Look, you’re probably thinking why a 19-year-old is writing about this at 2:55 am when she’s got to go drive at 11:00 am. There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you. Are you afraid of driving?
Whether or not you have a license, you can still suffer from driving anxiety. There are many different types of reasons why you’re experiencing driving anxiety or vehophobia (known as a driving phobia).
Some of these reasons might include past negative experiences (road rage, trauma, getting lost, panic attacks), driving alone to an unknown location or having the fear of getting lost, feeling trapped, fear of going too fast and losing control. Lastly, the fear of fatalities including car accidents (which I am suffering right now).
Drivers can lose their confidence for a number of reasons. Accidents, near-misses, embarrassing parking mishaps, fears of breaking down, or just being out of practice, are some of the more common causes behind driving phobias.
So grab your mug of coffee or tea and let’s get right into it!
The backstory of My Driving Anxiety
I’m gonna admit that I’m still on my L’s for pretty much over a year now. Why is that? Every 19 year old should be getting their own license now. That goes to show, I have a very bad fear of driving. It’s called driving anxiety (if you haven’t noticed).
I put doing my permits test off at 16 or 17. I was suffering from among all, the worst years of my life. With depression and anxiety of course. No big deal. After applying to online school, I decided to pretty much do my permits test once I turned 18 in 2017 (passed with flying colours on my first try).
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Anyways, so after I got it, I decided whether or not I should practice driving. I think my first time driving was with my dad, on the road, which, became very stressful. So we got a driving instructor and I decided that it worked best for me to drive with a calm driving instructor rather than family members.
Then after that, I became very lazy with driving and didn’t bother driving for a few more months. Bad idea because now, I get really anxious when I drive as I literally forgot how to drive and I was also afraid to be in a car accident.
I use to watch car accident videos with my ex-boyfriend until recently a month back from today, I saw a very bad car accident right in front of my very own eyes. Yes, it was like, 4 meters close to our car. That’s when the triggering driving anxiety happened.
Now that I decided to get back to driving again and feeling more confident in my abilities, I decided to share tips on how you can overcome your driving anxiety.
Have someone in the passenger seat with you
If you’re afraid to drive alone somewhere, try having a friend or family member with you in the car. Actually, when I say family member, I mean, a member who won’t stress you out or freak you out while you’re driving.
Have a driving instructor or even an experienced driver (coach) in the front passenger seat can also really help you when you drive. Make sure, you know, have someone who will be less calm and will keep you from feeling more anxious.
Kristen Johnson says that having someone close to you to keep track of your location distance will help remind yourself that you know someone who cares about you and know where you’re heading will make you less afraid. How to overcome driving anxiety
Make a friendly light conversation with someone in the car
Did I mention “friendly light conversation”? Yes, because we don’t want anyone being distracted from the road. Make light conversations with your passengers like the weather or a bit about a recent event you had. Don’t go deep into the conversation because like I said, we don’t want to be distracted from the road.
Every time I drive with my instructor, it’s great to talk about little topics because it helps me to get distracted from the anxious feeling. I mean, you can stay quiet if you want as long as it won’t pressure your anxiety (depending on the type of person you are) but trust me, it really helps to talk about something different away from the cause of your anxiety.
Keep driving as often
My driving instructor told me that to get more comfortable in driving, then you need to continue driving. Like everything else “practice makes perfect“. And that’s what driving is all about! Practice.
The key here is to expose yourself to driving until you feel more confident. That’s how it works with phobias right? Hence why you start from baby steps (driving around your location so you get used to the feel of the vehicle) and then go up as you grow more confident in your surroundings.
If you’re afraid of driving to new locations and getting lost, there are many options you can take.
- You can also plan ahead of the route you’re going to.
- Drive around a location that you know.
- Use a GPS to help guide you to which directions to go. It’s the 21st Century, we have GPS on our smartphones to take advantage of the map app on your phone.
If it helps you, there are plenty of videos on YouTube about how to drive and “drive with me” videos. I like to watch a highlight series on YouTube called Driving Test Australia (a show in Australia about people on their driving test) and it makes it funny and hilarious (and a bit better about myself). Even if you already got your license, you can learn a thing or two when it comes to these driving mistakes.
List the reasons why you need to drive (Affirmations)
Is there any reasoning why you NEED to get your license? Ask yourself why you need to drive and write it down. It helps you get a better understanding of the reasons you need a license.
You can write as little and as much as you want. Does not matter about the word size because it’s for your own sake. Mostly, you want it to be as detailed as possible or just list them down in dot points if you have more than 1-3 reasonings. Mark it in your journal, calendar, planner or a sticky note as long as you can see it every day.
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I wrote down a whole paragraph in my journal as to why I need to drive. I won’t go into full details on them but my reasonings are (and you can use this as your ideas as well) to drive to work, drive to the university, drive if I ever buy an apartment and live alone, go to the shops when no one can take me, drive-thru (because I crave McDonald’s all the time), drive somewhere whenever I want to get out of the house.
Breathe Sistah, breathe. Being mindfulness before you drive is something you absolutely need to do to focus on your breathing and stress. It will calm your nerves down and let you know that you’re in the current moment, not the past or the future.
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And if you’re ever feeling anxious in the middle of driving, slow down and try to take deep breaths. There are also 10 tips for driving meditation. These can also help you when it comes to having anxiety during the situation.
You can listen to this guided meditation for driving or travelling anxiety 10 Minute Calming Guided Meditation For Driving or Traveling Anxiety.
Think the possible
If you’re suffering anxiety from car accidents, then you should switch your mindset around. Car accidents are rarely going to happen if you follow the rules and keep you, yourself and others safe while driving.
Instead of bringing yourself down and putting a negative sentence to driving (as this will anticipate to your anxiety even more than before), try to improvise and tell yourself that you can do this. For example “I really can’t drive to that location, it’s way too far, what if I get lost?” to “I can drive to that location as long as I keep calm and follow the directions. Then I will be fine”.
Whilst I was looking up ways to conquer this fear, I actually found a post that helped me. It’s called Anxiety about driving has almost stopped me doing things I love. I can tell you that this post was really inspiring for me and made me open up to things I’m missing out on if I don’t conquer this fear.
Talk to someone about your anxiety
You can also talk to someone close to you (trusted friend or family member) about your anxiety as well. They can do something to help you overcome it. It’s better to let it out than keep it in and you need the most support as you can get!
Don’t drink coffee before you drive
Learn from me, I drank coffee the day I was about to go out driving with my dad and it ended up terrible. My anxiety spiked and I felt so scared that when I saw other cars, I end up driving on the curve. It even ended up in an argument with my dad because I was absolutely nervous more when I had my coffee that morning and my temper was horrid.
So if you’re anxious, try to stay away from anything that involves caffeine as that will increase your anxiety. If you’re feeling more confident in your driving, then you can try having coffee to see how it will go.
If you need to stay awake, I highly suggest an alternative to coffee which is eating a healthy apple! That works better than coffee and it will keep you awake.
Now that you followed my advice, it’s time to act upon it. If you have driving anxiety, follow these tips and start practising driving the next day.
Let’s summarise these tips. First, have someone in the passenger seat with you, make a friendly light conversation with them.
Secondly, practice makes perfect and write down some affirmations as to why you’re feeling this way. Meditate as often to reduce the anxiety and if it still persists, talk to someone or get some counselling.
Lastly, don’t drink coffee before a drive. Eat an apple instead! Doing these steps and making a plan with your fellow mates will grow your confidence.
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