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How to Cope with Stress and Anger While Driving

While behind the wheel, you can’t control other drivers’ actions. This can make it hard to manage your emotions, such as anger or stress, when someone runs you off the road.

“As we experience stress, our body tries to prepare for what it’s going to do in reaction,” says Amanda McNab, a licensed clinical social worker at Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) at the University of Utah. “And when it does happen, we often see people act out in order to get ahead—becoming more offensive than defensive.”

Research has found that individuals who drive while angry are more likely to be involved in crashes.

“When individuals are stressed out, they may be dealing with things at home or work, and they’re driving a huge chunk of metal running down the road,” McNab says.

Having self-awareness while driving can help alleviate some of the anger and stress you may feel.

Practice these self-awareness exercises to manage stress and reduce anxiety:

  • Box breathing. Deep breath in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, out for four seconds. Repeat.
  • 5-4-3-2-1 Method. Identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can heat, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can see.
  • Butterfly hug. Cross your hands across your chest and tap your fingers one side at a time. You can also do this on the steering wheel.
  • Pull over and get help. Call or text 988 if you feel overwhelmed or angry. If it’s an emergency, call 911 for immediate assistance.