Driving anxiety refers to the onset of anxious thoughts and symptoms when driving, getting ready to drive, or even sometimes when others are behind the wheel! These symptoms can include general nervousness or panic, increased heart rate, trembling, and even severe panic attacks.
Studies have shown that up to 66% of Americans have experienced some level of driving anxiety – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beaten! Here are some tips to help you move past it and drive with confidence.
Confront the Root of Your Fear
First of all, it’s important to try and understand why you’re afraid. Your anxiety might stem from a previous bad driving experience, a lack of confidence in your skills on the road, or a general anxiety disorder or phobia that relates to driving (like a fear of no control).
Seeking professional help might be important for you to overcome your anxiety. You can even look to online therapy as a first step in identifying the root of your stress so you can learn to cope with it.
Being well-prepared can sometimes help alleviate stress and anxiety surrounding it. Making sure that you always have your driver’s license on hand as well as emergency items in your car is important.
If you struggle with your eyesight, make sure that you have night driving glasses on hand – even if you aren’t planning on driving at night, since you never know when a situation might arise when it’s needed.
Practice, Practice, Practice
If you actively avoid driving due to your anxiety, you might be exacerbating the problem. The more you drive, the more comfortable and familiar you will become, and the less anxious you will be likely to feel – this concept works like exposure therapy for certain phobias.
Practice driving as much as possible in a way that makes you feel comfortable – with a trusted partner or family member, in areas you know well, etc. However, it’s also important to push yourself to drive in unfamiliar places and circumstances too. This will allow you to practice the driving techniques that may stress you out and give you experience driving in different places.
Stay in the Moment
It’s important to avoid thinking about all the potential unknowns and “what if’s.” When behind the wheel, practice mindfulness and try to stay in the present moment.
Focus only on the next bit of road ahead of you and concentrate on your driving instead of the potential scary things that might happen.
Try Relaxation Tips
If your heart is racing while you’re on the road, have some techniques at the ready to help calm your heart rate. Breathing exercises are something that you can do while you’re driving – as long as you keep your eyes open! – and they can help to calm your heartbeat and regulate your breathing.
You can also work on keeping your muscles relaxed and your grip on the steering wheel loose and flexible. Play calming (or exciting) music to get your mind right, and try repeating positive affirmations to yourself throughout your trip – you can do this!