Whether it’s dealing with traffic, navigating unfamiliar roads, or simply the anxiety of being in charge of a large machine, driving can be a stressful experience. Although it is perfectly normal to feel a slight amount of anxiety when driving, keeping it under control and staying safe is essential!
Here are a few tips:
Try to drive often
Face your anxiety and keep going. Try not to turn around, even when you feel anxious. This will only reinforce your fears with avoidance. If you need to pull over and take a break, that is good, but do try to finish your journey as the more you do this the better you will feel at the end of the trip. A few small trips to start will help as the more times you reach your goal destination the more it will instil inner confidence.
Take deep breaths and focus on relaxation techniques
This will help you to stay calm and focused while behind the wheel. Remind yourself that you are safe, even when uncomfortable and anxious. Do not attempt to try a trip if you are especially anxious about other matters or are feeling tired, this will put extra pressure on yourself. Try a short journey after a good breakfast, and after the rush hour traffic has subsided a little. Choose your journeys carefully so you know where you could pull over if necessary. If you complete a journey without issue, try a new route home, the wider your comfort zone radius is pushed, the better driver you will become, but there is no rush to do this; take your time.
Do not worry about impatient drivers on the road
If you are slightly slower than the speed limit, it is fine, other drivers can overtake if necessary. This is a bigger issue on A and B roads with 50 /60 MPH limits, but as long as you are not so slow, that is causing a lot of vehicles to line up behind, carry on looking after your own vehicle control and concentrate on your journey. If you feel you are holding up the traffic, then pull over at your next opportunity and let them pass. There will always be impatient drivers, but your overthinking will not stop that, continue to drive, and let them move past you; they are more likely to end up in a ditch with their own eagerness!
Plan your route in advance
Review your time frames and give yourself more time for the journey; perhaps plan for a coffee break at certain intervals. This will help minimise your stress levels and give you more time to react to potential problems. If you can try and verbalise what you see in front of you – Commentary Driving – this can really minimise your anxiety as you can’t really overthink and deliver commentary at the same time. When we take more tuition after passing a driving test, Commentary Driving is always introduced, something you may never have brushed upon when taking your driving lessons. Using a Sat Nav could help with planning your journey, especially if you have to navigate lanes; a Sat Nav will often tell you which lane you need to be in before signs are visible.
Practising these tips will help to keep your driving anxiety under control. But if you find that your stress is starting to interfere with your driving ability, it may be time to seek professional help. By taking some confidence driver training, you can learn and implement skills that you were probably never aware existed. You should never feel ashamed to ask for some extra help, it takes a lot of courage to address driver anxiety, and it can happen out of nowhere. There does not have to be a big issue such as a nasty accident to create it. If you have one terrible journey, then that is quite normal; bad traffic, bad weather and bad drivers can make any journey hard work, but if it keeps happening and is making you worry about your journey the next day, or starts to affect your ability to just jump in the car and go where you need to go, then perhaps a confidence or a refresher course can nip it in the bud before your anxieties take away your freedom.
With effort and patience, you can overcome your driving anxiety and enjoy the freedom of the open road.
Many people take confidence training courses for a myriad of reasons, no two drivers are the same, and what works for one may not work for another. This is why taking a tailored course, not just another driving lesson, can really improve your driving and set you up for a lifetime of independence on the road. You can learn more detailed confidence driving tips here.