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Stressed While Driving? Try This

Are you a nervous driver? If so, you’re not alone. Admitting that driving stresses you out doesn’t mean you’re a bad driver — it likely means your senses are in overdrive and your brain is considering all possible scenarios of something going wrong. That, or, sitting in traffic gives you major anxiety. Whatever your driving concerns may be, researchers say there’s something that can help: music.


In a study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, researchers examined the effects of music on cardiac stress in five women who did not drive on a regular basis. Lead study author Vitor Engracia Valenti explained, "We opted to assess women who were not habitual drivers because people who drive frequently and have had a license for a long time are better adapted to stressful situations in traffic.”

The women, all between the ages of 18 and 23, were assessed on two days, in different situations. On one day, the women drove at rush hour for 20 minutes, without listening to music. On the other day, they drove the same route at the same time of day, but they listened to instrumental music in the car. The women all drove cars they did not own, and the level of cardiac stress was estimated using a heart rate monitor.

The study showed that when the women drove and listened to music, they experienced less cardiac stress, compared to driving without music. Valenti explained, “Listening to music attenuated the moderate stress overload the volunteers experienced as they drove.” While the study was done on a small scale, Valenti added, “Listening to music could be such a preventive measure in favor of cardiovascular health in situations of intense stress such as driving during rush hour.”

If you’re a music lover, you already know that turning on your favorite tunes can help calm your nerves, boost your mood, pump up your energy level during a workout and bring back old memories. Previous research has shown that music triggers activity in the nucleus accumbens, a part of your brain that releases the feel-good chemical dopamine and is involved in forming expectations. If you find yourself stressed while driving — or stressed in other situations — hitting “play” on your favorite song might be just what you need to relax.