How To Relieve Traffic Jam Stress (Part 2 of 3)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

In my first blog post this week, How To Relieve Traffic Jam Stress (Part 1 of 3), we considered the example of John, a 35-year-old salesman who frequently experiences high levels of stress in response to traffic jams.  We also noted that John tends to focus mostly on the behavior of other drivers when he tries to understand what is causing his traffic jam stress to occur.

Conversations And Action Patterns

With most types of stress we human beings experience, internal non-obvious causes also play a role.  I previously pointed out that these internal causes of human stress can be broken down into two large categories: conversations and action patterns.

The term “conversations” is just another way of referring to thoughts, opinions, beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, conclusions, meanings, interpretations, judgments, evaluations and anything else that is cognitive in nature. I prefer the newer convention of referring to these as “conversations,” because this ties them to human language, which is ultimately where they all originate from.

The term “action patterns” is more self-explanatory, meaning habitual behavior patterns that all human beings develop.  When this term is used to denote causes of human stress, it also includes behaviors we fail to take, such as failing to be assertive, failing to do our “homework” or research, failing to ask for help, and others.

Conversations And Traffic Jam Stress

In this post, I’ll focus on some internal conversations that frequently contribute to traffic jam stress.  In the final post of this three-part series, we’ll take a look at some action patterns than commonly contribute as well.

What thoughts or conversations tend to get triggered within you, whenever you get stuck in a traffic jam?  What are some thoughts you consciously have?  And what thoughts get triggered within your body, and that you may not always be consciously aware of?

Here are just a few examples of some of the thoughts people have in response to being caught, unexpectedly, in a major traffic jam:

  • “OMG, this is awful”
  • “Why does this have to happen right now?”
  • “Why does this have to happen to me right now?”
  • “This definitely should not be happening right now”
  • “This definitely should not be happening to me right now”
  • “Something really bad is going to happen because I’m delayed”
  • “I should always be able to get where I want to go without obstruction”
  • “Somebody should have warned me about this”
  • “Somebody should have set up a detour by now”
  • “Sitting in a traffic jam is a total waste of my time”
  • “Sitting in a traffic jam is a stupid waste of my time”
  • “Whoever caused this mess to occur must be an imbecile”
  • “Whoever caused this mess to occur must be a jerk”
  •  Etc.

Making Your Situation Even Worse

Not being able to get where we want to go, and arrive on time, can sometimes be a problem itself.  However, we often add way more stress to this external situation than we need to, because of the automatic thoughts/conversations that get triggered within us.  These are some of the missing puzzle pieces John fails to appreciate.

But once you do become aware of these hidden causes of your traffic jam stress, something very interesting (and powerful) opens up for you.  You now have the opportunity to examine these triggered internal conversations and ask yourself  “are they really true?”  In other words:

  • Is it true that this situation is really “awful”?
  • Is it true that traffic jams should never happen, or more importantly, that they should never happen to YOU?
  • Is it true that something “terrible” really is going to happen because you are delayed?  Are there actions you could take to prevent this from actually occurring?
  • And is it true that the driver (or construction workers) who may have caused this traffic jam really are jerks or imbeciles?  Does that mean you were a jerk or an imbecile whenever you may have inadvertently been responsible for causing a traffic jam to occur?

You see, when you really start questioning your triggered, internal conversations and beliefs, you will usually (but not always) find that there is little if any truth to them.  And guess what happens the moment you recognize that one of your triggered conversations is not really true?

Whatever stress, tension, or emotional reactions that were being driven by that internal conversation immediately lessen or sometimes will completely go away!

But before you can even begin to examine and then question your automatic assumptions, you first have to be consciously aware of them.  You have to expand your focus to include not only what is going on outside of you, but also what has been triggered within you as well.

This is the true value of focusing on the internal causes of stress.  Once you train yourself to get good at this skill, you’ll be astonished at how much stress in your life you’ll be able to eliminate, just by challenging your triggered conversations, and by disrupting your triggered action patterns, which we’ll address in the last post in this series.

 

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 3-minute video at the top of this page.

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Health fitness December 30, 2011 at 6:25 PM

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