Driving Tips for Nervous Drivers: How to Stay Relaxed When Driving
Driving is a skill that can greatly facilitate your daily routine. Instead of having to go through numerous troubles that are related to public transportation, including schedules, driving will allow you to arrive at your destination much quicker. This is, of course, considering that you don’t end up in a traffic jam.
Now, while cars and driving, in general, were not as common a few decades ago, today most of the population in the USA and Europe use cars as the main mode of transportation. While talking about the environmental effects of this trend is a whole other story, we just want to say that we are quite happy seeing battery-powered vehicles becoming more affordable and popular in the past few years.
While the importance of knowing how to drive is quite clear, it is not uncommon that people have so-called driving anxiety. As studies suggest, women tend to suffer from it more than men, but that doesn’t mean that the intensity of such an experience is different. With anxiety being the most common mental illness across the globe, with around 25% of the total population having some form of it, you shouldn’t search for ways to cure it, but rather how to cope and deal with it.
Driving can be quite an enjoyable experience, as long as you are focused, confident, and relaxed at the same time. Thus, if you are a nervous driver, we have prepared a few tips that may help you when it comes to increasing your confidence and reassuring you that being in a car is nothing that you should panic about! So let's take a look at a few of the best driving tips for nervous drivers.
Where Does Driving Anxiety Come From In The First Place?
Before we get into exploring the different tips and tricks on how to cope with this common driving issue, it is important that we consider what causes driving anxiety, fear, and nervousness in the first place. Looking at studies related to the anxiety issue, we can identify four different roots of potential anxiety that seem to be common amongst most people with driving anxiety: evaluation, losing control, catastrophe, and uncertainty.
Starting with the first one, the main reason that you are nervous when driving might very well be because you think you are not good enough as a driver. Whether it is because you see the potential of friends mocking you, or because you are not confident at all, staying away from driving seems like the best solution. Believe us, it is not! Evaluation anxiety is one of the most common disorders, and it is basically the main cause of social anxiety, as well.
Another trigger that is related to driving anxiety is losing control. As we are all aware, while cars are the most efficient land transportation option, accidents happen due to drivers not paying attention, as well as roads that are not well-built. Bearing this in mind, there are people who simply don’t feel safe enough being behind the wheel, thinking that no matter how focused they are, something might distract them, which will lead to losing control and, ultimately, an accident.
Related to this is the fear of catastrophe. Very similarly, catastrophic anxiety is caused by negative thoughts that driving a car will inevitably lead to a hazardous scenario, whether for you or for others. Thus, the same as with evaluation anxiety, drivers that suffer from it simply go for the best solution of avoiding negative scenarios, and that means not sitting behind the wheel in the first place.
Finally, we have uncertainty anxiety. While it does have some relation to the other three, this one is specific, as it is not something caused by previous traumas, but rather the realization that you never know what comes ahead. Still, this is a principle that stands for all things in life, so allowing it to take control of your emotions and decisions is illogical.
While you may not be able to predict the future, which means you can not be certain about what might happen, the trick is that you do your best in investing as much focus and positive thoughts in your driving routine. This way, even if something doesn’t go according to your plan, you will be able to react accordingly, instead of panicking and becoming a victim of anxiety.
Now that we have dug into the roots, as well as common triggers of driving anxiety, it is time to move on and highlight some effective coping techniques and tips for driving relaxed. Let’s get right to it!
Tips On Coping With Driving Anxiety
As we have suggested above, the main idea of fighting with driving anxiety is not to cure it, but rather to learn how to experience it and cope in the present moment. This is mostly done through cognitive-behavioral therapies, which usually include exposure as the main method of overcoming your triggers, or by practicing meditation and mindfulness.
The first thing that you should know is that all anxiety comes from some fear. In this case, it is mostly due to the fear of collision. While accidents happen, there is no point in letting emotions overcome your focus and perception of the facts. Thus, as long as you have a legal driver's license, you should practice driving safely and relaxed, not thinking about what might happen. Yes, the danger is real, but it is a daily part of our lives, so you shouldn’t become obsessed or hindered by it.
In fact, the best way of countering fear is by exposing yourself to it - this doesn’t mean you should get into risky situations that have a high chance of collision. Rather, simply sit behind the wheel and start driving your common routes. If this doesn’t help either, check out some of the great fear-coping books that can be found on the internet, or consult with a behaviorist on the other popular methods to treat it!
As we have suggested above, the most effective method for facing driving anxiety is by practicing your skills. Still, there are a few things you want to consider in order to make steady progress. First, start driving in the conditions that you are most confident with - what this means is that you should skip driving during the night or on a freeway, at least until you get more confident about your driving skills.
Not only this, but you should remember that there is no need to rush the progress. Thus, move on to more complex situations only when you feel comfortable and relaxed enough to do so. The key is to counter your anxiety and fear by realizing that they don’t have a place in your mind.
If you are not ready to start driving alone, feel free to call a friend or a family member (even a professional instructor) who has years of driving experience and who will reassure you and let you know about the things you are doing right, as well as those things you should correct. Another benefit of this is that being with someone else may also decrease your anxiety and give you peace of mind, denying the potential of catastrophic events or losing control.
As you probably know, one of the best ways to treat nervousness is by listening to music. It is said that it can improve your mood by increasing the levels of serotonin and dopamine, along with calming you down. Now, when it comes to listening to music while driving, we suggest that you go for something that is upbeat and that you like, but choose something that is not too distracting and will not take away your focus from the wheel!
At the end of the day, music might help you maintain calmness, which is vital in order to avoid anxiety or panic attacks while driving. Playing meditative or relaxing music at the right volume may also help you enter a mindfulness state, which will reconnect you to the present moment and help you focus on what is happening now, instead of what was or what might be.
Along with taking a driving course to renew your knowledge, as well as gain confidence, we suggest that you install a reliable mobile app that will navigate you through the streets and alert you if there has been an accident somewhere. This way, you will know about the potentially dangerous routes that you should avoid. A driving mobile app can help you regain control behind the wheel and lose the perception of uncertainty.
Last, but not least, probably the most effective method of coping with anxiety, other than cognitive behavioral therapy, is through mindful meditation. While we will be talking all about the potential perks of practicing it daily in another article, we just want to suggest that staying present in the moment will go a long way towards your confidence.
Thus, we suggest that you start by practicing it for 15-20 minutes each day outside of your car - sit down in a relaxed position and focus on your breath, letting your thoughts and emotions come and go. Once you master that, move into your car and do the same.
The key is to let everything happen while you focus on your breath and sense things around you. Whether that means breathing in the fresh air, smelling the gasoline, feeling the texture of your wheel, or the pressure you are putting on a pedal, mindfulness helps a great deal when it comes to staying calm and under control!
How To Fight Driving Phobia
While fear of driving is very similar to anxiety (nervousness), it may be a bit more complicated to fight through. The thing is, fear usually comes as a result of previous experiences, whether personal to you or something that you have seen happen to others. Thus, if you are someone that has experienced a traffic accident in the past, regaining confidence and sitting behind the wheel once again can be quite tricky.
Still, as with any other problem, the key is that you identify the root and accept it. Once you have done that, you will be able to move on and start building your inner calmness and driving confidence from scratch. The techniques that we have listed above work really well when it comes to coping with the fear of driving or fear of driving over bridges.
Start by talking it through with your loved ones, and even consult with a behaviorist if needed. This will prepare you for moving on to the exposure part, where you will gradually increase the intensity until you realize that, while danger is real, fear is just an emotion that doesn’t have to become a fact. Thus, as long as you are willing to confront the problem and regain your driving confidence, there is no reason why you should pull out the white flag!
Allowing fear and anxiety to get to you and hinder your driving skills or the things that you are confident about can lead to a much bigger problem. If you were to focus on the potential of all the catastrophic outcomes in any life scenario, chances are you would never leave the comfort of your home, and, even there, it wouldn’t be safe. Thus, instead of falling victim to anxiety, you should confront it with small steps of reassuring yourself you have control and that uncertainty is not something you should be affected by.
Don’t be shy to talk it through with people around you, as that can be a great help. There is no need to feel embarrassed about your driving fears and anxieties. It can be really scary on the road, especially because you have no control over how others drive. All you can do it follow the above tips, take it slow, and remember that there is no rush to getting yourself comfortable behind the wheel. Stay safe, enjoy the ride, and good luck!