There’s nothing like a traffic jam to trigger the stress response. But it doesn’t have to be that way: even the worst commute can be an opportunity to build your mindfulness muscles. Here’s how:
1. Take a deep breath. This helps bring more oxygen into your body and widens the space between the stimulus (traffic) and your reaction (stress). In this space you have a moment to choose how to respond.
2. Ask yourself what you need. Maybe you need to feel safe, at ease, or just find some relief. Realizing what you need will begin to bring a sense of balance.
3. Give yourself what you need. If you need ease, perhaps scan your body for tension, and adjust your position a bit. Offer some phrases of compassion for yourself, such as, May I be at ease. May I feel safe. May I be happy.
4. Really see your fellow drivers. Everyone on the road wants the same things you do — to feel safe, have a sense of ease, and to be happy. Look around. Some drivers might look cranky, but you might catch one singing or actually smiling. This will lessen some of your stress. You can offer all of them what you just offered to yourself: May you be at ease, may you feel safe, may you be happy.
5. Take another deep breath. In 15 seconds or less, you can lighten your mood. Just remember: when you feel frustration rising, choose whatever you need to work on for yourself, and offer that to others as well.