Ah, Christmas! That lovely time of the year when we head out in our cars to buy things we don’t need—with money we don’t have—to impress people we don’t like. Isn’t it wonderful? EDSA being lit up by the brake lights of a million cars—making it look like an army of red-nosed reindeer with a bad smoking habit—is a sight to behold, and one you never want to be caught up in. To all those poor souls who do have to endure Christmas traffic in Metro Manila: We feel for you. So here are six tips on how to not completely lose your mind when you take to the road this jolly time of the year.
1. Keep cool. A study carried out in the US some years ago placed several drivers in cars where the cabin was either at 21°C or 27°C, and told them to drive along a preset course to measure what effect increased heat had on humans while sitting behind the wheel. The result was that drivers in the hot car made significantly more driving errors and had lower levels of vigilance than the drivers in the cooler car. The lesson is that a functioning air-conditioning system is important if you want to keep stress levels down. Set it to a healthy temperature (around the 20-degree mark) and make sure the vents aren’t pointed directly at your body. That way, you get the best results and the most stress-free cabin for your journey.
2. Choose the right music. It has been well documented that music can affect the way we feel and act. Hitting Christmas traffic with Death Metal Greatest Hits Volume 1 on full blast isn’t really going to help you in your quest to stay calm. Science again points us in the right direction here, with research confirming that music around the 60bpm (that’s beats per minute) mark can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat. This, in turn, causes alpha brainwaves (frequencies from 8Hz to 14Hz), and these brainwaves are present in our heads when we are relaxed. Some popular songs that run at 60bpm include “On The Road Again” by Canned Heat, “Rental Car” by Beck, and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” by Amy Grant. Stick those in your Spotify playlist and watch the stress disappear.
3. Shared pain is half the pain. Riding with a passenger can make stressful journeys easier as you have someone to talk to and an extra set of eyes and ears to help you through traffic. Maybe set up a carpool for your commute, or take your partner along when you head out on the road. It will help keep your blood pressure low and make your journey seem faster.
4. Stick to one lane. An experiment in Los Angeles once found that staying in one lane—instead of lane-hopping as soon as someone moves to the left or right of you—is the most efficient way to drive, with the time advantage gained by constantly switching lanes being negligible. Just ride it out while you listen to your 60bpm music.
5. Smell the relaxation. Certain smells have certain effects on the human body and mind, with scents like lavender and pine being best at busting stress. The aroma of vanilla has also shown to make people feel more joyful and relaxed, while peppermint can boost your concentration and citrus will help you feel more energized. To benefit from these effects, simply pick a car scent from your favorite accessory shop and continue your journey to Christmas bliss. The more natural the scent, the better.
6. Stay at home. The best way to stay stress-free when it comes to Christmas traffic is to simply not be part of it. Online shopping has become more and more popular in the Philippines in recent years, with everyone from Lazada to Zalora being able and ready to deliver right to your door whatever it is you need for a successful Christmas celebration. You can even have your groceries sent to you these days, which means driving in crazy traffic can be cut down to a minimum. As much as we love driving, your best advice really is to avoid it as much as you can—at least until Santa has done his thing and our roads return to their normal state of madness.