De-Stress While Driving: 4 Simple Exercises to Do in the Car

We just got back from a road trip from lower Alabama to New York City — a total of 20 hours of driving spread out over three days. It was one heck of a long time to sit still. (Listening to the audiobook of “Clan of the Cave Bear” definitely helped.)

But it gave me the opportunity to think about simple things you can do to de-stress while you’re cooped up in the car. Whether you’re on a monster road trip, commuting to work, or just running errands, these simple exercises can help you take your self-care routine on the road.

Out, Out, Damn Tension

As you’re sitting at a red light, grip the steering wheel tightly, hunch your shoulders up toward your ears, and scrunch up your face to exaggerate the feeling of tension in your body. Even curl your toes in and tighten your calves — squeeze everything you can possibly squeeze.

Then with a big exhale and/or sigh, let every ounce of that effort go, and feel the tension being whisked out of your body. Then, like the shampoo bottle says, repeat as necessary.

Green Means Breathe

Use some mundane part of driving as a reminder to take a deep breath. It could be every time the light turns green, or you turn on your blinker, or you change lanes. (If you’re a city dweller and don’t drive much, you can do this on the bus or train and take a breath every time they announce the next stop.)

It’s kind of like the college drinking game where you watch a TV show and everyone takes a sip when the lead character says his trademark line — only better for you.

Posture Practice

We’d all like to have better posture. Take your car time as an opportunity to hone your ability to sit up tall. As you’re driving, bring your awareness to lifting the back of your neck up. This basic adjustment ripples all the way down your spine and helps it unfurl to its maximum length.

Keep checking in on this spot as you drive — you’ll find again and again that you’ve sunk back down into your usual slouch. Just start again. It becomes an exercise for your mind as much as for your body.

Blow Off Steam

You kinda need to be alone in the car for this one. (And you probably don’t want to be on public transportation.) If you’re frustrated or anxious or stressed about anything, let it out by making a noise. It could be a scream, a groan, a sigh, or a whinny. There’s no right way to do it. The only direction I have for you is to do it with the intention of releasing whatever’s bothering you so you can move on.

When I did a house-sitting stint in LA, I started to relish my freeway time because I could make all these noises that I would never allow myself to make if I were within hearing distance of other people. Letting out a big ole roar is incredibly cathartic, if a little odd. If you’re scratching your head at this one, just try it.

Kate Hanley is a freelance writer who specializes in exploring the mind-body connection. She completed her yoga teacher training at OM Yoga in New York City and has studied with yoga experts Rodney Yee and Cyndi Lee and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg.

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sunagape's picture
User offline. Last seen 7 years 38 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 10/29/2008

One of my favorite things to do in the car is honking. At the top of my lungs, "HONK!!!" I find it way more satisfying than using the horn. There have also been times in my life where the car was a good place to practice shrieking. I'm so happy I haven't felt like that in a long time. Maybe that's because I mostly take the bus now.

petty's picture
User offline. Last seen 6 years 39 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 01/20/2009

yeah, interesting sort of exercising techniques while on the car.. what I've always experienced when on the middle of the traffic is that I tried to stretch out my body. I also took a lot of care on my mercedes benz g55 oem, I can wash it while dancing.. hehehe! sounds horrible!

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