Jeff Davidson's book, Simpler Living, was Amazon Kindle #1 in its category, first quarter, 2012. Jeff is featured in the NY Times, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Businessweek, Fortune, Organized Executive, and Success.

Staying Calm in Spite of the Crowd

The next time you head out on the highway, (whether in a gas guzzler or not), and notice that traffic is moving at a crawl, remember it’s not only your city or state, it’s happening across the U.S. and across the globe. Author Nina Tassi, in Urgency Addiction, observes that many people express worry and frustration about transportation, ostensibly because “every busy person’s life is taken up by getting from here to there. “You read about drivers getting into quarrels during commuting time.

Get ready — such a situation is probably coming to a neighborhood near you. The anger and hostility people feel towards one another when they get behind the wheel is a mirror of the overall feelings that increasing numbers of people are beginning to experience with living in a society that is getting too crowded, moving too fast, and becoming too congested.

Professor Richard Williams, at Duke University, says, “Each time we slam the steering wheel when we’re cut off in traffic or blow our stack at work, we’re endangering our future well-being because of our evolutionary past. When we feel threatened, the brain sends an emergency call to the nervous system. If we dress in animal skins, staring down a saber tooth tiger, as did our most distant ancestors, the body’s response would serve us well. The sudden burst of stress hormones would shift our circulatory system into high gear, sending additional blood and energy stores to our waiting muscles.”

Today, rather than the occasional saber-toothed tiger, our frequent stress comes from endless miles of chugging along at five miles an hour, ridiculously slow supermarket check-out counters, or constant interruptions. The repeated release of stress hormones proves dangerous as it accelerates the development of clogged arteries.

Strategies to Reduce Stress from Overcrowding

If you want to avoid being stuck in traffic, waiting in line, and scrambling with the masses for goods and services, some obvious strategies begin to appear:

1. Live closer to your office. I can’t think of anything that makes more sense. If you work for an organization, regardless of the metro or suburban area in which you work, undoubtedly there are good neighborhoods a reasonable distance away. When you live closer to your office, you benefit in many, many ways:
  • Less commuting time, less gasoline cost.
  • Less wear and tear on your car in general.
  • More flexibility in departing for the office and for back home.
2. Telecommute. If you can work at home as little as one day per week, perhaps a Wednesday, you cut your week of commuting in half. The equipment you need to telecommute from home is highly affordable these days, with good modems dropping under the $150 price range.

3. Become a contrarian. If everyone vacations on holidays, use that day to work. Take your time off when everyone else is working. If everyone heads into the city between 7 and 9 a.m., then head in between 5 and 6, or 10 and 11. People who arrange their schedules to avoid competing with the masses in terms of travel and leisure feel good about it. If this sounds too stark for you, experiment with it a little at a time.

4. Do more of your shopping by phone, fax, and modem. Rather than fight with all the other people for parking spaces at the super regional mall, order by catalog. Increasingly, catalog vendors offer an 800 number, an 800 fax line, and even 24-hour customer service. Many vendors have liberal return policies as well. The catalogs themselves are excellent–full color photos with vivid descriptions of the products. It’s a great way to shop because you can sit and think about what you’re doing, without getting jostled, overwhelmed, and unfocused in a hurry.

5. Be more selective as to what information you take in. Remember, in a world of six billion people, there will be more books, articles, movies, plays, commentaries, opinions, and points of view. Unless you actively limit what you allow to compete for your time and attention, your days will race by faster than you care to live them.

6. Give yourself recurring sanctuary. How do the Japanese, in a country the size of California, but with five times the population of California, find any breathing space? Everybody needs to have some time for themselves, if only to “zone out.” In a world with 269,000 more people each day, this could become harder to do. Undoubtedly, there are places you’ve already carved out–your rec room, study, backyard, or favorite vacation spot. The key is to use them, and get some of the rest and relaxation you so fervently need.

7. Forsake day-to-day tuning in. Instead of trying to ingest everything that the media has to offer, seek summaries of news and information, perhaps on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Much of what’s presented to you is not news, anyway.

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," is a preeminent time management authority, has written 65 mainstream books, and is an electrifying professional speaker, making 886 presentations to clients such as Lockheed Martin, Eckerd, Kaiser Permanente, IBM, American Express, Lufthansa, Swissotel, Re/Max, USAA, Worthington Steel, and the World Bank. Jeff is Executive Director of the Breathing Space Institute and the author of books such as:
  • Simpler Living (Skyhorse Publishing)
  • Dial It Down--Live it Up (Sourcebooks)
  • The 60 Second Innovator (Adams Media)
  • Breathing Space (CreateSpace)
  • Accomplishing Your Goals (Smart Guide Publications)
Jeff is the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues and has been widely quoted in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, USA Today, Businessweek, Forbes, and Fortune. Cited by Sharing Ideas Magazine as a "Consummate Speaker," Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website

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