Pressure Release Valve

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y Melissa Davies, Wise Ways Consulting

I exited on to I-66 last week toward D.C. and had an alarming moment of “where am I?” This has happened to me before on other areas roads, Route 29  towards Gainesville and I-95S heading anywhere.

I-66 is especially disorienting as the road “improvements” are combined with a fluid selection of lane configurations, work crews, and heavy machinery that change hourly. Add a little rain, shorter hours of daylight, and I felt lost, like I was driving in another state. I was stressed.

I’ve begun spending more time at Reagan National and Dulles airports as my work is transitioning back to in-person for some clients. Long TSA lines, travelers no longer social distancing, and the concern of a raging passenger potentially on my flight stresses me.

Here are some alarming statistics from the Federal Aviation Administration. This is year to date as of Nov. 2, 2021:

  • 5,033 unruly passenger reports
  • 3,642 mask-related incidents reported
  • 950 investigations initiated
  • 227 enforcement cases initiated

Here’s another sobering statistic of school injuries and deaths in 2021:

  • 24 school shootings with injuries or deaths
  • 40 people killed or injured in a school shooting
  • 6 people killed
  • 34 people injured
  • 4 students or other children killed
  • 2 school employees or other adults killed

I’ve watched people lose their composure in line at CVS while a busy check-out worker juggled the phone, rang orders, filled in for the drive-thru, and answered questions about where to find antacids.

I’m sure you too have seen some bad behavior and may have even lost your temper. I don’t mean for these statistics to stress you even more than you are. I only want to let you see from credible sources what is happening across the country. If you feel a rising level of irritability from your neighbors, co-workers, and family, yes, it’s real.

What’s causing this stress?

While I’m loathe to blame the pandemic for everything, the pandemic is the source of our global irritability. Our stress levels shouldn’t excuse bad behavior. “I’m stressed” is not an excuse to punch a flight attendant in the face.

Find your pressure-release valve

 We can’t control the people around us. But, we can check-in with ourselves when we feel irritability flash into stress, into rage, into a regrettable physical or verbal altercation.

Not every day is a happy one. The day I began my drive on I-66 during peak construction hours was not my calmest. I have since found this local resource for traffic to help me anticipate the roads.

If your stress comes from waiting for the morning or afternoon school bus, check with your child’s school to see what social media and email notifications are available.

Are you overwhelmed by larger crowds in stores? Many people share this new anxiety. Consider shopping at off-hours, avoid weekend trips if you can, and look into grocery and online deliveries.

I’m not suggesting you avoid people, but rather, identify your irritation triggers and find ways to control the situations in which you find yourself.

You can also reduce stress by turning off the news and social media. If you suffer from FOMO – the fear of missing out – trust me, you won’t miss much, if anything. What you may find is a few moments of quiet, that sense of I am here.


Melissa Davies is an executive leadership coach and facilitator as well as the author of How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work.  She resides in Prince William County and is the owner of Wise Ways Consulting, which specializes in leadership, management and team development, executive coaching, group facilitation and high-engagement training.  She can be reached at or through





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