constantly focusing on different objects whilst we are driving to be aware of possible threats to our safety. Therefore, help yourself; by cleaning off grime and bugs from the windscreen. If you have cracks in your windscreen; get it replaced as soon as possible. Normally, your car insurance will cover the cost. If the windows are misted up or icy; be patient and let them clear. As the saying goes: “a stitch in time; saves nine”.


4. You are the captain of your ship

If you are carrying passengers be aware of their character and consider how it could affect your ability to drive safely and stay relaxed. Screaming children, crying babies, screaming and crying partners, ‘backseat’ drivers, drunk friends, chatty neighbours; mentally prepare before you set off in the car with them.

This is your captain!

Although, you don’t want to come across as a begrudging driver; you are in charge of your car and everyone within it. Like the captain of a ship; if anything happens, you will be held responsible, so be firm yet positive with your passengers. Some passengers, such as children; are simply not aware of how their behaviour can affect your ability to drive in a safe and relaxed manner. So make sure they are in a good mood before you set off; make sure they are fed and watered and have a book or toy to play with. When they inevitably demand to go the toilet in the middle of a freeway; calmly tell them you will pull over as soon as possible. Bring spare clothes and wet wipes for children; so if they cannot hold on, they can freshen up when you are finally able to stop.


5. Let the music play but your way

Personally as a professional truck driver, I drive in silence; without any music or radio. I am listening to the sounds of the engine to gauge engine speed and for outside hazards.

I like listening to the sound of silence

If you do feel the need to play music whilst driving; consider the tempo or speed of the song. Studies have shown that playing music with a beat faster than your heart rate; will subconsciously cause you to speed up and possibly drive in a reckless manner.

Consider, playing classical music to inspire you as you drive through rolling rural landscapes. Try to play happy and upbeat songs; that will cause your body to release serotonin and heighten your senses. Try to avoid to sad or aggressive music that may cause you to dwell on unpleasant thoughts or experiences which may cause you to loose concentration. Try listening to: podcasts, audio-books or a interesting programme on BBC Radio 4 (92-95 FM or 198 long wave).

Yet always be aware of your surroundings; especially approaching emergency vehicles trying to pass you.


6. Read the road and pay it forward

Most road hazards give you warning signs before they develop. Read the road like a developing story and prepare to give way.

Use clues to know what is around the corner

A slow moving car in front of you; may mean the driver is looking for an address and may suddenly turn off. Mud on the road; may mean there is a slow moving tractor after a blind bend. Lots of mums walking along the street in mid afternoon; may mean school has finished and children may run out in the road. Look for the signs, that will prepare you; leaving you ready but relaxed.

In addition, never think that you are in a race with other road users. If someone cuts you up; let them go, they are safer in front of you. If someone is waiting patiently to pull out of a side road; let them out if you will not hold up other road users and cause an accident. If a slow lorry is trying to reverse across a road to park; stop and give them the space they need. Pay the love forward and hopefully someone will repay the favour later on.


7. No need for speed

Driving faster than necessary will not get you much further up the road; yet will open you up to risks, fines and avoidable stress.

Watch those dials!

Most car journeys we make are locally; to work, the shops and family. On these short journeys; speeding will only get there a few minutes quicker at most! For example: driving ten miles at 35 mph instead of 30 mph; will only get you to your destination three minutes earlier. So consider what you will do in those three minutes. Are they worth a speeding ticket? Are they worth risking an accident? Are they worth the extra stress?


8. Pull over

A major cause of stress whilst driving is caused by someone following you too closely; causing you to focus on them and not the road ahead.

Pullover; danger and stress becomes easier when it is in front of you.

So your ego and your self righteousness is telling you to not give in. You want to maintain your sense of self respect; you start to feel anger and malice. You may even in consider driving slower just to spite them. Well quite literally; stop this thinking this way. Instead, consider turning down your rear view mirror. If your wing mirrors are adjustable; then turn them down too. If they are not adjustable; open the window and pull in the wing mirror on the drivers side. This way you can concentrate on the road ahead; without seeing movement in your peripheral vision by way of the mirrors.

If the driver behind you seems aggressive or just too close then consider pulling over when it is safe to do so. If there are no laybys; when you are on a straight stretch of road, indicate to the nearside and pull to the side. This way the driver behind you can safely pass. Trust me, with the danger in front of you; you will soon feel relaxed again.


9. Safe space

Imagine the distance between you and the vehicle in front belongs to you. Simply by slowing down and maintaining a gap; gives you more time to deal with hazards. Remember the old adage: “only a fool breaks the two second rule”. Wait for the car in front to pass a marker; then count two seconds. If you pass the same marker before two seconds you are too close.

Can you see the car in front?

The more space and time you give yourself to react to hazards; not only makes you safer but more relaxed. From seeing traffic slowing up ahead to sudden braking; by creating a safe space, you are giving yourself time to think and when you do not have to think quickly, you will only be relaxed.


10. Feeling tired, upset, unwell, under the influence, going blind?

Would you walk a tightrope whilst drunk? Would you try running whilst tired? Would you chop vegetables whilst crying so much you cannot see? Would you go to work feeling so weak and unwell you cannot even stand up? Would you speed along a motorway in thick fog?

Go to bed not the car!

Well why get in a car whilst feeling this way? A car does not look like a knife; yet it can kill just as well. Treat driving as a privilege and not a right. Yes you have passed the test and paid for a car; yet that does not mean your need to drive is more important than anyone else. If you do not feel well for any reason; do not drive. If anyone is pressurising you to drive; then tell them to catch the bus and then say goodbye, for you do not need these people in your life.


Therefore, most of us need to drive to work and other commitments that we put upon ourselves. Yet never let driving be a source of stress. You cannot control other drivers; yet by anticipating and being prepared we can allow for mistakes.

Ideally, to be completely relaxed; try to aim for a life without need of a motor car. Tibetan monks, Eskimo, Namibian herdsmen; it is possible to live a complete and satisfying life without the wheel!

Drive safe, drive with care, drive to relax.


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