Martorella: Driving lessons

On a recent family road trip, I found myself struggling through some bad weather on a complex, unfamiliar highway. Road glare, fog, heavy traffic, and some vision difficulties had my heart beating and my nerves fraying. As I tried to manage my anxious reactions and keep our family safely moving forward, I considered how this treacherous travel was mirroring the difficult path we have been facing lately through our daily life, and made a mental note of the life lessons I was learning on the road:

  • Face your fears: No matter how bad the weather, you can’t just stop the car in the middle of the highway. Face your fears, push through, and just keep driving.

  • Practice self-calming: Remember to breathe. And use music to help pass the time and quiet the mood. Singing loudly along with a favorite tune can help release nervous energy. Of course, if you’re in the car with your family, maybe they don’t want to hear your Madonna impersonation, but hey, you’re driving.

  • You can’t control the world around you: Bad weather, bad drivers, traffic, you can’t predict it. You can try to anticipate problems, choose less popular travel times, position yourself strategically away from dangerous drivers, and seek alternate routes, but you can’t control it all. Sometimes you will be frustrated, sometimes there will be accidents. You can, however, control your reactions. When you are tempted to react instinctively, take an extra moment so you can choose to respond thoughtfully instead. And just like Waze and Siri, be open to new paths and new ideas.

  • Ask for help when you need it: When you are feeling overwhelmed, it may be tempting to just stop the car. But you can’t just cut the power in the middle of the highway. Find a safe exit and rest or ask for help. I’m lucky that my husband likes to drive because I was practically useless on this trip. I felt terrible turning the wheel over to him for the bulk of the ride, but ultimately it was the right call for our safety.

Wishing you all safe journeys on the road and off.

Rebecca Martorella, LMFT welcomes ideas and comments and can be reached at