Who hasn't been infuriated by someone jumping out of their car and standing in the space you were just about to pull in to? Or someone driving against the flow of traffic and nipping in ahead? Minor, stressful situations like these can escalate into violence - just ask the 19-year-old driver was punched in the mouth by a fellow driver at a Cairns shopping centre earlier this year for narrowly avoiding a collision, and an elderly woman was recently pushed to the ground in a Brisbane car park for stealing a space from another driver.
According to a study by psychologists at Queensland University of Technology, car park rage is just another symptom of our stressful modern life and the average person is confronted with as many as 30 triggers of frustration and anger every day. Reacting to all of them, says researcher Cameron Newton, will almost certainly have an adverse affect on our health. 'They're little things that we forget by the end of the day,' he says, 'but these triggers can lead to reactions that represent frustration and can quickly build to anger. If you respond to all of these triggers you're not going to be a very happy person, and it's very possibly going to shorten your life in some way.'
Here's Dr Newton's advice to help you keep your cool in the car park:
• If you're driving or shopping at peak times, prepare for delays
• Identify your body's frustration cues - increased pulse, rapid breathing, clenched fist or teeth, sweating, tense muscles - and try to calm down
• Give people the benefit of the doubt - maybe they've had a bad day
• Count to 10 to distract yourself from the anger trigger
• Breathe slowly and deeply to help counteract your body's physiological changes when you get angry
• Tell yourself to settle down, and don't let the situation upset you or take control
• If you're driving and you've inadvertently annoyed someone, simply apologise by waving out of the window or mouthing 'sorry' to quickly defuse the other driver's potential reaction