Our ability to drive helps us interact with the outside world. Through traveling by car, we can accomplish everyday tasks as well as gain a better understanding of the world around us. But while driving might be an automatic and mundane activity for many individuals, there are also those who see it as a source of stress and anxiety. Believe it or not, driving anxiety is an extremely common condition—even for those who make their living in the automotive or transportation industries. This is why finding ways to push through these feelings is essential for these individuals to move forward in their lives rather than be held back by fear. Learn how to manage your driving anxiety and take to the road with confidence.
Identifying Driving Anxiety
Driving anxiety is defined as the frequent and common feelings of hesitation or nervousness associated with driving. This condition can range from simply not wanting to drive to becoming physically ill at the thought of sitting in the driver’s seat. Because this condition can vary in its severity, individuals need to know how to best identify it in themselves as well as their loved ones. Only then, once they know the root of their fear, can they begin taking steps to correct it.
Like most forms of anxiety, the most common symptoms of driving anxiety are heart palpitations, profuse sweating, confusion, dizziness, and dry mouth or shortness of breath. All these physical sensations are your body’s fight-or-flight response, telling you to either confront or get as far away from the source of your fear as possible. For many sufferers of this condition, the easiest choice is flight. It’s common for individuals to shy away from, or avoid, driving a vehicle entirely. This can make it difficult for them perform seemingly mundane functions such as driving to work or the grocery store. Then, if left unaddressed, the anxiety can turn into a phobia that can further keep them from overcoming it.
Tips for Overcoming Driving Anxiety
But even knowing what driving anxiety is, and what to look for, doesn’t necessarily stop the problem from occurring. This is because, while you understand what’s causing your fear, you haven’t yet taken the actions to quell it. As such, in order to manage your driving anxiety, you need to employ tools to drive effectively as well as address your fear and nervousness. Read the following tips to help get you on the right track.
Stay Informed on the Driving Environment
Whether your fear of driving stems from the act itself or the uncertainty of knowing your directions once you’re on the road, it’s always good to understand your surroundings. Familiarizing yourself with street names, landmarks, and overall road conditions before you set out will ease some of your nervousness. This also includes educating yourself on some of the driving obstacles you might come across, such as roundabouts and distracted drivers. In addition to this, staying informed also reduces your risk of getting lost or being put in a situation where you need to make a split-second decision. While it’s impossible to completely avoid these scenarios, reducing their frequency is essential to making you feel more comfortable behind the wheel.
Use Safe Driving Practices
The more nervous you are while driving, the more likely you are to make mistakes and have lapses in focus. This makes you increasingly susceptible to having your worst fears become reality. So to best protect yourself on the road, employ safe driving practices when you do have to drive. Some of the methods you should use are keeping a safe distance from other vehicles, going the designated speed limit, and paying attention to what’s happening around you. This way, you can keep yourself safe despite how you’re feeling and prove to yourself that driving isn’t as threatening as it seems.
Be Mindful of Your Anxiety
The more aware you are that you have driving anxiety, the better understanding you’ll have of what’s needed to get through it. In noticing the tension in your shoulders, your shallow breaths, and the rapidness of your pulse, you’ll be able to stop them before they can affect your health. This way, you’re not only experiencing the anxiety, but you’re also learning from it. Each episode provides a new opportunity to learn, grow, and gather enough confidence to finally push through the condition. Once you get a handle on these feelings, your symptoms will begin to subside and you will have taken back control of your body as well as your mind.
Adopt Coping Mechanisms
Whether it’s taking a few deep breaths or visualizing you’re somewhere else, we all have certain coping mechanisms that best help us in times of extreme stress. Confronting your driving anxiety is no different. With a specific system in place for different stages of the driving process, you’ll have something to turn to for help when your anxiety starts getting the better of you. Then, in utilizing these methods, you’ll be able to calm yourself down easier each time while continuing your driving practice. Just make sure that you’re experimenting with different coping strategies to find the ones that work best for you.
Be Patent and Don’t Give Up
It’s important to remember that overcoming your driving anxiety isn’t a quick or easy thing to accomplish. Depending on how severe your anxiety is, it will take time and a lot of effort in order to get it to a tolerable level. Still, driving is one of the key components of gaining lifelong independence and personal empowerment. So if you’re willing to stick with it, your reward will be well worth the challenges.
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