Sunday, October 16, 2016

Taming your mama bear rage while driving

Mom2MomEd Blog: Taming your MAMA BEAR rage while driving
McKenzie and I have written several posts now about how stressed out we've been, and I thought I would share a few techniques I have been using to better manage my own stress. But, I am going to focus specifically on how I tame my stress while I'm in the car. Some of my stress lately is what I call "mama bear rage" where I go into protective mode and my emotions are just plain running HOT! 

Why am I focusing on taming stress while in the car? 

Well, simply put, when you are stuck behind the wheel you can feel exactly that--STUCK. And, if there is traffic? If you are stuck in the carpool lane at school? Or waiting in a drive-thru that you can't get out of? Or the kids are arguing? Or you are late for an appointment? Or you overslept? Or...or...or...

UGH! Cue rising stress levels?

I have found the following to be mama bear stress and rage tamers when I'm in the car--even if the source of my stress has nothing to do with driving:

1. Classical music in the car
I stumbled upon the classical radio station pretty much by accident. I was flipping through channels in rush hour traffic, becoming more and more enraged at the stupidity of several other drivers, the snail's pace of traffic, and the lack of an obvious source for the backup, and it seemed like every station was in the middle of playing commercials instead of music or a DJ's commentary.

Even worse? Half of the stations were playing the same commercial for a men's testosterone clinic--a commercial that I just can't stand for all sorts of reasons.

Flick...ohhhh, what's this???

After going through a number of my go-to music stations, I started scanning stations I don't normally listen to and hit on classical.


I've been listening to classical music, cranked up nice and loud, in the car for several months now, and while I still get annoyed in traffic, I find my stress level is a lot lower than if I listen to anything else.

There's something about the up and down crescendos and the interplay between various types of instruments, operatic voices singing in Italian and other languages that I can't understand, and commentary that has NOTHING to do with traffic, politics, or current events.

Can I tell the difference between a piece by Chopin or Tchaikovsky or Brahms? NOPE. But, I don't care.

I CAN tell a difference in my mood.

So, mamas, crank up that classical music and drown out the noise in your head, the anger at other stupid drivers, the children arguing in the backseat! Hopefully, it will work for you too!

2. Practice my posture
Mamas, when was the last time you checked your posture? If you are at all like me, you hunch your shoulders forward, duck your chin, and simply don't stand or sit up straight. And, it is draining your energy.

I get it. We are busy and we are T.I.R.E.D.

Am I right????

I'm no stranger to poor posture, especially if I am overly tired, stressed out, or just plain worried about stuff. In fact, as I type this at 1:45am, I am realizing how tight my shoulder and neck muscles are, how stiff my back feels, and how compact I have made my body.

And, it's doing me no good.

I find that this poor posture follows me into the car, but the car is the perfect place to really focus on sitting up straight, positioning your seat ideally, and generally working on your body's natural, healthy alignment.

Have you ever noticed how if you sit with your butt all the way to the back of your seat, with the seat back in a natural feeling, almost upright position, and you elongate your back to have contact with the seat from shoulders to tailbone, your posture becomes almost perfect??? Sit like that, and focus on holding your head up, having your arms outstretched but comfortable in front of you with your hands comfortably on the steering wheel. If you are truly utilizing good posture IT FEELS GOOD!

And, you are stuck in the car, so why not make sure you have great posture while you are sitting there? At red lights, readjust your butt in the seat, stretch your arms and pull your shoulders back, and adjust the mirrors as needed to accommodate your GOOD posture.

I always feel a little stronger, a little more even, and a lot more in control when I drive with great posture. I know it sounds kind of silly, but seriously, give it a try!

3. Breathe
Duh, we all have to breathe to stay alive, right? True enough, but just like focusing on your posture while you sit in your car, you can also find moments here and there to really focus on your breathing too.

Think about it--if you are stressed out, you probably are breathing more shallowly than when you feel relaxed or upbeat. And, you might be taking fewer breaths than you realize too.

Chances are it also adds to feelings of stress, anger, and impatience while driving.

Just as I periodically take a moment to focus on my posture or really get into a piece of classical music on the radio, I take little snippets of time to take a few deep, slow breaths.

Sometimes, I might just be at a red light and spend the minute or so breathing in slowly and deeply through my nose and out slowly through my mouth.

Or, I might feel my anger rising at a stupid move by the car in front of me...
Or, maybe I am stewing over something my son promised to do but didn't...
Or, any number of things.

I crank up the classical station a touch more, check my posture, and take a few deep, controlled breaths.

And, for at least a moment or two, I feel a little relief.

Classical + posture + breathe...and repeat as often as necessary.

Mamas, I hope you find little moments in your day here and there, whether in your car or otherwise, to focus on a few small ways to practice self-care.

You deserve it.
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