Tackling Driving Anxiety

When I was younger I dreamed of driving my own car. My dad, the safest driver I know, taught me how, and I passed both theory and practical tests first time with flying colours. You would think I'd be full of confidence, but a huge gap between passing and getting back into a car depleted all my self-assurance. 

Rather than feeling thrilled to hold my car keys, I would have panic attacks. I dreaded even the smallest journeys, and I still get palpitations when I parallel park, and bad nerves on new routes. Things are slowly getting better, and I wanted to share my tips to help people in the same situation.

Please bear in mind that this is solely my advice for feeling comfortable in the car, and I would always recommend taking more tuition from a teacher if you doubt your driving ability. Stay safe, and always follow The Highway Code and road laws.

Drive!
I know, it can seem impossible at times, and it is a fact that driving your car will always carry risks, but the only way to boost your abilities and confidence is to keep practising them. Make sure you have the number for your breakdown cover, some breakdown essentials, and a map if you need it, to put those 'what ifs' to rest, then get out there. You can start small and drive a little longer each time, every journey helps.

Meet your new mantra:
"I'm okay, they're okay, the car's okay". 
So you drove out a little too soon and they beeped at you? You're okay. You braked too suddenly and the car behind stopped close behind you? They're okay. Yes, these are mistakes and you don't want to repeat them, but try to see them as a lesson rather than letting your whole drive be ruined. The most important thing is that nobody was hurt, and you can learn from the blips to have an even better drive next time.

Car-aoke
Driving in silence allows me to hear every tiny bump and every worrisome thought. While you definitely should pull over if you truly believe something is wrong with your vehicle, it's not wise to fixate on tiny bumps in the road and let them distract you. Singing along to the radio definitely makes me more relaxed, but I keep the volume sensible and my hands on the wheel. 

Speak easy
If music still doesn't help, and I'm struggling with intrusive, anxious thoughts, I will speak out loud and tell myself exactly what to do, like a driving instructor. My speaking voice has more authority than the thoughts, and forcing myself to talk it out refocuses my mind to a more rational place. I will also tell myself when I've done something well, as saying and hearing it really helps me to acknowledge my smooth gear changes and thorough mirror checks.

Put your hater blockers on
It goes without saying that you should never obstruct your vision whilst driving, but I have found that popping on a pair of sunnies really helps me in the driving seat, as I feel like other drivers cannot see me and judge me on my image (for example, assuming that I will drive poorly because I am a young woman). They also mean I'm never squinting and can see the road clearer, so I feel more assured.

Film star
Most of my anxiety actually comes from fears about other drivers and their behaviour, so my parents kindly got me a dash cam for Christmas to ease my mind. It deters bad drivers as they know you'll have footage, and if something should happen you have proof for your insurers. Using mine on the motorway on my recent trip to The Lakes really did help.

How do you ease your driving anxiety?




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1 comments

  1. This is so interesting. I passed after the 4th time. The first two were were whilst I was at university and was having one lesson a week. The third time was in my Mum's car after driving around all summer but was still so nervous. The 4th time was after tons of practice, I had music playing on the way there and me and my mum sang all the way to the test centre. I also had an epiphany on the way there. I just looked at the other drivers on the road and just though "passing this test isn't going to make you any more special than any of these people." It seems a weird thing to tell yourself but I was building it up so much that it just didn't occur to me that passing the test was not going to affect my life in the way that that passing my exams or graduating university would. I would just still be normal. Once I had stopped building it up to be a big deal I was super relaxed on the test and just drove.

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