Today is going to be a pretty lengthy informational post. I decided to write this because I feel like I can help someone out there who is currently going through driving anxiety; A pretty major problem I dealt with for a very very long time.
So before I dive in, let me just give you a brief story of my driving process and how I ended up with my anxiety.
Around the end of the fall semester of 2016, I was in serious need of a new car. I had just moved out to a cheaper apartment that was quite far from campus, so getting a car was my only means of getting around, as the public transportation services weren’t very reliable.
At that time, all I had was a temporary permit that I carried around as a form of Identification. I didn’t have the money to afford driving school, so I never really got the opportunity of learning how to drive.
However.. by late decemeber of that year, Abe had finally decided to teach me how to drive. School was starting in January, and I didn’t want to imagine myself being late to every class due to poor transportation services, so we basically decided to rush the entire learning process.
We started driving lessons on the 31st of December, and I had already set up an appointment for the driving exam for the 5th of January. So basically, I had roughly a week to properly master driving, maneuvering and parking in order to pass the exam. It was a stressful process for us both, because Abe was usually pretty busy with work and usually came home late, so finding the time to learn wasn’t going the way we both had imagined it to.
As time got closer and closer to the big day, Abe and I decided to try something quite different and risky. We went over to the DMV and practiced around the exact same streets prepared for my driving exam. It felt like I was seeing the answers to an exam I hadn’t even taken yet (A.K.A …cheating..lol).
I needed to do what I had to do, as I was running out of time, and needed to obtain my license to purchase a car before the semester began.
So.. long story short… I ended up getting my license and buying a new car, but what followed after was this fear that I never seemed to easily let go of. And no matter how many times I had convinced myself that I was ready to go on the streets alone, I just couldn’t do it.
Driving Anxiety had completely taken over me.
I couldn’t go anywhere without calling a friend to come over and drive me to my destination. It was crazy because I would ask them to drive me, even though we always ended up using my car.
I would always make up lies as to why I didn’t feel the need to drive, simply because I didn’t want anyone knowing about my anxiety. Abe was pretty aware of this, but sadly, all he could do was force me to get in my car and drive on my own, which wasn’t necessarily the best way of dealing with something as serious as anxiety.
Apparently,… I learned the hard way that he isn’t really the one to go to regarding something as serious as anxiety.
Anyways.., this habit of mine continued on for a while, and although I was able to drive by myself to campus and back, going anywhere else aside from campus always got my heart racing. Getting lost was a nightmare, because following a GPS back then was one of my weakest skills and something I had always completely dreaded since the day I purchased my car.
So I continued in anxiety for another year, without really doing anything much about it…
Then……., I got a job!
And out of all locations possible, I was offered a position in Michigan. I currently live in Ohio, so Michigan isn’t necessarily considered a very far state to most residents….., but for someone like me, who completed feared driving, it was the farthest distance I could possibly imagine.
My job was 20mins drive with the highway, and 45mins by city…, and as much as I tried to convince myself that it wouldn’t be too bad, my driving anxiety would always come back to take the slightest bit of hope away from me.
I spent days begging Abe to work around his schedule to make time to take me to work. And as selfish as that sounded, I didn’t really have any other choice.
Uber was quite expensive, and I honesty didn’t want to be spending that much money weekly on transportation. So I looked to Abe, in hopes that we would see eye-to-eye on the driving situation.
Like I said earlier, Abe isn’t really the best person to meet when it comes to issues like this, so obviously his answer was a straightforward “NO”.
That’s when I knew I had to move on to plan B.
So, I called Helen (my longtime closest friend), to come over and teach me how to deal with driving anxiety. She was the only friend of mine I had opened up to about my driving anxiety, so I knew calling her was a great option.
Gladly, she did come through to help.
She drove me on the highway and showed me ways on how to properly merge onto fast paced roads, without getting into any crash. She made it seem so easy, which boosted my confidence level a lot more.
However, the minute she made me take over the vehicle to try giving it a shot myself, I almost pooped my pants.
She was very supportive and reassured me countless times that I was capable of doing it well with ease.
So we got on the highway…, this time around, I was in the driver’s seat.
And for the very first time in my life, I saw myself slowly dealing with something I thought was completely impossible.
I still had the driving anxiety while on the highway, but seeing how relaxed Helen was did sort of make me become a little bit more confident with the road.
That was how I was finally able to begin the process of dealing with my driving anxiety.
I wish I could go on and on with the rest of the story and how I completely got rid of my anxiety, but to keep things short, All I can say is; I’m now a pretty skilled driver and can go wherever I want (YAY!).
So based on my crappy experience, Here are some tips that helped me a lot in dealing with my anxiety.
HOW TO OVERCOME DRIVING ANXIETY
Know Exactly What You’re Afraid of And Why:
This is very very important because sometimes, when we can’t pin point exactly what we are afraid of, it becomes a bit difficult to overcome it. In my case, I was afraid of other drivers. I usually had this fear of what others would think of my driving skills, and if I was being too slow or too fast for the normal traffic speed. In addition, I was also afraid of trucks and vehicles that were larger in size compared to mine. I always saw the bigger vehicles as the bullies in school, who feel like they have so much power over everyone.
This fear would usually throw me into a panic state which severely impacted my driving.
However, discovering why I had such fear was key.
It gives the mind a better understanding of where the problem truly lies, and most importantly, how to train thoughts into properly dealing with it.
Drive With Someone Who Is Relaxed:
If you have driving anxiety and you decide to drive with someone who is very loud and hyper, then you aren’t doing yourself any favor. Because the moment your anxiety starts to creep in, that person is only going to trigger it more by being overly hyper.
So pick a friend who is very calm, and have them drive with you to practice. Helen was that friend in my situation, and I’m definitely happy I chose the right person for that task.
Never Attempt To Do It Alone:
It’s very common for individuals to use the saying “learn to face your fears“, without knowing the difficulty that goes into facing such fear. It’s very easy to say something, but a lot harder to go about doing it, especially when you have to do it all alone. For a case like driving anxiety, it is always safer to have someone come along with you, than go about it yourself.
The company of another individual around would always serve as a distraction from your fear, making it a lot more easier to feel at ease with the road. Being alone would only make you focus more on your thoughts and fear, which is exactly what you want to avoid.
Practice On Quiet or Traffic Free Roads:
When I was learning to overcome my anxiety, I would always use the 45mins route to work, which helped me completely avoid the highway. It was a longer journey, but without much cars on the road, which was exactly what I needed. The length of the drive made it comfortable for me to get used to driving long distances as well as creating a better understanding of road signs, speed limits and signals.
So definitely be sure to drive on traffic free roads. GPS makes it so much easier these days to filter the option of using the highway, so definitely take a huge advantage of that.
Play Some Music:
As you get more and more on the road by yourself, try to play some music that could calm and distract you from the road. Music is definitely a great way to keep yourself less focused on your driving anxiety. Make sure it is your favorite playlist, or a podcast you’ve been planning on listening to, so that it would keep you a bit more engaged.
I wouldn’t recommend playing a song you’re not familiar with as that could drive you into a trail of thoughts you don’t necessarily want to be having.
Focus Mostly On Your Safety And Not Others:
This might sound a little bit selfish, but honestly, it really isn’t.
For example.., If you are driving at a suitable speed and notice a vehicle over-speeding behind you, do not try to bump up your speed for the individual. He or She has a right to overtake you if they have to, so just let them do it. It’s way better to be safe than sorry.
You need to understand that there are crazy people on the roads who don’t properly follow rules, so just let them be. There are road safety officials who look out for crazy drivers daily, so leave it for the officials to handle the situation while you continue to remain safe.
I’m not an expert when it comes to breathing techniques, However, I would definitely recommend taking very deep breaths if you find yourself in a little bit of a panic situation. Driving anxiety can sometimes bump in, even when we start to feel a lot more comfortable with the road, so just be sure to keep those deep breaths coming.
Study Your GPS And Properly Know Your Route:
The worst thing that could ever happen is getting lost when you have a fear of driving. This is why I always recommend planning out your driving path before heading out, especially if you’re not too familiar with the streets.
I used to completely dislike using my GPS, simply because I didn’t properly understand or follow it adequately, However, the more I gave myself the chance to learn how the program works, the easier it became for me to map out my destination.
Don’t Drive Too Fast In Places You Don’t Know:
This is very important, because driving anxiety can sometimes cause one to make silly mistakes while driving. Be sure to drive slowly especially in areas you don’t know, and destinations you might find yourself in. This prevents you from making driving mistakes that could lead to road accidents.
Drive In A Safe Vehicle:
Before you even decide to get into a vehicle, be sure to have already gone through some safety inspections before proceeding. Safe Vehicles help reduce driving anxiety by giving you much better control of the automobile. HERE is one safety inspection checklist you could check out before proceeding to get into a vehicle.
If you’re not too familiar with vehicle parts and operation, be sure to check the manual that comes with the car, or seek a trusted mechanic that could help you inspect the vehicle.
Don’t drive in a vehicle that isn’t safe as this could definitely spike up your anxiety a lot more.