Do you have an irrational fear of driving? If so you might be living with driving anxiety. This problem can affect all areas of your life and make it hard to get places you want to go.
However, driving anxiety can be overcome and it’s not something that you need to live with. Below I’ve listed 8 quick tips to help you overcome driving anxiety.
Identify Your Type of Driving Anxiety
People can develop a case of driving anxiety for a variety of different reasons.
- You might have a fear that you will have a panic attack while driving and be trapped in the situation.
- Some people have a genuine fear of getting into an accident or losing control of the vehicle due to anxiety. In fact, we know that people who have been in an accident in the past are more likely to develop driving anxiety.
- In addition, any bad experiences such as being the victim of road rage or driving through a bad storm can be triggers.
- Some people feel anxious about other people watching them as they drive or simply being out in public.
- Finally, some people fear driving unfamiliar places and being lost or stuck somewhere foreign.
Gradually Face Your Fears
The first step to overcoming driving anxiety is not to ignore the problem. The longer you go without driving, the more likely it is that your driving fear will persist.
Instead, you need to get “back on the horse” so to speak, and gradually face the situations that cause you anxiety. Even if this means starting with something very small such as driving around the block.
One way to do this is to create a fear hierarchy that lists your fears related to driving anxiety from those that make you least anxious to those that make you most anxious.
Then, you simply work your way through that list, gradually building your confidence as you move from easier to harder tasks. This is a basic technique of cognitive-behavioral therapy and is what a therapist would likely have you do.
Use Coping Statements
While you are facing your driving anxiety, it’s also important to address the negative voices in your head that will be feeding your fears. Develop a list of things you can say to yourself if you feel anxiety starting, such as “I am a good driver,” “I handle driving with ease,” or something similar. It’s best to start with something realistic than a statement you have a hard time believing.
Another way to manage your anxiety as you face your driving anxiety is to practice mindfulness while you drive. This means being aware of your thoughts and returning your awareness to the present moment any time you find yourself becoming immersed in “What if” negative thinking.
One way to do this is to list in your head five things you can see and five things you can hear. The point of this exercise is to shift you into non-judging mindful awareness. And, before you even start driving, set an intention to be a mindful driver or do a quick meditation.
(Check out the video below for more helpful tips on overcoming driving anxiety)
Have a “Plan B”
It’s always good to have a plan B as you face your driving anxiety. If you’ve experienced panic attacks in the past, this might mean keeping a paper bag in your car to calm yourself if you start to hyperventilate.
It might mean seeing your doctor about medication if your anxiety is interfering with your ability to concentrate while driving. This doesn’t mean you have to use these tools—it just means you have them in your back pocket. Just having these options might actually help to reduce your anxiety.
Go Easy On Yourself
You wouldn’t face a public speaking fear by going and giving a speech in front of 1000 people right away. Similarly, you shouldn’t face driving anxiety by jumping on the freeway during rush hour.
Go easy on yourself and start driving in familiar areas during periods of low congestion. Gradually work your way up from there. It doesn’t matter if it takes you longer to take a different route—what’s important is that you keep facing your fear.
Be a Safe Driver
Finally, make sure you are doing everything in your power to be a safe driver—and then set aside any fears of the worst happening such as an accident.
Follow the speed limit, use turn signals, etc. and then let go of the idea that you need to be vigilant for accidents while driving. Yes, you should be alert and aware, but not to the point that it causes you anxiety. You can’t control what other drivers do, all you can do is react appropriately.
Find Your Motivation
Finally, if you’re still struggling to face your driving anxiety, it could be that you are lacking motivation to overcome it.
Identify how driving anxiety is affecting your life and how that would change if you were able to overcome this problem. When you get past your driving anxiety, you will open up your life in many ways.
Does it feel limiting to you? Then find a way to conquer it.
If you’re struggling with driving anxiety, the best solution is to identify your type of driving anxiety, gradually face your fears, practice mindfulness, have a Plan B, go easy on yourself, be a safe driver, and finally, find your reason as to why you want to overcome your driving anxiety.