Use your ear – drive it too

Make use of driving time traffic jam

The M6 motorway is not the best place to hold a consultation. If the patient and the doctor are 50 miles apart it becomes even more difficult.

I have been rung on more than one occasion by busy executives who were scheduled to see me, but were stuck on the motorway. On such occasions I dispense with general advice, and always tell the patient to use the time they spend stuck in a traffic jam to think about what they are going to say to me when we next meet. Accordingly, when we do meet, they have a concise list of symptoms, or they have thought more about their problem than they would have done otherwise. This is better for them and better for me, as well as a good use of otherwise dead time.

As a doctor, I find that my car is my lifeline. I need it to get me from A to B, but if I add up the time I spend in it I get a frightening result. The same applies to millions of people, most of whom accept delays and wasted time as part of the hassle of commuting. This is a shame; the time can be used to great advantage if you want it to be. There is nothing wrong in letting your mind switch off in stationary traffic and thinking about nothing. Doing breathing exercises at the same time will relax you and quickly clear your mind of stressful thoughts. If you are unable to do this, or prefer to feel you are doing something else, there are a number of possibilities:

  • Listen to music you enjoy, or do not normally have the time to listen to. I would not inflict loud house music on my family, but find it good fun while doing house calls. Record a tape of your favourite songs and listen to them. Indulge yourself.
  • Listen to a recording of that book you always wanted to read but never did. Audio books are an excellent way of making boring and frustrating journeys pass quickly. They may include novels, or motivational or self-help tapes. Learn a foreign language using courses on tape. I know one person who learned to speak fluent Italian in a year just listening during his car journeys.
  • Carry a Dictaphone. Dictate the thoughts you want to remember as they occur. They may range from shopping lists to major plans for life improvement. Listen to them at the end of the day and act on those plans that still sound worth while. There may be a lot of dross on the tape but there will be jewels as well.

Remember, you do not need to take a bath in order to sing. The car is a great place to belt out songs, especially if you have a voice like a car exhaust. Look around you the next time you are stuck in traffic – you may well be surprised at how many people are happily singing along to something. They may look daft, but they are probably feeling better for it, and that is what matters.

Traffic jams are a fact of life. Don’t waste that time in road rage. Listen to audio books, use a Dictaphone for organizing home or work, or learn a foreign language. Singing, too, is a great stress beater – with the added bonus that no one will hear you.

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