9 ways to avoid Derby road rage

If Derby week traffic jams have you stressing, try some of these tips to lighten up.

Dealing with the increased traffic of Derby week can get your blood boiling. Add in a visit by a presidential candidate and bridge construction, and it’s enough to make even the coolest of personalities suffer a meltdown.

That increased stress level can cause wear and tear on the heart and arteries. It also can speed up the development of atherosclerosis, in which fatty plaques build up in the arteries. All of this can put you at greater risk for developing heart disease.

“During episodes of anger, the heart pumps harder, blood vessels constrict, blood pressure surges and the amount of glucose, or sugar, in the blood increases,” said Kent Morris, M.D., cardiologist with Norton Heart Specialists.

When you find yourself trapped in your car waiting for traffic to ease, try these tips to keep stress — and anger — in check:

  • Take deep breaths. Repeatedly inhale slowly through your nose, holding your breath for a few seconds, then exhale through your mouth. This can help you rid yourself of the fast, shallow breath that is a sign of stress. Do this 10 times. Deep breathing will get more oxygen into your bloodstream and nourish your brain and muscles. 
  • Relax with simple meditation. While still keeping your eyes on the road, force your mind to focus on a peaceful image, thought or word. When a stressful thought enters your mind, push it out and bring yourself back to your image, thought or word. Try visualizing a favorite vacation spot or memory in which you were not stressed. 
  • Relax your muscles. Stress causes muscles to become tense. As you sit in your car, tighten and relax different muscle groups to help take the tension out. Concentrate on tightening the muscles of one part of the body, like a leg, hold it for a few seconds, then relax the muscles slowly. You will feel the tension melt away. 
  • Repeat a mantra. Use a word, phrase or sound, such as “om,” and repeat it quietly to yourself to help you reconnect with the present moment. 
  • Be thankful. Turn your thoughts to those of gratitude, compassion and love. In these moments, remembering what you have to be thankful for can elevate your state of mind. 
  • Daydream. Think about an upcoming trip, a special weekend or your upcoming Derby celebratory plans. 
  • Keep a sense of humor. Look for something to laugh about — maybe funny bumper stickers or vanity plates on cars around you. 
  • Turn on classical music. Find a station playing classical music. Focus on the melody and practice deep breathing. 
  • Sing along. If classical isn’t cutting it, turn up the volume on a song you love and sing at the top of your lungs.

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