16 Nov How Stress Works On the Fifth Gear
You know that feeling you get when you drive your car. The feeling and the rush of beating the red light. The feeling of driving ahead of somebody that, maybe, cut you off. The emotions we feel in the driver’s seat is not something we pay attention to until we reach the second to worst case scenario – we “almost” get into an accident. Behind the wheel, and within ourselves, the action and the race to reach our destination on time, puts an unrecognizable amount of stress on our body.
Have you ever noticed, for even a second, how fast your heart beats as you pace to beat the red light? Your neck tenses up, you sit up straight trying to focus on lane changing and god forbid, hitting somebody! Researchers say that all the tension we experience during driving, all that stress going into your heart rate, your concentration, your muscles, etc is exactly what we would feel if we were being chased by an apex predator, like a shark or a crocodile! Do you see a lion hunting you down in your rear view mirror? Or do you feel the need to accelerate just because you HAVE to reach where you want to go ASAP? Without realizing, we experience the same amount of adrenaline and flight or fight triggers in both situations!
So at the end of the day, you have to look back and understand how valuable life is, and not get so riled up as if your life’s in “danger” just because you’re late. The real danger might not be as clear as an accident, happening right in front of you, but behind the wheel and behind the scenes of concentrating on traffic, your body is getting so tensed up, that the hidden result of stress in the long term can be causing – acidity build up leading to heartburn, gaining weight, chronic neck and back pain and lot’s more!
However, we can resolve stress during traffic or while driving through meditation and by being mindful as we’re on the road. Let every gear change be one of calmness instead of being panic inspired. Be aware of the feeling as your hand changes the gear. Let the wind in the air be one of relaxation rather than ruffling through your hair, in the midst of an extreme torque of anger. Focus on every small act of driving; aware of the sensations as your feet pushes the accelerator pedal. Don’t let frustration build up as traffic builds up. Accept the sounds as they arrive from all directions. Mindful driving will not only help you to stay calm but also help you to stay focused and enjoy the drive. Let your mind become serene and peaceful by doing meditative breathing exercises daily and let that transcend into every aspect of life- especially if driving stresses you out at times.
A great way to kickstart mindfulness is by making small changes like going to bed early, so that we wake up early automatically, thus giving ourselves more time so that we don’t have to panic about clocking in for work on time or about someone cutting us off. Let’s start the engines of life by hitting the brakes on stress and driving with mindfulness throughout the journey.
Nehita is a mindfulness expert who writes extensively on lifestyle management, wellness and ways to lead a healthier and a happier life. She is a part of Aware’s expert team on meditation. She is also an avid artist who spends most her time dribbling amazing stories through art.