How to avoid stress on the road

This has, without doubt, been one of the most anxiety-inducing years in modern memory. The world has had to adapt to the new realities of living in a pandemic and manage stress on so many levels – from dealing with new financial concerns to worrying about the health and wellbeing of loved ones and the community.

Now that South Africa has entered Level 2 of Lockdown, locals are allowed to travel a little further afield. Many of you may be looking to stretch your legs and broaden your horizons. Whether you’re planning a mini-break or road trip, or you’re settling back into your commuting routine, it’s vital to pay attention to your stress levels on the road. We have already had more than enough anxiety to deal with this year!

Here are 7 ideas for keeping your stress levels down while you’re driving:

  1. Plan your route

There’s nothing more stressful than getting lost or taking a wrong turn and adding an unnecessary chunk of time onto your journey. If you take a few minutes to plan your route, familiarise yourself with the directions or programme your course into your GPS or web mapping service, you’ll be able to avoid navigation errors – and save yourself the frustration of driving around in circles.

  1. Give yourself enough time

No-one enjoys the feeling of running late. If you’re rushing to get to your destination, you’ll not only send your stress levels soaring, but also run the risk of speeding or driving more recklessly than usual – putting your passengers and everyone else on the road in danger. Get into the habit of working out how long your journey will take and leaving yourself enough time to get there. It’s even worthwhile adding an extra 10 minutes to your estimated travel time to make up for unexpected events, such as struggling to find your car keys or an open parking space.

  1. Take the path less travelled

If you have time on your hands, it’s worthwhile taking the scenic route or back roads to avoid stresses such as traffic jams and busy highways. This way, you’ll enjoy your drive and the beautiful scenery that South Africa has to offer, rather than having to focus all your energy on navigating traffic and overtaking slow-moving trucks. On the scenic route, the stresses of driving will soon be forgotten when you’re driving alongside the sea or through a breath-taking mountain pass. You may even discover an amazing farmstall where you can stock up on goodies for your trip.

  1. Avoid rush hour

If possible, plan to hit the road outside of rush hour times. Creeping through traffic can easily add an hour onto your journey and send your stress levels through the roof. Even if you’re travelling to work, see if you can negotiate a slightly more flexible working schedule so that you can avoid being on the road during peak traffic hours. Hopefully after this year’s hard lockdown, more companies will be open to flexible and remote working arrangements.

  1. Create a stress-busting playlist

Music can be a great stress-reliever. Whether you prefer upbeat music that lifts your spirits or tunes with a slower tempo that soothe your nerves, create a personal playlist that you can listen to whenever you feel tense on the road. If you prefer chatting to your passengers during the trip and find music distracting, try playing calming rain or nature sounds in the background to create a peaceful atmosphere in the car.

  1. Avoid confrontation

Even when you’re driving calmly and politely, you may come across others on the road who are letting stress get the better of them or making poor driving decisions. If someone cuts you off or takes their anger out on you, it’s best not to engage. Take a deep breath and avoid confrontation entirely. Conflict can quickly escalate into road rage – and fast become a dangerous situation for you and your passengers.

  1. Don’t take it personally

If another driver directs their frustration at you by shouting and hooting at you; or blames you for something that isn’t your fault – simply refuse to take it on board. Get out of the situation as politely and quickly as you can. Then turn the other cheek and let the incident go. It really doesn’t matter what someone else thinks of you. Don’t let their negative attitude ruin your day.

Hopefully, with some forward-planning and the right mind-set, you will be able to keep your stress levels down and enjoy being on the road more in the coming months. Drive safe and stress-free!