Colorado Springs, CO

The I-25 gap project is stressful for commuters. Here are some tips for managing this stress.

Conquering Cognitions

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Three years ago this month, the I-25 gap project began. This project is the longest construction zone in Colorado and will cost approximately $419 million to widen the 18-miles of interstate between Castle Rock and Monument, CO. With the traffic and congestion between Colorado Springs and Denver, additional travel lanes are necessary.

It will be great when it is complete, but in the meantime, it is a source of stress for commuters and travelers. As any driver knows who has slowly crawled along the corridor, this construction project is painful.

The traffic is unpredictable and if you don't check the Colorado Department of Transportation website before traveling, you may find yourself trapped on the interstate for extended amounts of time due to lane closures.

Traffic and delays are stressful. They are small, seemingly insignificant life hassles that add up to big stress. They are micro-stressors!

The Cost of Micro-stressors

We encounter micro-stressors every day, often several times a day. It might be an unexpected traffic delay, long lines at the grocery store, poor connection while trying to make a phone call or a brief encounter with a rude person.

These encounters impact us by wasting valuable time or stealing emotional energy. Micro-stressors chip away at our daily reserve and leave us feeling exhausted and emotional by the end of the day. This is a difficult way to live.

Stress is detrimental to our physical and mental health, and micro-stressors are no exception. They are little, but mighty powerful.

Research has found that men who reported more daily life hassles died earlier than their peers who reported fewer micro-stressors. Daily hassles not only steal joy from our life, but they steal our time too.

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60 Second Micro-Interventions

Just as minor annoyances can add up to larger issues, small self-care interventions can amount to beneficial stress management. If you are traveling between Colorado Springs and Denver and feel your stress level increasing, use these quick, easy strategies to help fight it off. Your health will thank you.

4x4 breathing (“Box Breathing”)

  • Exhale for a count of 4
  • Keep your lungs empty for a count of 4
  • Inhale for a count of 4
  • Keep your lungs full for a count of 4
  • Repeat

Mouth and nose breathing

  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth ten times
  • Breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose ten times

Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4 -7 -8 Breathing Technique (“Relaxing Breath”)

  • Inhale for 4 seconds
  • Hold for 7 seconds
  • Exhale for 8 seconds
  • Repeat

Breathing paired with muscle relaxation

This technique combines controlled breathing with progressive muscle relaxation. Take a deep breath in and squeeze all your muscles tightly. Hold the breath for a count of 10 while squeezing. Exhale and allow your muscles to relax. Repeat.

Another option is a quick shoulder shrug. Lift your shoulders towards your ears, hold for 3-5 seconds, and release. This provides a quick reset.

Half-smile

“Half-smile” is a technique used in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to assist with distress tolerance. With relaxed lips, begin to smile, but stop when you notice a small amount of tension at the corners of your mouth.

The half-smile is very subtle and if someone were looking at you, they might not notice anything different about your facial expression. Hold this half-smile for at least 60 seconds and notice the effect it has on your mood.

Final Thoughts

Every day, we experience hassles. If you frequently travel between Colorado Springs and Denver, you have likely been experiencing more traffic headaches lately. When we engage in short, simple self-care exercises, we can quickly manage these micro-stressors and prevent them from growing into a larger problem.

In just 60 seconds, we can shake off stress. A small, but important, investment in our health.

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Clinical psychologist | Outdoor enthusiast | Museum lover | Sharing strategies for healthy living, happy relationships, and low-cost activities the whole family can enjoy!

Colorado Springs, CO
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