How to Keep Your Cool While You Commute

Banishing your road neighbor to the seventh circle of hell is nice and all, but experiencing actual mental peace is better.


When you really think about it, commuting is a recipe for disaster. You need to get to your soul-sucking job, or you already had an awful day at that soul-sucking job, so you hop into a metal box that can travel extremely fast, then maneuver it onto a roadway where there are a bunch of other annoyed people, all of whom suck at controlling their speeding metal boxes. The fact that most people make it home is a miracle, and the indelible sense of road rage you feel right now was inevitable.

Well… not completely inevitable, because with the right tools, you can keep your cool in the car no matter how many BMW drivers forget that turn signals exist. For help identifying those tools, I reached out to a couple of experts. First up, Dolores Guzman, who commutes up to five hours a day and recommends fighting off the craziness by listening to talk radio in the mornings and listening to podcasts “or having karaoke sessions” in the afternoons and evenings. That way, at least you have something else to focus on besides the violent rage building up in your soul.

If you find that tuning into something else rarely quells your anger, you might need to take a deeper look at the problem. “Road rage is really displaced anger from some other hot button that still triggers you,” says psychologist Jeanette Raymond. “So when you feel the rage coming on, think of who or what you’re really angry at, and vent out in the car about that thing or person. That keeps you safe on the road, because you’re not acting out.” In other words, rather than blindly taking years of work-related anger out on some random dude driving next to you on the freeway, take your alone time in the car to really think through the core of the problem, and how you can deal with it effectively.

If you still feel the rage burning inside you like Beelzebub himself clawing through your chest, just freaking breathe, man. “When you feel the anger coming on, focus on the bodily sensations: Muscle tension, trembling, teeth clenching, leg or arm shaking,” Raymond suggests. “That will alert you to the ‘fight’ stress response that would, if not checked, propel you into the rage that may cause road accidents. Then, focus on breathing in and out slowly, rather than go into ‘fight’ mode with short, shallow breaths.”

Or you could pull into a convenience store and stuff your face with candy until you feel better. Hey, whatever it takes to stay safe (and not super angry) on the road.