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Summer Road Trip Tips: Staying Sane in Traffic Jams

Traffic jam

It seems we are well and fully into the summer driving season. Earlier this week, we returned from Vancouver Island and just before we drove through the Massey Tunnel back to Vancouver proper, we hit a massive traffic jam.

It was hot, we all just wanted to BE HOME and more than one of us needed to find a washroom. To help everyone in the car keep their cool, we tried the following tips:

Tip #1: Relinquish control
There are few things more difficult than accepting that you are stuck in traffic and there's nowhere to go. You can't move the traffic with your mind. You can't turn on your car's helicopter function. You can't stop the dog from gassing you in the backseat. Stop mentally struggling and just accept that being in traffic is just part of your cosmic journey. Which bring us to Tip #2.

Tip #2: Breathe it out
Situations like traffic jams really increase our stress levels and can elevate our breathing. Elevated breathing triggers a "fight or flight" response in our bodies which just makes us more stressed. But we can turn this vicious cycle into a virtuous circle with some conscious breathing, a technique used in several yoga practices. Now, we don't want anyone doing a full Ashtanga practice in their car! But this simple breath exercise can reduce stress and anxiety: Breathe in through your nose, slowly, for five seconds. Hold your breath for three seconds. Breathe out through pursed lips, slowly and gently, for seven seconds. Repeat.

Tip #3: Play a game
My mother-in-law recently discovered trivia apps for her iPod touch and whenever there's a lull in conversation, she's ready with a memory-stretching exercise. Keeping your mind occupied with trivia rather than traffic fury can make those longer waits a lot more bearable - plus, you might learn something! Of course, not everyone is busting out Trivia Crack in the car - something as simple as 20 Questions can help keep things interesting.

Tip #4: Bust out the show tunes
Whether you're a fan of classic musicals like Oklahoma and Cats or prefer newer fare like Wicked or The Book of Mormon, you've probably memorized at least one catchy tune (or you have some with you on your phone or mp3 player). Belting a few tunes out at the top of your lungs (and encouraging others in the car to do the same) can make the time go by quicker.

Tip #5: Keep calm and carry on
A friend of mine likes to diffuse traffic tension on her daily commute by commenting on poor driving behaviour in a bad English accent - think Jane Austen for amateurs. So instead of yelling "You JERK!" at someone who cuts her off, she muses "I say, Mr. Darcy, you're cutting it a mite close with your carriage!" In a traffic jam, discussing the situation in a silly accent can bring a little levity to the car. "Well this is quite the pickle, Mr. Darcy, is it not?! You almost hit that other driver's barouche!"

We still ended up stuck in traffic for 20 minutes, but these tips did make the time go by a bit faster and with a lot more laughing than swearing.

How do you make the most of a bad traffic situation without resorting to some Max Mad-like behaviour? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

- Rose R.


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Nicole Williams

Where would we be without Jane Austen?!

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