Are you scared of driving? This article talks about how to deal with driving anxiety and overcome it. Today, I will help you learn to not be scared of driving and reduce stress and anxiety naturally at your own pace. Driving anxiety, or vehophobia, is a common fear, especially after a car accident, which can shake a person’s confidence. It could vary from fear of driving over bridges or on highways to completely avoiding driving or even getting into a car.
Not everyone has the same level of fear when it comes to driving anxiety, but it does affect their lifestyle and choices to some extent. The confidence you gain in driving is similar to any skill. You start from scratch and work your way up, just like learning karate, a new instrument, or any other skill. If you were once a confident driver but now feel anxious, you need to slow down and relearn the skill. It takes time and effort, but it’s definitely possible.
A Therapist Might Not Be of Much Help
If you decide to visit a therapist, counselor, or psychologist for help with your driving anxiety, they’ll likely create a personalized plan for you. However, they probably won’t join you in your car to give you confidence while driving. That’s something you’ll have to manage on your own. So, in this article, I’m going to focus on the actual driving part of overcoming your anxiety and not be scared of driving. The idea is to gradually work towards your ultimate goal, step by step.
How to Not Be Scared of Driving
1. Get Used to the Features of the Car
Learn how to use your car’s features while it’s not moving. A lot of people get their driving license, begin driving, and then become scared of driving. This often happens because they face a frightening moment, like trying to change the air conditioning settings, and nearly having an accident. This experience can make them afraid of driving.
Even if you are not scared of driving yet, or if you are nervous before you even have your license, it’s important to learn how your car works while it’s stationary. Park the car in a driveway, a place with no traffic or distractions, and study everything about the car. Use the car’s manual to understand how everything works. Get comfortable with all the controls before you even start driving on the road. You want to feel safer and more at ease to reduce any fear of driving.
2. Have a Purpose for Your Drive
Every drive you take matters, no matter how small it seems. Always have a purpose for your drive. It becomes more meaningful, and you’ll be more aware while driving. Think of it as ‘conscious driving.’ Every trip, no matter how short, is part of your journey towards your bigger goals. So, don’t overlook this. Make sure to set a purpose for each drive you take.
3. Start Slow and Work Your Way Up
Begin at a slow pace and gradually increase your attempt. Think of learning to drive as climbing a ladder. You don’t begin at the top; you start from the ground. First, you step onto the first rung, then the second, and continue climbing until you reach the top. Imagine the top of the ladder as the highest point of your driving skills and your comfort with driving. Right now, you’re at the bottom. Your first step is to overcome any fear of driving.
If you are scared of just sitting behind the wheel and driving, you need to start very slowly. The initial step is to mentally prepare yourself, then physically get into a car and start it. After that, the next step could be to actually start the vehicle. Then, perhaps, try driving in an empty parking lot at a very slow speed, just easing off the brake and gently pressing it again.
4. Breathe More Slowly While Driving
You might not notice it, but sometimes you might be holding your breath or breathing in a short, quick way because you’re anxious. This kind of breathing can actually make you feel more anxious.
So, what I suggest is trying to breathe slower and more on purpose to not be scared of driving. It’s not exactly about taking deep breaths, but more about slowing down your breathing. You can count in your head if it helps, like breathing in for four counts and out for six counts. Also, doing something like meditation or yoga for about 15 minutes before you drive can really help you relax and feel better before you start driving.
5. Take Your Practice Days Professionally
On the days when you’re practicing driving, treat it like a big game day. Think about what a professional athlete would do before their big game. They wake up at a specific time, eat a certain breakfast, and do everything they can to be ready for the day. You should do the same.
Eat regular, balanced meals to keep your blood sugar stable. Avoid too much caffeine before driving to stay calm, and not shaky. Wear clothes that make you feel confident but are also comfortable. If you are dealing with a stressful life event like changing jobs, schools, or a loss in the family, it might not be the best time to practice driving. It’s okay to wait until things are more settled before adding this extra challenge.
6. Drive with an Easygoing Person on Sundays
Get someone with you when you start driving. It really helps, whether you have just been given your learner’s permit or already have a full license. You need to have a calm, easygoing person who is also skilled at driving by your side. Avoid someone who’s a great driver but tends to yell or make you anxious. Instead, choose someone who is not only good at driving but can also explain things well and is generally laid-back.
Try to plan this on a day like Sunday when they’re likely to be most relaxed, ideally when there’s less traffic. This way, everything is in your favor. Begin your journey to conquer your driving fears with this person beside you. Remember, you’re not alone in this. There are plenty of people ready to support you through this process.
7. Don’t Feel Anxious While Driving
Let’s talk about driving anxiety—it’s really important to be aware of yourself. Know what you’re thinking and how your body reacts to these thoughts to help you manage your emotions and stop them from overwhelming you. This really helps with anxiety. When you realize that your body’s reactions are linked to your thoughts and how you react to situations, you’re in control – you’re in the driver’s seat, so to speak.
If you start feeling anxious or panicky while driving, it’s okay to pull over safely and let your body calm down. Try not to get out of the car. Your body should relax while still in the car.
When you feel calmer, breathe slowly, take your time, and the panic will fade. Then, when you are ready and it’s safe, you can start driving again. The thing is that anxiety comes and goes. It might rise and fall, and even if it happens a few times while you are driving, that’s normal. Panic and anxiety might feel bad, but they are not harmful and they will go away.
8. Don’t Worry if You’re Not Improving Yet
As you go through this list, you might feel like, “Hey, I’m doing this pretty well,” but then suddenly, you have a really tough day and again get scared of driving. That’s normal. I’ve never seen anyone working on a phobia who moves from one step to the next without any issues. Everyone gets stuck at some point and thinks, “Oh no, I’m not doing well.” But that’s not true. It’s just a small setback. It’s very important not to quit, which is what many people do. Just consider it a small hiccup. In the big picture, it doesn’t mean you are failing. Keep going.
I hope this article is useful to you. Just remember, you are not the only one who feels nervous about driving. Many people feel the same, and it’s definitely something you can conquer on your own. Just imagine what you want to achieve, plan it out step by step, and then take over the wheel. I’ve shared 8 tips to help you get past your fear of driving. Whether it’s you or someone you know who’s scared of driving, this article should be useful.