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

by Doc Orman, M.D.

traffic jams 2In my previous post, we looked at the example of John, a 35-year-old salesman who often gets stressed in traffic jams. We also saw that John tends to focus exclusively on other motorists in order to understand what’s causing his traffic jam stress to occur.

Internal Causes Of Stress

What John and many other people fail to appreciate is that whenever we are feeling stressed, internal (non-obvious) causes are also playing a role.  These internal causes can be broken down into two major categories: internal conversations and internal action patterns.

“Conversations” is just a way of referring to thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, judgments and anything else that is cognitive in nature. I prefer use the term “conversations” because all of our cognitive experiences arise from human language, so thoughts can be viewed as nothing more than having internal conversations with ourselves.

“Action patterns” mean habitual behavior patterns that we all develop.  It also includes behaviors we fail to take, such as failing to make requests, failing to keep our promises, failing to ask for help, failing to file our income tax returns, and many others.

Conversations That Contribute To Our Traffic Jam Stress

Let’s focus on some internal conversations that often contribute to our traffic jam stress.  What thoughts (conversations) get triggered within you, whenever you get caught in a traffic jam?  These can be thoughts you consciously have or thoughts that get triggered deep within your body, and that you may not always be aware of?

Here are just a few examples of some of the thoughts people have when they get caught in a major traffic jam:

  • “OMG, this is terrible”
  • “Why did this have to happen today?”
  • “This definitely should not be happening to me”
  • “Something bad is going to happen because I’m delayed”
  • “Somebody should have warned me about this”
  • “Sitting in a traffic jam is a total waste of my time”
  • “Whoever caused this mess to occur must be an imbecile”
  • Etc.

Making An Inconvenient Situation Even Worse

Not being able to get to your destination easily and on time can be a problem.  But we often add more stress to our situations than we need to.  We do this through specific thoughts/conversations that automatically get triggered within us.  These are the “missing puzzle pieces” John and others typically fail to appreciate.

However, once you become aware of these hidden, internal causes of your stress, something very interesting happens.  You now have the opportunity to examine your triggered internal conversations and ask yourself:  “Are they really true?”  In other words:

  • Is it true that your situation is really “terrible”?
  • Is it true that traffic jams should never happen, especially to YOU?
  • Is it true that “bad things” really are going to happen because you are delayed?
  • And is it true that whoever may have caused this traffic jam really is an imbecile?
  • Does this mean you were an imbecile whenever you may have inadvertently been responsible for causing a traffic jam to occur?

When you start questioning your triggered, internal conversations that may be contributing to your stress, you will usually (but not always) find that there is little truth to them.  And the moment you recognize that one of your internal conversations isn’t really true, whatever stress or emotional reaction that conversation is producing will immediately lessen or sometimes even completely disappear!

This is the value of focusing on the internal causes of your stress.  Once you train yourself to get really good at this skill, you’ll be astonished how much stress you’ll be able to eliminate. 

In the final post of this three-part series, we’ll take a look at some action patterns than also contribute to traffic jam stress.

NOTE: Be sure to get your free PDF copy of my latest e-book “4 Books On Stress That Can Transform Your Life.” You can easily do this by clicking this link:


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