Feeling anxious behind the wheel? You’re not alone. Driving phobia is one of the most common fears in the UK.
But driving needn’t be that bad — there are numerous ways to manage your stress and experience the joy of being in the driver’s seat. In this article, we cover the following ways you can conquer your driving fears:
- Refocusing on the road by taking deep breaths
- Adjusting your seat position to feel more comfortable
- Giving yourself more space and time to take the pressure off
Whether you’re a new driver gearing up for a road trip or long-term licence holder struggling to get behind the wheel again, anxiety is a difficult blocker to eliminate. Read on as we explore these tips and outline how they help you focus on the road.
Take deep breaths to refocus on the road
Have you ever made the wrong turning? Or perhaps Google Maps has let you down and left you stranded between lanes? If you’re like me, silly driving mistakes like this can send you spinning into a whirlwind of panic.
Uncertainty often leads to bigger mistakes as you slowly lose confidence in your own abilities — but there are ways that you can stop yourself from thinking illogically and spiral into a panic.
Taking a deep breath can help with many stress symptoms, helping set your mind straight and recover your driving know-how. Once you’ve taken a few deep breaths and calmed yourself, the lanes will feel much wider, the road signs will appear more clearly — and you can move on from or fix your previous (and likely harmless) mistake.
Not convinced a deep breath can help your driving anxiety? Though a simple tip, breathing deeply has a positive effect on your mindstate. Plus, it is one of the most powerful tools at helping you deal with anxiety as it happens.
Adjust your seat to feel more comfortable behind the wheel
Feet too far away from the pedals? Knees pressed against the wheel? Are blind spots feeling a little too jeopardous? Sounds like you need to make some adjustments and get more comfortable in the driver’s seat.
Poor driving positions are often the cause of many mistakes — and by extension, anxiousness behind the wheel. Not being in a comfortable and correct driving position can cause you to feel a lack of control and make you panicky.
Most cars are fairly ergonomic and allow you to adjust a range of features to fit you just right: neck rest, rearview mirror, seat position, cushion height and back support, among many other things.
Are the changes not coming naturally to you? Here are some areas of the car to tick off:
- Wing mirrors positioned so that the horizon sits in the middle of the glass and a small portion of your car is visible
- Rearview mirror manoeuvred so you can see out of the middle of the rear windshield
- Backrest slightly tilted so shoulders stay in contact with the seat when steering
Have everything set up for your liking? Don’t forget to play your favourite tunes and take a big stretch when you reach a red light. All these personal adjustments make your car feel less alien and more like an extension of your body.
Take the pressure off by giving yourself more space and time
Running late and in a rush? Or worse, another driver is frustrated and getting too close for comfort? In a world where everybody has somewhere to be, the open road can get quite hectic (by this, we mean ‘quite’ with a capital ‘Q’).
On some occasions, it’s our fault; other times, it’s the drivers around us — but the road will always be a source of anxiety if you don’t know when to give yourself time and others some space.
Anxiousness from driving can stem from not being able to read developing situations, so it pays to take a step back and get a clearer perspective:
- Stay at least two chevrons apart from other drivers
- Allow room for other cars to merge on the motorway
- Assess your surroundings before pulling out of a junction
- Don’t exceed the speed limit or treat it like a target
Bad weather like heavy rain or snow is also a source of anxiety on the road. The solution? Leave a much bigger gap than you would normally to allow for slower break times — and if your worst fears are realised, then trust you’re prepared and your instincts won’t let you down.
It’s also worth noting that poor habits are all the more tempting when you or other people are running late. The most helpful way to prevent this is learning to allow yourself some extra time, just in case you get lost or bad traffic slows you down.
Still feeling overwhelmed at the wheel? Know when to give yourself a break and pull over, both for your safety and that of others. Go for a short walk, grab a Big Mac at the services — and take some time to reset yourself.