Mastering the Art of Slow: Rush Hour Traffic Made Easy

A stressful ride on 826 can pretty much ruin my day.  In the fast lane we have people cruising at a comfortable 45 mph; and in any other lane, you’ll find Miami douche-bags racing at 100 mph on a Saturday in the afternoon. You could die if you aren’t paying attention. Not to be insensitive, but seems like someone dies everyday out there on a Miami highway. The drivers are reckless, drunk/high, and selfish. If you are anything like me, you curse, yell, scream and honk to cope with those idiots. That, however, is not productive or healthy. Here are 12 steps you can take (in any order really) to make your rush hour commute a tad easier:

Step 1: Acceptance. There is simply no way to get around the fact that your commute to work looks more like a mall parking lot two days before Christmas than a fast moving highway interstate.  Sorry, unless you get up and move to the middle nowhere, just accept the fact that it may take you 20 minutes to get two miles.

Step 2: Count Your Blessings. Remember, your friends in Idaho can’t go to the beach every New Years/Valentines/Memorial Day/Fourth of July/Labor Day/ Thanksgiving/Christmas and every birthday or promotion in between. You live in a place that is gorgeous all year round, especially in the winter months.  Just be glad about that.

Step 3: Be Courteous. I know it’s hard, but get out of the way of the jerk who’s been tailing you, even though all surrounding passing lanes are open. Just get out of his way. He may be evil in incarnate, but your blood pressure will thank you.  If someone wants to get over, let them. You never know what their situation is.  Your polite driving behavior may encourage others to pay it forward. Look at you creating happier roadways all over Miami!

Step 3: Re-Evaluate your Driving Skills. Maybe you’re the guy who cuts people off; maybe you chat on the phone and drive slow as molasses in the far left lane.  Maybe you poison the roadway with your cussing, screaming, honking and bad attitude. Maybe you’re just a little aggressive. We all do something, because if we didn’t, the roadways would be filled with kind,  patient drivers.  Figure out what you do and stop doing it!

Step 4: Drive Sober. This really should go without saying. But I’m going to say it anyway.  Besides being illegal, driving intoxicated makes you a danger to yourself and other people on the road.  It’s easier to avoid other reckless drivers if you have your wits about you.

Stop 6: Stop Texting and Driving. You should know by now this is worse than driving drunk.  FOUR TIMES WORSE. You should also stop talking on the phone too. A conversation in which you are emotionally involved will take your attention away from the road. That’s not safe either.

Step 7: Stop Tailgating. You may say “Whoa! That’s not me… I don’t do that!” Ah, think again.  Unless you leave at least one car’s distance for every 10 miles per hour you’re traveling, you’re tailgating.  It’s kind of hard to cut someone off if there is a huge space between you and the car in front of you.

Step 9: Figure out other, less traffic-y times to drive. I will never drive to Miami from Broward during rush hour.  That is inner-peace suicide. Don’t go out for simple errands, or drive between Miami-Dade and Broward during  rush hour, unless you absolutely have to.  There really is no point. Get an alternative work schedule if you can, something off the beaten path.  Embrace your inner slow and go out and about at an unusual time.

Step 10: Occupy Your Mind.  Listen to an audiobook while you drive.  You wont waste thoughts and energy on the idiot driver you encountered 20 minutes ago if you are listening to a good story.  You will start to enjoy your commutes. One hour of someone reading to you, doing all the different voices of the characters.  Wonderful! (Radio shows are also great, too.)

Step 11: Leave Early. You already know the story: douche bags on the road, too many cars, new construction, disabled vehicle or car accident.  Give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going.  If you’re lucky, you might get to your destination early. Then you’ll have an extra 20 minutes to listen to that audio book, buy a cup of coffee, or get your head in the right frame of mind for a positive, productive day at work.  Being early is a good thing.

Step 12: Move on.  Driving is just a part of life.  You could do everything right and your commute could still be horrible.  Let it go. Don’t rehash the story of the who old lady cut you off unless you can tell it without disdain or frustration.  Just be thankful that you made it to your destination safely.

If you have any tips you’d like to share that you use to help keep your commute carefree, please feel free to share them in the comments below. 🙂

Managing Stress and Anxiety: Pills or Positive Affirmations?

A couple of weeks ago, my doctor suggested I see a psychiatrist for anxiety.  Why? I had to go to urgent care because I was unable to breathe.  After a chest x-ray, EKG, and a myriad of blood tests I found out that nothing was wrong with me. I was just anxious and having a panic attack.  It seems that life’s little stressors slowly build up until my body screams out in rejection. Since that night I gasped for air for about an hour, I haven’t had any breathing problems.  Yet, I have tightness in my chest when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  Needless to say, that happens frequently.  I have to get this under control because stress can kill me.  According to WebMD, 75-90% of doctor visits are due to stress related ailments, as was my $175 doctor visit to urgent care, and I don’t need any more of those.

The only option my doctor gave me to manage the stress (and panic attacks) is to see a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist can do two things really.  They can prescribe pills for me to take on a daily basis, or they can prescribe pills to take whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, anxious or panicky.  It’s tempting.  A legal drug that can calm me down without any conscious effort on my part. No work, no lifestyle change, just a tiny pill that can change how I’m feeling in an instant. But I won’t do it.  I hate taking pills everyday for allergies. I would have to take anti-anxiety meds forever. I don’t want to subject myself to a legal addiction. My stress and anxiety won’t go away if I don’t kill it at its source or manage it effectively. Besides, pills aren’t free. Reducing stress however, is.

Clearly, getting rid of junk and clearing my schedule (not that I’m close to being finished) isn’t enough to fix my stress problem.  I still get angry at work, at other drivers, and at life in general.  I get particularly angry at situations I can’t control, but I’m learning to deal with them.  Lately, I’ve been listening to the recordings of Sunday church sermons.  They keep me grounded.  I very rarely go to church but I like to listen to the podcasts of the sermons at my leisure.

Unity, my church, is an extremely liberal Christian church that, in my opinion, encourages members to find their own way.  One of the church’s tenants is to utilize positive affirmations to change your thoughts and to change your life. Some of Unity’s belief system has many parallels to Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret,” but Unity has been around much, much longer. That’s all I’ll say about Unity because I hate when people get preachy. I’m sure you have your own Church, Temple, Mosque, or whatever that lays down life-guidelines for you. My suggestion: follow them if they help you feel better. If you want more information about what I do, you’ll seek it out.

I digress.  I wanted to share with you some of the positive affirmations I pulled out of the church sermons; I try to focus on them when things get rough.

Following God’s guidance I move forward with enthusiasm and expectancy.

I appreciate where I am because the idea of where I want to be came to me here and now.

I am centered and poised in the perfect unfolding of all good. I let go and let God reveal my next step.

All is orderly and perfectly revealed; God is at work and in charge of my life.

God and I are a majority.

My emotions reveal the quality of my thinking, not the quality of my life.

If those don’t work for you, that’s fine.  Find your own positive affirmations that you can say and believe. But these, especially that first one, has given me a new positive attitude, and I stress, just a little less.

Other site’s to check out:

More information about Positive Affirmations

6 Affirmation Secrets to Make You Feel Better

Mastering the Art of Slow: The Grocery Store

A cute little story about patience in the grocery store:

A man observed a woman in the grocery store with a three year old girl in her basket. As they passed the cookie section, the child asked for cookies and her mother told her “no.” The little girl immediately began to whine and fuss, and the mother said quietly, “Now Ellen, we just have half of the aisles left to go through; don’t be upset. It won’t be long.”

He passed the mother again in the candy aisle. Of course, the little girl began to shout for candy. When she was told she couldn’t have any, she began to cry. The mother said, “There, there, Ellen, don’t cry. Only two more aisles to go, and then we’ll be checking out.”

The man again happened to be behind the pair at the check-out, where the little girl immediately began to clamor for gum and burst into a terrible tantrum upon discovering there would be no gum purchased today. The mother patiently said, “Ellen, we’ll be through this check out stand in five minutes, and then you can go home and have a nice nap.” The man followed them out to the parking lot and stopped the woman to compliment her. “I couldn’t help noticing how patient you were with little Ellen…” The mother broke in, “My little girl’s name is Tammy… I’m Ellen.”

Thank goodness I don’t have any children I have to bring shopping with me.  But I do have to flex my patience muscles when dealing with the other people I encounter. Patience is easier to come by when you are mastering the art of slow.  I was at the drugstore the other day and an elderly employee at the checkout register was having some difficulty with the checkout machine. I was trying to be patient and understanding, but the rest of the line was freaking out. It’s hard to move at a slower pace while I’m out shopping when everyone else is on speed.  Ever since I’ve decided to slow down, I’ve noticed that the world is whirling by me, and conspiring against my lifestyle change. Here 5 ways to avoid letting impatience get the best of you:

Get it out of your head that you are making just a “quick trip.”  Nothing about grocery shopping is quick, really.  If you stop trying to squeeze in the grocery store before work, during your lunch,  while you are starving, or have to pee, you won’t be in such a rush.  There will always be long lines, cashiers who don’t know what they are doing, and malfunctioning cash registers. Go to the store when you have plenty of time. Otherwise, get used to it and go with the flow.

Go shopping during non-peak times.  I prefer to go shopping when there are less people out and about. I can take my time comparing items without people hurrying by or rushing me along. The employees of the store seem to be more at ease when the store is slower.  They can take time to help me when there aren’t 50 other people vying for their attention at the same time.  Not to mention, I can always find a pretty good parking space if I’m shopping at an off time.

Use a hand basket, not a cart. Not only will you be limited to buying what you actually need, you will be able to limit your spending.  Furthermore, you will find that you have a much easier time navigating the aisles if the store is busy.

Let impatient people go ahead of you in line. It’s hard to be move more slowly and be patient when the person behind you is tapping their foot, looking at their watch and making loud, obnoxious sighs.  They may not even be that obvious about their unwillingness to wait.  Sometimes their strained face and tense body posture will give them away.  Let them skip you in line.  Even if they decline, and you insist, they will be extremely glad to go. They maybe be embarrassed by their impatience, but that isn’t your problem.

Don’t be afraid to tell people what you need. If you need a second to put you change away, tell the cashier. If you want your receipt first, tell them.  Just be nice about it. I like to separate my receipt from my dollar bills, and my dollar bills from my coins.  It’s kind of hard to do when they hand it to me in one big pile. And then the bag boys are usually trying to hand me my bags before I’ve even got the chance to put my change and receipt in my wallet. If you tell them hang on a second, the cashier and bag boys have no choice but to wait.  Remember, you, the customer, are always right. 🙂

Ignore people who are rushing you along. I’m a slow payer at the checkout. Usually, I’m still putting my change in my wallet when they start with the next customer. It’s even worse with the next person’s groceries are intermingling mine  and the plastic bags become indistinguishable. That person is usually staring at me like, “why is this girl so slow? she’s young and healthy.” The best thing you can do is ignore them.  You are leaving momentarily; they can wait.