It’s one of the most stressful times of year for most people. Of course, I’m talking about holiday season. Holiday parties, shopping trips, parades, special school events, and other holiday-related activities lead to more time spent traveling.

Ginger Bread HouseYou are probably already aware that visiting your local auto shop is the first thing you should do to prepare for the extra mileage your car is sure to rack up this holiday season. You know to stay safe and prevent a DUI by limiting your alcohol consumption or abstaining altogether when you know you will be driving. But what about road rage?

Watch Out For Road Rage!

It stands to reason that if you are spending more time on the road, the rest of America is, too. Increased traffic can lead to congestion in certain areas, especially around shopping centers and events like parades, festivals, and local tree lighting ceremonies. Are you one of those people that becomes more stressed and irritated when the traffic gets heavy? Or do you only get upset behind the wheel when you are trying to make it to that holiday party on time?

No matter what gets you upset when you’re behind the wheel, here are seven ways to keep your cool while you’re driving, keeping the holidays happy, as they should be.

Be Prepared. This is especially important for those people traveling long distances to stay with family or friends in another state! If you’re planning to travel on one of the busy travel days of the season, like a Friday, the day before Christmas Eve day, or Christmas Eve day, you’d be smart to either take that day off and leave in the morning, or even a half-day. This will reduce the amount of traffic you have to fight with (and the likelihood you will experience road rage, or have to deal with another road rager!).

Ensure you’ve packed all of the necessary power cords, whether for your tablets, laptops, cell phones, or GPS device, and don’t forget an old school paper map. Yes, GPS devices are wonderful, but not always entirely accurate. If you have a paper map handy you are better prepared for any situation, further reducing your stress level. If you are traveling with children, bring lots of distractions, snacks, and water. You should also check your route online to verify how much tolls along the way will cost you.

Leave early. This applies to anyone, whether traveling to Grandma’s three states away, or hitting the mall for some holiday shopping. It’s better to arrive early than to arrive late for obvious reasons. Knowing you won’t be late reduces your stress level significantly!

DriverPre-travel pep talk. Make it a habit to mentally remind yourself that others will be on the road, and they might not practice good driving habits. Tell yourself there will be bad drivers, forcing your mind to expect them, and you might not be so quick to get angry when it actually happens.

It isn’t you, it’s me. How many times have you accused a driver of doing something just to spite you personally? You know, “She totally cut me off on purpose.” Chances are that driver did not do anything on purpose. She just thought she had a bit more time than she actually had to pull out in front of you! Remind yourself that you don’t even know who the driver is, and they can’t possibly be doing anything to you personally. This is a surefire way to keep your mind from overreacting to the situation, reducing the risk of road rage.

Don’t tailgate. You might be a bit upset the person traveling in front of you is driving ten miles under the speed limit. However, you shouldn’t respond by riding their bumper. This not only raises your stress level, it raises theirs as well. They could react poorly, and you might be the victim of road rage perpetrated by the other person (and resulting in your car smashing into the rear of their car!)

Deep breaths. If someone does get under your skin, take some deep breaths and calm yourself down.

Positive thinking. After you’ve taken some deep breaths, tell yourself why you would be silly to react in a negative way. You know, things like, “Wow, they must be in a rush to get their shopping done!” “That person seems to be a bit stressed out today,” or “That’s the bad driver I expected to run into.” These more positive things help you to react in a positive way, instead of negative – tailgating, raising that middle finger, or cutting them off.

These tips will get you and your family through the holidays safely, with your sanity intact – well, at least behind the wheel!