Idiot!” Dave screams, leaning forward almost against the steering wheel as the driver who just cut in front of us waves an unwelcome, and probably unfelt, “thank you”.
Dave is driving me home from tennis. He clobbered me today – how can such a large man move so fast?
“C’mon,” he says loudly, a couple minutes later, gesturing with his hand palm up. “The light’s green and they’re just sitting there.” Where we are, ten or so cars back, the line has not yet begun to move. Finally the one just ahead starts up and Dave follows, almost riding the guy’s rear bumper.
“Take it easy, man,” I say, “Save your blood pressure.”
“I can’t believe they allow these people to drive,” Dave mutters. Then, to the car in front, “Twenty miles an hour! Come on!”
I’m sitting at the Little Bakery, waiting for Marlena to meet me for lunch, and my cell phone rings.
“Hi, it’s me.” Marlena.
“I’m here on the Beltway, not going anywhere at the moment,” she says. “So, I’m going to be late.”
“No problem – I’ve got something to read.”
“I’m really sorry about this,” sounding stressed.
“Don’t worry about it,” I say, “Just be safe and get here when you get here.”
Driving is one of the most stressful things many of us do. Or to put it in a better way, for many of us, driving is a big stressor.
What’s the difference? Stress is something we experience, a physiological reaction in the body: the adrenal glands put out cortisol and adrenaline, the heart speeds up, the breath comes faster. You might have an uncomfortable, “pressured” feeling. (This is the bad kind of stress, distress – I’m not talking about the good kind, eustress; the physical symptoms are the same, though the experience is very different.)
A stressor, on the other hand, is something – a person, a situation, an activity – that we perceive as evoking the stress. So driving would be a stressor, not the stress itself.
Fortunately, we have a choice in the matter: what is, or is not, a stressor is in the mind of the beholder – what stresses me out may not bother you, and vice versa. Here are some things you can do to take driving out of your stressor category so you can drive even mellower than you were after reading the first two articles in this series (Mellow for the road, Tips for driving less stressed and Mellow for the road II).
Donald Pelles, PhD
Hypnosis Silver Spring
10410 Kensington Parkway
Kensington, MD 20895