How to not be nervous while driving?

In this blog we will answer the question “how to not be nervous while driving?”

We will also discuss what driving anxiety is and why people tend to become nervous while driving.

How to not be nervous while driving?

A few things that you can do to cope with nervousness and anxiety while driving include:

Relearn the basics

The best thing you can do, if you find yourself nervous while driving again after a long time, is to get yourself enrolled in a class to re-learn the basics.

Get yourself an instructor who can help you become comfortable with learning again and if not a properclass then get your family member who can assist you as you get familiar with the control and the process of learning and driving again. 

Find a quiet place to practise manoeuvres that might cause you nervousness, such as turning around or parallel parking etc.

Do some prep work

Make sure that the care is in good condition, that it is clean and does not cause anything to get sucked or be a distraction that can cause more stress.

Make sure the seats are properly aligned and the mirrors are doing what it is supposed to do as well as checking the tires. Personally checking them can get you familiar with your car again. 

Avoid distractions

When you are driving, make sure that you keep distractions and noise to a minimum during the first few days. This includes other passengers and the radio as well as your phone. 

Make sure that you slice your phone, and the radio until you are comfortable enough that you are not distracted by them as you drive. 

Do not rush

When you are getting familiar with driving and you notice that you are nervous about it, make sure that you schedule your errands in such a way that it does not demand you to rush. 

Take your time as you drive and avoid rushing or running in late or driving through traffic, so plan out your journeys in ways that allow you plenty of time. 

Choose a safe and familiar route

Choose a familiar road for the first few drives until you get comfortable. Roads that do not demand much such as wider roads with less traffic etc. 

Have Someone with You

If you are nervous about driving, have someone you trust like a family member or a parent with you during the first few times that you drive or at least till you are comfortable.

Having someone who is experienced there can help you feel more relaxed, especially when you find yourself worried about the possibility of you getting stuck somewhere, they can help you get out of it. 

Stick to day time driving

Stick to driving only during the day time until you are very comfortable since driving at night can bring about other challenges related to sight and familiarity of routes and other dangers. 

So make sure that you graduate from day time driving to night time driving only when you are very comfortable with it. 

Better Understand Your Anxiety

Taking time to understand what anxiety is, what driving anxiety is and what is causing these symptoms and fears in you. 

Take time to explore when it started, how it started, and when it got worse, and how it is affecting your life.

Try to understand if it could be related to something else like a traumatic incident, another condition such as OCD or depression, or whether this fear ran in the family. 

Desensitise Yourself

Once you have understood this anxiety a little bit, take a moment to set goals for yourself that are realistic. 

It does not mean that you start driving the next day but maybe, you can start with trying to think of coming close to a car without panicking. Next, you can try going close to a car without panicking, and gradually getting inside a car and so forth. 

This process is called systematic desensitisation and it is best done when you are supervised by a practitioner but you can also try it by yourself if you think you can manage on your own. 

Engage in Relaxation

As you engage in desensitisation, incorporate realtations into it. Use relaxation techniques such as:

  • Deep breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
  • Guided imagery
  • Mindfulness meditations

When you feel anxious or panicked, engage in these activities to help you relax. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy

In terms of Cognitive behavioural therapies your therapist will teach you how to regulate your negative and irrational thoughts when you come across triggers. 

As you engage in therapy you will start learning to alter your thoughts, develop an awareness of how you feel, and as a consequence the way you react in situations where you are faced with a real or imagined trigger. 

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 

MBSR is an evidence-based program that involves mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety and other mental health issues. 

MBSR could be helpful in helping individuals deal with their anxieties as it has been found to be effective in tackling anxiety issues in most cases. 

The program involves teaching and training individuals to develop skills to cope with the anxiety or to reduce the intensity of the anxiety. 

What is driving anxiety?

Driving anxiety refers to feelings of anxiety, fear, and discomfort related to driving a vehicle. 

This particular anxiety is understood as a phobia and can be diagnosed as a Specific Phobia disorder under the DSM-5 criteria. This anxiety is also referred to as amaxophobia, ochophobia, motorphobia, or amaxophobia.

This anxiety is observed with persistent fear of driving a vehicle across context and this particular fear is often intense and inappropriate compared to the actual level of threat.

Individuals with this fear or anxiety experiences a lot of distresses even with the thought of driving or the possible prospect of having to drive and go through extreme lengths to avoid driving. 

Some individuals also fear being a passenger in the car, others experience anxiety of having to be the one driving only, while others experience fear of having to drive in certain situations like across a bridge or under a tunnel etc. 

Driving anxiety can cause some limitations in an individual’s movement, they might have to depend on public transport, on other individuals, and might find their anxiety to be an obstacle that limits them in the face of emergencies- like getting to medical aid etc. 

However, this particular anxiety might not cause much distress if they have easy access to other forms of transport and supportive individuals in the family that can help them move around places. 

It is most probable that indi dvd ausl who seek out help for driving anxiety do so because their inability to overcome this fear is causing them much distress and limitations.

Another reason could be, it is affecting their occupation for example, an individual whose primary form of employment is driving- ambulance driver- or someone who needs to drive due to new life situations, for example, they need to drive their children to school since they became a single parent etc. 

What are the symptoms of driving anxiety?

The most common symptoms of an individual who has driving anxiety occur when they are met with the possibility of having to drive or even at the mere thought of it.

They experience the following:

  • Fear and panic related to driving that is persistent
  • They engage in avoidance behaviours
  • They experience sweaty palms and disorientation. 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Tremors.

They might also experience a panic attack where they might exhibit the following symptoms:

Heart palpitations

  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling shaky
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Chest pain and tightness
  • Nausea or stomach discomfort
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Having chills or feeling very hot
  • Numb or tingling sensations
  • Feeling disconnected from the body
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dying (Choosing Therapy)

Why do people become nervous while driving?

It has not been clearly determined what causes this anxiety however, it is suspected that the anxiety is caused by the following factors:

  • Genetic vulnerability to anxiety and other mental disorders.
  • Family history of anxiety disorders
  • Past negative experiences, such as experiencing a car accident when they were driving- PTSD related.
  • Witnessing a car accident of a loved one or a friend as in the case of PTSD.
  • Trauma related to vehicles like getting lost. 
  • Experiencing a panic attack in the car prior.
  • Being a victim of road rage 
  • Negative experiences related to going to new locations- getting lost etc.
  • Negative experiences with certain situations like getting stuck on a bridge or a tunnel
  • Fear of causing an accident that leads to deaths- especially in the case that you have had past experiences or someone close to you have experienced this. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed how you can cope with nervousness related to driving.

How to learn to drive with an anxiety disorder?

Here are a few things you can apply as you learn how to drive with an anxiety disorder:

  • Get help with choosing the right instructor
  • Find out what is expected of you during the lesson
  • Practice driving outside of lessons
  • Get in the right headspace

How do I stop driving anxiety?

Here are a few things you can do to manage driving anxiety:

  • Seek out professional help
  • Engage in desensitising yourself
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Understand the anxiety. 

Is driving anxiety common?

It is quite common, according to the zebra– about 66% of the American population experience driving anxiety.

Can someone with anxiety learn to drive?

Driving with anxiety, while difficult, is not necessarily dangerous. Usually new drivers with anxiety can successfully complete the lessons, past the test, get their licence, and be safe drivers.

How do I overcome anxiety while driving?

Here are several tips to help you cope with anxiety while driving:

  • First of all, pull over at a safe location.
  • Engage in deep breathing 
  • Ask yourself what is causing this anxiety
  • Focus on what is around you 
  • Ground yourself by taking note of your five sense

References

6 Key Steps to Help You Get Over the Fear of Driving. Driving Tests. Retrieved on 9th February 2022.  (Source: https://driving-tests.org/beginner-drivers/get-over-fear-of-driving/)

The best strategies to overcome anxiety when you drive. Safedrivingforlife. Retrieved on 9th February 2022. https://www.safedrivingforlife.info/blog/cars/best-strategies-overcome-anxiety-when-you-drive/

Lindberg.S. Understanding Your Fear of Driving. Healthline. Retrieved on 9th February 2022.https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/understanding-your-fear-of-driving

Overcoming the Fear of Driving. ADAA. Retrieved on 9th February 2022.https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/overcome-fear-driving

Causes of Driving Anxiety & 5 Ways to Overcome It. Choosing Therapy. Retrieved on 9th february 2022. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/driving-anxiety/

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