From motorways to traffic jams, we have the perfect guide to help you reduce anxiety
Whether roundabouts render you paralysed or just the thought of a motorway has you nervously shaking – we are here to let you know that you are not alone.
If somebody tells you that they never get nervous whilst driving, it is highly likely that they are lying. Entering new situations can render even the most experienced drivers questioning their abilities, but how you deal with these nerves can help overcome the scenario.
There is no single reason why driving causes people to form anxiety, but there seem to be very common fears amongst drivers, especially those of you who are relatively new to driving:
- Driving in highly congested areas
- Driving at high speeds
- Driving on the motorway
- Driving alone
- Learning to drive
Whatever phobia you currently possess, it is essential that you conquer it; hopefully, this guide will help ease nerves and highlight how you can overcome the fears of getting behind the wheel.
Do not worry – it takes time. Nobody is born a skilled driver, with perfect pedal control, and impeccable cornering abilities.
1) Practice, practice, practice
Our best advice: you need to practice!
Learning any new task will often take a vast amount of repetition until you are able to successfully master it.
For beginners: Our suggestion is to practice driving techniques without even turning the engine on – whether this is figuring out where each gear is, or simply practicing all the necessary safety checks you need to perform for your driving test (i.e. mirrors, seating position, headrest height). Cockpit drills are the basis for the rest of your driving – master them and you will master driving.
For more advanced drivers: We repeat the same message – keep practicing. Do not avoid certain junctions, roundabouts, or congested areas each time you set out in your car; this will only amplify the fear, and likely develop into a deeper psychological fear of the scenario.
So instead of avoiding these scenarios completely, why not try to tackle them at off-peak times, when the traffic is likely to be less (i.e. in the middle of the day or in the evening).
Attempting these problem areas in this manner will hopefully put your mind at ease, and prepare you properly for driving at busier periods.
2) Switch off all distractions
Distractions are, well – distracting.
Remove anything that buzzes pings or rings, or just switch off the advice while you are driving.
Checking your phone whilst you drive can be highly dangerous, lead to up to 6 points on your licence and leave you with a £200 fine – definitely not worth the risk.
A ringing tone may not sound that annoying, but it can be tremendously distracting for you at the wheel, and bring more stress into the situation.
Although not all noise increases stress – some people find that music can be a great distraction from the troubles of driving, but some of you will just find it a great distraction!
It is really up to you. Music can help alter your mood, and soothe your soul, so why not put on your favourite playlist (if you find it helpful).
Just avoid any tense tracks – the Jaws theme tune comes to mind!
3) Stay rested
Driving whilst drowsy can produce results similar to driving under the influence of alcohol, and according to The Telegraph: ‘It is estimated that one-fifth of all traffic accidents are due to sleepiness behind the wheel’.
Getting enough sleep allows your brain to perform at optimum levels, which can help benefit your body in a number of ways, namely:
- Stress reduction
- Better mental health
- Improved learning
- Improved concentration and attention
These benefits, highlighted by BUPA are essential to help you overcome nerves, and drive to your full capabilities – especially important if you suffer from driving anxiety.
Remember to get your sleep before every big journey, driving test, or important date in your calendar. For more information to prepare for long journeys, click here.
4) Plan your journeys
Preparation can be a great tool for dealing with stress and anxiety, but unfortunately, we are not all great at forward-thinking.
Try your best to plan your journey prior to the drive, to help familiarise yourself with the route, check for incidents/ roadworks and see how long the trip will take.
Double-checking everything before you set off will make your drive that much easier, and can help you fully relax behind the wheel.
Our best advice is to program your destination into Google Maps or your Sat Nav the night before, and have a look at your fuel level.
Checking either of these on the day of travel could mean un-planned delays, and cause you to be late, which can easily cause unnecessary stress for you.
5) Improving your diet
This is not a lesson in eating your greens, getting your 5-a-day, or exercising plenty; but a good diet can be hugely beneficial for affecting your mood and improving your mental health.
According to Mind, there are a few ways improving your diet may help you:
- Improve your mood
- Give you more energy
- Help you think more clearly.
Choosing to skip breakfast, and have a big lunch may seem like a good idea at the time, but failing to eat regularly can often leave you feeling annoyed, irritable, and horrible to be around; so pick up a small snack before you drive.
Your friends will thank you for it!
Driving with food in your belly will help you for a number of reasons, but most of all, help you keep a clear head and reduce your driving anxiety – ready to combat any junction or motorway ahead of you.
Just don’t eat too much – this can reverse the benefits, and leave you feeling slightly drowsy.