How To Relieve Traffic Jam Stress (Part 1 of 3)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

If there’s a better time to focus on how to relieve traffic jam stress than the week right before Christmas, I don’t know when it would be. Just think about all the opportunities you’re going to have during the next few days to test your traffic coping skills.  So my gift to you this week is a series of three new blog posts to give you a few extra things, regarding traffic jam stress, to think about.

How Well Do You Understand Stress Causes?

Focusing on traffic jam stress is an excellent way to test your understanding of the causes of stress in general.  Most people have an incomplete view of what really causes their stress (i.e. problems in life) to occur.  In several previous posts, I talked about obvious vs. non-obvious causes and internal vs. external causes.  If you didn’t read those posts before, now would be a good time to do so.

In my introductory trainings, I use the example of John, a 35-year-old sales executive who frequently experiences traffic jam stress.  When asked what he thinks is causing his stress to occur, in these situations, he gives an answer that most people tend to say:

John:  “I have a terrible time coping with traffic jams and the stress they cause me. I’ve got a busy schedule and I really get steamed when some jerk doesn’t keep his eyes on the road and causes me to miss an important sales meeting.  Sure I know what’s causing my stress to occur, but most of the time, it’s beyond my control.”

Missing Puzzle Pieces

John thinks he fully understands the causes of his traffic jam stress: poor drivers.  But, in reality, he is only recognizing half  the puzzle pieces (i.e. the obvious ones). 

But other drivers are just part of the reason John gets so upset when he is caught in a traffic jam.  There are other causes involved (i.e. internal ones, within John himself), but he doesn’t normally see these causes, or take them into account, because they are not obvious to him.

Thus, when John tries to deal with his traffic jam stress, his coping options are severely limited.  That’s because he’s working with only 50% or less of the puzzle pieces.  However, if he did have all of the puzzle pieces (causes) available to him, John would have a much more complete (and therefore accurate) understanding of what’s really causing his traffic jam stress to occur.  And his options for coping with his emotional reactions would expand dramatically. 

In fact, if John had all of the puzzle pieces of why he gets so upset in traffic jams, clearly in front of him, he would probably find that he has much more control over his emotional reactions than he gives himself credit for.

Implications For Dealing With Other Types Of Stress

You might think that focusing on traffic jam stress is not really worth the time, since it’s such a minor, infrequent, and inconsequential part of most people’s lives.  However, what do you think would happen to John if he truly “got” that additional, non-obvious factors within him (i.e. unrelated to his external circumstances or the behavior of other drivers) were also strongly contributing to his intense and unpleasant reactions to getting stuck in traffic?

Might he start to wonder where other hidden factors might be causing mischief in his life?  Might he start to get some additional clarity about how he might be contributing to other problems in his life, such as relationship conflicts, recurring anger and frustration in other situations, stress-related physical or health related problems, etc?  I think he would, provided he has an open mind, which for many people similar to John could be a stretch.

But the point is that if you do get a glimpse of what’s really going on when you’re experiencing traffic jam stress, you also gain a window into what types of hidden causes, within you, may be contributing to most other types of stress in your life. 

So, with the next two blog posts coming up this week, we’ll take a closer look at what some of these hidden, internal causes of traffic jam stress might be. 

And as you get more clarity about the specific nature of these hidden, internal causes, you may just get some opportunities this week to put your new awareness to good use.

It’s still not too late to get my free holiday stress relief e-book on Facebook.  Just click on the link above to download your own copy of this 32-page PDF e-book. If you want to know more about what’s inside this great holiday stress relief resource, just click on the brief video at the top of this page.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Low cholesterol recipes December 25, 2011 at 12:37 PM

Love what you are doing with the blog man!


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