Let’s face it; it’s a long haul. On good days, it’s a solid hour; and on bad days… well, on some days you just can’t get there from here. Driving while you’re all stressed out is a drag, and makes us tired, distracted and dangerous. Wouldn’t you rather arrive at either end of your trip safely and happy?
Here are some things to try to make that happen for you. I do most of them, most of the time, and they work.
1. Change what you listen to. We all love listening to our high-energy music (hip-hop, heavy metal, thrash, disco) in the morning, on our way to work. It gets us going! The big mug of coffee and the loud music gets us in the right frame of mind for the pressures of the day. But in the evening, do just the opposite! Listen to something slower or lighter. We have our favorite radio stations, but calmer music makes for a calmer arrival at home. Do you just plain hate slow music? Then try books on tape.
2. Turn it down. I’m guilty of this one for sure, and have to remind myself all the time. Now that you have something calmer on the stereo, it doesn’t need to be so loud. Turn it down a little. Close the windows too, to lower the amount of noise.
3. Put the phone down. In Colorado, it’s a secondary moving violation for you to be talking on the phone without a hands-free device (new law as of last year). Using a bluetooth device may make you a safer driver, but it won’t lower your stress! The workday is over. You’re on your way home already, so unless there’s an emergency, they’ll see your smiling face soon anyway. If we’re so lonely that we can’t go an hour without being on the phone, then we don’t need phones — we need therapy!
4. Increase your following distance. Now that the radio is down and the phone is off, we look up and realize that we’re so close to the car ahead that we’re using his bike rack for a hood ornament. Anybody who has made the Denver-Springs commute for a while will have learned that it won’t get you home any faster. Inching your way between cars, pressuring others to get over, or passing on the shoulder will get your adrenaline pumping — and your anger — which is the opposite of what we want at the end of the day. Back up from that bumper. Now, instead of being ready with a hair-trigger brake, we don’t have to be so tense, because we have more room to react.
5. Use the cruise control. Since you’re not tailgating anymore, you don’t have to change speed with every 2-m.p.h. adjustment in traffic. Leave a safe distance in front of you, and set the cruise to the proper speed for the lane you’re in. (Don’t set it for 50 if you’re in the fast lane. Somebody’ll shoot you, and getting shot makes it hard to reduce stress.)
6. Slow down. Set that cruise control for 1-2 m.p.h. slower than the guy you were tailgating a few minutes ago. The distance will increase, and you’ll find yourself relaxing. Sure, it’ll take you 60 seconds longer to get to the Springs. So what? That’s a very small percentage of the hour-plus you’re already doing. Let the guy behind you worry about how he wants to take advantage of every car length you allow to appear. Let him pass you if he wants. Smile and wave as she zooms by… and relax. It’s not a threat to your manhood/womanhood to be passed on the freeway, and that shiny Audi has the same legal speed limit as the Daihatsu.
7. Get out of those fancy shoes. Did you wear high heels to work? Or heavy work boots? Or hard leather dress shoes? That’s not exactly the most relaxing footwear, so why would you voluntarily sit an extra hour in them? When you get home, don’t you moan with pleasure when you take off that discomfort? Well, why wait? Take ’em off before you get in the car to go home! Put on some sneakers, or moccasins, or bunny slippers. Then do your “aaaaahhhh” where it matters.
8. Tilt your seat back. No, I don’t mean for you to lie down, but just lay your seat back a little. Lean back. Just an inch or so makes an enormous difference in your level of stress.
9. Take a different route. There are other routes between Denver and the Springs besides just I-25. Yes, they take longer, so we avoid them most of the time, except when traffic is completely blocked and stopped. But that doesn’t have to be the only time we leave the interstate. I know it’s not practical to do it every day. But you can do it once in a while. There are some very pretty back roads in this state — Colorado is beautiful! If you leave the freeway before you get all upset… make believe you’re a kid just looking at the scenery once in a while. You’ll get home a little later, and in a lot better mood.
10. Change the drive time. Do you have the option of moving your hours a little bit? For example, if you have to be in Denver by 8, could it be 8:30 instead? Understandably, not all of us have the luxury. But if you have the leeway at work, try moving your start-stop times around a little to see if there is a time that works better than the one you’re using already.
Have some more ideas of your own? Share them in the comments below.