A few days ago my friend asked if I would meet her somewhere that I had never personally driven to. I had been there before as a passenger but could not for the life of me remember the way. While it was within 5 miles of home I was still worried I wouldn’t be able to find the right roads. My friend told me the specific address and I looked it up on google maps. The directions had 8 steps and I was familiar with 4 of them. Long story short; while I was scared to make the drive, I am aware that I have to challenge the fear in order to conquer it and I did what I could to make the experience as painless as possible.
Driving anxiety is experienced in varying intensities. For some this is the result of prior trauma associated with driving but for others it can come on suddenly or alongside agoraphobia.
“Driving anxiety is a form of Agoraphobia, literally defined as is the fear of open spaces.”
- getting stuck in traffic
- being trapped in a car
- being stranded
- finding parking
- being watched
- getting lost
- driving in bad weather
- drivers with road rage
There are a few ways to combat driving anxiety. Don’t be discouraged if these methods don’t work for you right off the bat. Some coping methods take time and practice to make a noticeable difference in your amount of anxiety.
Caffeine causes your heart rate to rise and is linked to increased anxiety***. Limiting how much caffeine you consume will help you stay calm.
If you’ve ever heard the term “hangry” you know that being hungry can do more than make your tummy growl. Being hungry isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself but certainly make sure you are consuming the necessary amount of vitamins and nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Improper diet can cause you to feel irritable, tired and less alert.
Listen to calming music.
It doesn’t have to be classical music. Whatever soothes your soul is what you should put on. Some people prefer not to listen to music at all and that’s okay too however I personally do find listening to music while driving helps me stay calm. I will note that I am also the type of person that turns the music in their car down when finding parking.
Have someone go with you.
Having someone at your side can be a great asset. Their company can help you feel more secure especially if they are able to help with directions. They can provide emotional support as well as just being an extra set of eyes.
This is most well known for making you feel like an idiot the first few times you do it but it does work. Try talking to yourself in the mirror and say something encouraging; “I am strong.”, “I can do this.”, “no matter what, I won’t give up,”. Whatever you say to yourself, be reassuring and kind.
Work with a mental health professional.
No one can do it all alone and if you find your anxiety is above a manageable level then getting in touch with a psychiatrist or therapist is certainly the most helpful option.
Practice makes perfect but it also helps boost your confidence. Focus on whatever you have the hardest time with whether that be parking or driving to a specific place. If your biggest issue is having a finite ‘safe zone’ and your comfort zone is 10 miles, try going 11 miles out. When you get over the initial anxiety and become more comfortable, try 12 miles. Repetition is key to conquering your fears and minimizing your anxieties.
Be brave and use your coping skills. You can overcome the challenges you face.