“Road rage” is when a driver gets extremely angry and becomes aggressive toward other drivers by yelling obscenities, using rude gestures, banging on the horn, or driving in a dangerous or threatening manner. We have all experienced drivers who display this behavior, and we may have even been guilty of it ourselves. As we enter the holiday season, we tend to encounter more situations that can breed road rage, such as crowded mall parking lots, long treks to relatives’ houses, drunk drivers, and higher levels of stress.
Here are a few tips to help you deal with angry and aggressive drivers and to avoid becoming one of them yourself.
Plan Ahead: If you know there will be traffic, leave early so you are not in a hurry. Even if you get there early, you will avoid getting stressed out about being late. Listen to the traffic reports to help with planning. Plan something to do in the car to make it fun (listen to Christmas music, play a game). Consciously remind yourself before you leave that there will most likely be some bad drivers on the road that you will encounter (there always are, aren’t there?). By acknowledging this to yourself, you’ll mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to not be surprised when it happens and you’ll most likely respond better.
Don’t Personalize: Many times, what heightens our anger at other drivers is the belief that they are specifically targeting us with their erratic or aggressive driving. We take it personally as if they set out on the road to deliberately aggravate us. We might say to ourselves, “He cut me off on purpose” or “She’s deliberately trying to slow me down.” We may not be fully conscious of these thoughts, but once we feel the anger, these types of thoughts are present. Since the other drivers on the road don’t know who you are, then how can they be personally targeting you? This doesn’t make it okay for them to drive aggressively, but keeping this tip in mind helps to minimize getting upset.
Supportive Self-Talk: What we say to ourselves determines how we react emotionally and behaviorally. An aggressive driver cannot make you upset and angry unless you allow him to by your self-talk and actions. For example, if someone cuts you off, and you say to yourself, “That jerk did it on purpose. I’m not going to let him get away with it,” then you will feel angry and try to not let him get away with it by taking various actions (i.e., getting on his tail, giving him a rude hand gesture, laying on your horn, or trying to cut him off). But what will this accomplish? It might give you temporary satisfaction by “getting even,” but it will also raise your stress level, raise your blood pressure and heart rate, put yourself and others in danger, and make you feel bad for allowing the other driver to cause you to lose control.
Instead, if you encounter an aggressive driver, some helpful things you can say to yourself to remain calm are:
“I’m not going to let that person spoil my day.”
“Maybe he’s in a hurry and didn’t realize he cut me off.”
“I’m going to let jerks be jerks.”
“I guess she really has to go to the bathroom.”
“He must be having a bad day.”
“There’s one of the five bad drivers I knew I would encounter on my drive.”
“That person must be really stressed out. That’s too bad because I feel fine.”
Or, you can make up your own. It’s helpful to write these down beforehand and even memorize them, so when it happens, you will remember what to say to yourself.
Remember, it’s not worth letting another driver aggravate you and spoil your positive mood, or make you engage in aggressive and dangerous behavior. Instead, you can apply these tips to keep your blood pressure down and your spirits up while you enjoy this holiday season. Cheers!
(Originally appeared on Examiner.com)