Road Rage: What are the physical and mental effects?

Thursday, May 28, 2020 - 08:53
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With the slight ease of the lockdown, and with many people going back to work, we can see more cars on the street. With that, we inevitably see road rage rear its ugly head. But does it really have to be inevitable or is there something we can do to prevent it?

Road Rage

Image credit: pathdoc-Shutterstock

The experts at Click4reg.co.uk were curious to find out more about this issue, and got into contact with Lee Chambers, Environmental Psychologist and Wellbeing Consultant, to get a comment on how road rage can affect us both mentally and physically. Plus, how we can prevent ourselves from getting angry in the car.

Lee Chambers had this to say regarding this issue:

‘Unfortunately, the modern reality of feeling crowded on a motorway is a stressful situation by itself. We are not in control of the actions of other road users, and in congestion, overcrowding causes aggression. The acute stress from this, added to the fact we are stuck in our car, can lead to irrational behaviours that are damaging to everyone. It effectively puts us into the fight response, as we can’t flight while inside a car.

Road rage can cause accidents and mistakes as we lose attention when under high levels of stress. These high stress levels raise our blood pressure, and over time can lead to long term high blood pressure, and all the associated chronic and acute issues this can cause, especially heart disease and strokes. It raises our cortisol levels, makes us less resistant to the other stressors we face. It can cause conflict within our relationships if we continually carry the stress of driving, and the increase in heart rate put pressure on our blood vessels, especially when combined with high blood pressure.

The accumulation of stress has wide-reaching effects on other bodily processes, weakening our immune system, making it harder to regulate our emotions, and making us more likely to take risks. And in severe cases, chronic stress can cause depression, anxiety disorders, obesity, and gastrointestinal problems. When we consider the wide-ranging effects of road rage, and how more often than not, we have the choice of response to events on the road, it is worth considering if it is worth getting stressed at all.’

What can we do to prevent getting angry behind the wheel?

Furthermore, Click4reg.co.uk got some tips from Lee Chambers on how to stay calm while in the car.

  1. We can change our negativity by considering building awareness of how we drive. Practice a small element at a time, such as letting people out in front of you, and being mindful of your signalling. These small changes compound over time to make you a happier and healthier driver.
  2. As you feel yourself getting angry, imagine seeing yourself, look in your mirror, and imagine you’re in a job interview. Would you want people to see you this way? When you have calmed down, analyse your behaviour – thinking if you shouted or misused your car – and consider the consequences as if an audience were watching. Even consider a picture of your family on your dashboard, looking at you as an example.
  3. Use breathing to calm yourself down, taking six deep, slow breaths to calm your parasympathetic nervous system, as we can easily activate the fight response with the acute stress we create. Remember, driving is about getting to the destination, not a competition. Every time I stop at a red light, I think of something in my life I’m grateful for, and this helps me frame the roads as a positive place to be, as I could be walking instead!
  4. Finally, look to build the intention to deal with it before it arises. Prepare some compassionate considerations, such as ‘maybe they are going to the hospital’, ‘maybe they are having a tough day’ or ‘maybe they didn’t see me’. Use these to defuse your negative thoughts when they arise.

 

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