NJ Transit strike: 5 ways to keep calm in traffic
If NJ Transit rail workers choose to strike next week, horrendous traffic jams are essentially an automatic on New Jersey's major roads during standard commute times and beyond.
Tens of thousands of additional commuters would potentially be added to the roads on a daily basis in the event of a strike, turning a one-hour commute into double or triple that amount.
So how will you handle the extra time in a car, bumper to bumper with other irritated, impatient motorists? Experts advise it's important to stay calm, and they have some tips to help prevent a behind-the-wheel freak-out.
1. Bring along a lengthy catalogue of tunes
"We find music is very comforting to people," said Dana Grinblat, licensed associate counselor with Stress Care of New Jersey. "It doesn't have to be relaxing, meditative music; it can be something kind of upbeat that makes you want to get up and dance."
No specific music is best, Grinblat said, but it's best to avoid music that gets you riled up in a negative way, or serves as a gateway to road rage.
Not ideal for a long ride:
Tunes like these may work better:
2. Stay in the moment
Dwelling on what you're not getting done, because you're stuck in traffic, doesn't help anyone.
Instead, Grinblat said, focus on what you actually can accomplish on your longer-than-usual ride.
Maybe there's an audio book you never got around to, or maybe you can catch up with a friend over the phone - hands-free, of course.
3. Realize you're not alone
Take a look around. Mostly every car has the same concern - how late will I be to work, or at what time will I finally get home?
But do those answers actually matter?
"Sometimes we let our thoughts run amok and think that a tragedy's going to happen, but in truth, if we step back, we realize that if we're five minutes late to work, we're not going to be fired and the world will not end," said Deborah Carr, professor of sociology at Rutgers University.
That same mindset can be applied to a number of traffic-related situations. If I let this person cut in front of me, will that really affect me in the long-run? What's the worst that can happen?
4. Just breathe
It sounds cliche, but according to Grinblat, taking a "time out" and a few deep breaths can relax you when you feel overwhelmed, even if that means pulling over to the side of the road for a few moments.
And if others are overreacting on the road - beeping endlessly or giving the finger - that doesn't mean you have to join.
"That sounds much easier said than done, but that's the way that we can keep ourselves safe and prevent any unwanted consequences," Grinblat said.
Easy breathing exercise:
5. Take control
Unlike most traffic jams, which are usually the product of random road work or an unexpected accident, this is a mess you can actually plan for.
If a strike becomes a definite, you know that gridlock is on its way, and you can plan accordingly.
Authorities have advised morning commuters to leave their homes before 6 a.m. or after 10 a.m.
"The key to managing stress is finding what you can control," Grinblat said. "Every time we're uncomfortable, we get stressed, so making the circumstances less uncomfortable, by planning ahead, is how we can manage that stress."
Part of that planning can include informing your employer that traffic will be an issue until NJ Transit contract issues are resolved. You're not telling them something they haven't already heard, and some companies may even put special employee schedules in place to work around the potential mess on the roads.