Feelings affect how you drive? 6 tips for when emotions are high
Emotions also affect how you drive. If you're feeling particularly strained, your emotions can affect how you respond to other drivers, and lead to aggressive or risky driving behaviour.
You're stuck in traffic and it's not moving. Other drivers are speeding past and pushing in at the front. You've had a long day and feeling overwhelmed - in a moment of anger, you decide to do the same. Hooting ensues, tempers flare and you feel worse than you did. This is just one scenario of how stress, exhaustion and emotions can lead to hasty decisions and road rage, which affect road safety. Research has shown that driving in an extremely emotional state - experiencing anything from anger to sadness and complete despair - can be as dangerous as driving when you are tired. Your emotions can be even more distracting than using a cellphone while you drive.
4 ways extreme emotions affect you when you drive
- You can have tunnel vision and you are less likely to notice things happening around your car.
- Your observation and reaction times are slower, which affect precision and driving skills that need fast timing.
- You cannot accurately predict risky situations and feeling detached from your surroundings can cause riskier decisions and speeding.
- You are more likely to experience road rage - one of the most dangerous emotions that can lead to a tailspin of negative events.
Intense emotions influence your thoughts, attitude and problem-solving skills. All of which are necessary when you navigate the roads - it takes only seconds to miss the warning signs that might lead to an accident. What's most important when you are feeling emotional, is that you become aware of these emotions before you get into your car. Try to take steps that can help you calm your emotions so that you can focus solely on driving and getting to your destination safely.
6 tips to keep manage emotions when you drive
Remember, calming your emotions before you drive does not mean you don't have to acknowledge or deal with them. It just means that you have to control them for your safety. Everyone is different, so you need to find what works for you. Here are some suggestions to not allow emotions to affect your driving:
- Don't dwell on other drivers' actions that make you angry. Let it go and focus on staying safe rather than venting. Anger will only make things worse.
- Be courteous to other drivers. Cutting in, erratic lane changes and speeding, may save you a few seconds. At worst, it will land you and others in hospital.
- Take deep, slow breaths and count for a few seconds as you inhale and exhale. This can keep you focused, calm and able to handle stressful traffic better.
- Pull over at a safe location to take a short break and compose yourself. Stop at a shopping centre or petrol station when you feel overwhelmed by emotions such as anger or grief. Calm yourself by closing your eyes, breathing and turning the radio to soothing music or switching it off. It can also help to go for a short walk or to get a drink of water.
- Focus only on the road and on driving. Try to hold disturbing thoughts and emotions at bay until your journey is over.
- Leave earlier than necessary to make up for traffic and other hold-ups.
When taking care of your mental health, there may be a need for you to supplement the steps you take to improve your diet, physical activity and sleep with prescribed medicine. Always ask your doctor how any medicine you take can influence your safety on the road and if you need to take other precautions.
Be proactive in taking care of yourself and your health - it's good for road safety
This mental health month, take inventory of your self-care and make yourself and your physical and emotional wellbeing a priority. It could include getting more sleep, doing an activity you like, learning relaxation techniques, meditating, connecting more with your friends and family or volunteering in your community. Whatever it is that lights you up and makes you feel less stressed can also help protect you against the dangers of extreme emotions affecting the way you drive. Be thoughtful about practicing calmness and taking care of yourself - it is good for your health and for your safety on the road!
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