Does Being Stuck In Traffic Stress You Out? Create Anxiety?

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Does Being Stuck In Traffic Stress You Out? Create Anxiety?
Here's a new way to think about it.

I’m sitting at the Little Bakery, waiting for Marlena to meet me for lunch, and my cell phone rings.

“Hi, it’s me.” Marlena.

“Hey.”

“I’m here on the Beltway, not going anywhere at the moment,” she says. “So, I’m going to be late.”

“No problem – I’ve got something to read.”

“I’m really sorry about this,” Marlena says, sounding stressed.

“Don’t worry about it,” I say, “Just be safe and get here when you get here.

*****

Twenty minutes later, she is here, looking frazzled. We order at the counter and sit down at a table by the window (too hot to sit outside).

“You ok?” I ask.

“Oh yeah. I just hate sitting in traffic. I just keep thinking, ‘Come on, let’s go. What’s the holdup? I don’t want to be here – let’s get moving.’ I don’t blow the horn, but I feel like it sometimes. Oh, and I hate being late, too – so sorry.”

I am seized by a sudden burst of curiosity.

“So, what was that like, sitting there with stationary cars on all sides of you?”

She looks at me funny. “What do you mean, what was it like? You know damn well what it’s like.”  She’s annoyed.

“Yeah, I do know. But I’m starting to wonder, why do we feel that way? What’s at work here?”

“I want to go,” she says, “to be moving. “I don’t want to be there – I want to be somewhere else. “

“Right,” I say. “But you can’t – you can’t go anywhere. It’s impossible. Well, nearly impossible. I mean, you could call 911 and say someone is dying, or about to give birth, and maybe they’ll send a trooper on the shoulder, or a helicopter. But that’s not such a good idea, if it isn’t true.”

She laughs. “There’s nothing you can do – nothing. You start thinking about all the possible consequences. I was thinking, “He might be mad. Maybe he’ll even leave.”

“Which would not have been the end of the world.”

“True – might have even been a good thing.” She smiles, looking wicked. “But that’s not how I was thinking about it. I was building it up, worse and worse, and feeling awful.”

“Stressful. Keep that up and it becomes anxiety. Not good. Raises your blood pressure, gives you pimples and cancer. There are other situations, too. Waiting for a light to change. Not as bad, but if I’m late or in a hurry, it can be stressful.”

“Or waiting in line,” she says. “At a grocery store.”

“Things you can’t do anything about.”

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.

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