Don’t let your commutes add more stress to your day.
Most of us log almost 30 miles and nearly one hour behind the wheel every day, according to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Urban Institute. But no need to worry, here are a few stress busters to turn the interior of your car into a Zen-filled oasis certain to help you steer clear of a bad mood.
Stop Sticking Your Neck Out
Micah Mortali, director of the Kripalu Schools of Yoga and Ayurveda in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, says that people often hold tension in their neck and shoulders, particularly those who sit at a desk or are seated in a car. “They tend to lean forward and stick their chin out or clench their jaw, which causes tension in the neck,” he says.
You can let a lot of that go when you’re stopped at a red light, parked or once you’ve switched the engine off by first taking a deep breath, Micah says. As you exhale, let your chin drop toward the chest, gently stretching your neck muscles. On your next inhale, roll your right ear toward your right shoulder and exhale by rolling the chin back to center. Repeat on the left side.
Make Your Nose Happy
Your nose is connected to your mood, says Rose Heart, a certified master aromatherapist and founder of Los Angeles-based Organic Infusions, the harmony-inspired aromatherapy oils company. “When we breathe in the aroma of essential oils through the nose, they are absorbed into the limbic system which is in charge of regulating our emotions.” A combination of lavender, frankincense and rosemary essential oils alleviates stress by calming the mind while providing the right amount of energy, focus and clarity needed while driving. “This combination will bring balance to the emotions without being overly sedating.”
Rose suggests filling a spritz bottle with 10 drops of essential oils and about 1 cup of distilled water and misting the interior of the car before putting it in gear.
When a fellow driver cuts you off or rides your back bumper, instead of blowing your top, Micah suggests taking a deep breath. “Taking slow, deep breaths triggers the rest and relaxation response of the sympathetic nervous system, and acts as a kill switch for the fight-or-flight response, which people often experience when they’re stressed,” he says.
Your best mood-boosting breathing technique is performed by inhaling slowly for four counts, holding the breath for two counts and exhaling for four counts. “This will help calm the mind and makes the heart pump more slowly and rhythmically,” Micah says. Repeat as needed.
Your physical and mental state before you get into your car can have a lot to do with your mood on longer rides. Before heading off, yoga poses that open the spine and hips can help reduce discomfort and stress during the trip, says Mandy Unanski Enright, a registered dietitian nutritionist and yoga teacher based in New Jersey.
She recommends reaching your arms high overhead while gently pushing the pelvic region forward to create a slight bend in the back. Follow this by swan diving forward to uttanasana (forward fold) with hands on either side of the feet and knees bent as needed. Grab opposite elbows and let your head hang heavy (ragdoll pose). Shake the head yes and no while letting the hips sway side to side to release tension in these areas. While bending the knees, gently roll up one vertebra at a time.