Rush Power: 5 Ideas to Improve Your Life While Stuck in Traffic
You rush out of the driveway, already running a few minutes late for work. You take your chances speeding towards the highway since the streets are fairly clear. You reach the on-ramp that merges with the highway you take to get to work and boom! You’re stuck in traffic. Maybe it’s the same experience leaving your office. The bumper-to-bumper crawl and honking is enough to drive you crazy you might say. And those thoughts aren’t far off from the truth. You might not realize it right away, but being stuck in traffic on a daily basis can take a toll on your health.
How it Kills
Isn’t it fair to say the stress associated with traffic jam dissipates as soon as you arrive home? After all, you’re in your place of zen and peace. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. The frustration and exhaustion you feel while trailing the same obnoxious license plate for 30 minutes lingers, and sticks with you for a long time afterwards. And these effects may not show up for months, even years. For many people living in high-traffic cities, the daily commute is a ticking time bomb for illness.
The most insidious danger that comes with constant traffic jams, are psychological issues. When you’re always running late for work, arriving home late and losing time for your hobbies, you start to experience stress, anxiety and anger. All of these emotions have terrible consequences if you feel them on a daily basis, and they can wreak havoc on your mind. In fact, one study found drivers who were constantly stressed out by minor irritations were more likely to develop mood and anxiety disorders ten years later.
When the mind is troubled, the body will follow. You’ve probably heard the expression, “mind-body connection” – a relation between your thoughts and physical sensations. If you don’t believe in it, feel your neck after a long and stressful day (it will probably feel really tight due to muscle tension). The mental irritations of driving can take a massive toll on you physically as well. Anger intensifies your breathing and raises your blood pressure, to sometimes dangerous levels. Allow this to happen on a regular basis, and you now have the precursor to heart disease. Additionally, the time spent sitting in a car might not be good for those who already live a sedentary lifestyle, increasing their risk for diabetes and obesity. If that’s not enough, studies have shown those who are always stuck in traffic, are exposed to higher levels of pollutants, many of which are cancer-causing.
Traffic jams don’t only affect your body and mind, they also damage relationships. Researchers have found that those who are constantly stuck in traffic, are more likely to have social problems. They found the resulting fatigue and stress from road congestion caused drivers to feel less inclined to take part in social activities. It’s quite easy to understand. For those who don’t have such a long commute – that includes your spouse, children and best friends – they might want to spend time bonding with you through sports, dinner or a nice walk in the park. You on the other hand, after arriving home from a long, frustrating drive, may want nothing more than to crash on the couch and binge watch Modern Family or Game of Thrones.
5 Tips to Feel Free When Jammed
The key to staying healthy despite daily traffic jams, is to turn the experience into a positive one. It may sound crazy, but you’ll be surprised how easy it can be. The reason why traffic congestion is so frustrating, stems from a perceived wasting of time. So what if you make use of time you think you are losing? You can use your commute as a means to get things done. Not only will you relieve yourself of some stress, you’ll also find more time for the things you never thought you would have.
- Learn a new skill or language – Although we wouldn’t recommend practicing your martial arts while behind the wheel, you can practice certain skills while stuck in traffic. This may include your presentation techniques for the boardroom or learning a new language.
- Listen to a new album or audiobook – Let’s say you finally found your hands on an album worth listening to. You can tune out the sound of honking horns, and take in the grooves and melodies of the music. Or if there’s a classic novel or self-help book you normally don’t have time to read, you can pop in the audiobook version and immerse yourself in the experience.
- Hold a hands-free conversation – Earlier on, we mentioned how those who are usually stuck in traffic may suffer socially. There’s a way to counteract it. If you’ve got a hands-free setup in your car, you can ramble and joke about with a friend or family member to pass the time. You may start to find traffic jams quite refreshing by doing this.
- Make mental notes/checklists – Sometimes you need to make a checklist or plan something out, but just can’t find the time to do it. Instead of telling yourself you’ll be too tired to do it at home, you can come up with ideas while your fingers tap the wheel. You’ll feel a lot less overwhelmed when you arrive home.
- Use it as personal reflection time – We all need some time to think things through. Maybe we’re dealing with certain challenges, frustrations or have ambitions. When you’re alone in your car, you can use that time to think of solutions for some of these problems. If you’re a creative person, you can daydream a bit and use it as inspiration for your next project. Just make sure to maintain your primary focus on the road.
A Worldwide Epidemic
It’s easy to think you’re the only one who has traffic woes. The feeling is really strong when it seems you’re the one who always rushes into the office (or steps in late). But the reality is that just about EVERYONE suffers through traffic congestion and and the occasional gridlock. In fact, it’s not just a North American problem – it’s a global one.
Traffic Around the World
- Istanbul – Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, was rated by TomTom as the world’s worst city for traffic congestion worldwide. The company noted a 58 per cent increase in travel times during the city’s rush hour, a number that amounts to 110 hours of annual daily.
- Rio de Janeiro – The Brazilian metropolis is known not only for high tourist traffic, but also for its road congestion. TomTom rated the city as third worst place for traffic in the world, and cited its congestion rate at 51 per cent.
- Moscow – Right behind Rio de Janeiro in fourth place, is the home of the Kremlin – Moscow, Russia. During peak travel times, the city sees a congestion rate of 50 per cent. The average driver also experiences a staggering 20,000 start-stops a year!
Other cities known for Terrible Traffic
Here is a list of cities that rank among the worst in the world for traffic congestion.
- Mexico City, Mexico
- Jakarta, Indonesia
- Tianjin, China
- Beijing, China
- Brussels, Belgium
- Sao Paulo, Brazil
- Los Angeles, USA
- Bucharest, Romania
- Rome, Italy
- Dublin, Ireland
Don’t Let a Jam Bring Your Life to a Halt
Being stuck in traffic is no fun. You might question how you’re going to put up with this for the next few decades, and the constant slog could lower your ability to handle stress. However, you can fight back by making good use of the time lost behind the wheel. This is important since it’s not always possible to avoid road congestion. Make a traffic jam a means to improve your life, and even your health by turning your suffering into therapy!