Last week, my boyfriend asked me if I could drive us to London for a friend’s birthday. I was quick to say yes, knowing his car was in for repairs. I was more than happy to help out. Of course I can drive us…no worries…
And then my mind spiralled into a familiar panic.
I have never driven to London before, I have no idea where I am going. Where am I going to park? Will I be driving around for hours trying to find a parking space?
I struggle with driving anxiety. It’s something I try to hide from people, because I feel silly and ashamed.
Read on to find out how I manage my driving anxiety and things I do to calm myself down in stressful driving situations…
1. Identify Your Fears
My driving anxiety is triggered by new locations. I don’t like driving to places I have never been to before but for others it can be because of past negative experiences, fear of being trapped or losing control of the car. It could even be a mixture of reasons. Taking the time to work out where your fears come from is vital.
It’s really important to let the passenger know you are feeling anxious so that they can be supportive whilst you are driving. I find that it calms me down knowing that I’m not suffering in silence. Once I have acknowledged my anxiety by talking to the person closest to me, it feels less scary. It also allows me to feel more comfortable with my uncomfortable feelings. First step when it comes to managing and dealing with anxieties, is to say your fears out loud. It’s also super helpful to have someone there reassuring you that you are doing a good job, and they will help you when needed.
Let them know what you need them to do in your moments of panic. For me, I find it really calming when my boyfriend holds my hand and gives me clear instructions on where to go.
3. Familiarise Yourself With The Route
Anxiety plays on the unknown, so I familiarise myself with the route I am about to go on, trying to remember some of the road names, so that some parts of the journey aren’t completely new to me.
4. Positive Driving Affirmations
Remind yourself of your ability to drive confidently. My boyfriend pointed out to me once we had arrived in London that I can drive, driving is not new to me, so I shouldn’t doubt my ability to drive. I am just driving on new roads and round new roundabouts. I have to remind myself that I am a good driver, and I know what I am doing despite driving somewhere new. I tell myself that even if I take the wrong turn, it is okay, and google maps will reroute me.
Affirmations are great as they interrupt your normal pattern of negative thought. Remember to be kind to yourself. Treat yourself to some positive affirmations to help relax you.
5. Locate Parking
I find it’s much easier to head for the nearest car park and then walk to my desired location, rather than turn up to my location and realise there is nowhere to park. Try to eliminate unnecessary stress by doing small things like this.
6. Take Breaks
If you are feeling incredibly overwhelmed pull over in a safe place, or services and just take a break. Calm yourself down, collect your thoughts and clear your head.
7. Get Some Fresh Air
Following on from point 6, for me, especially on long drives, being able to walk around for a little bit really helps me, and allows me to ground myself before stepping back into the car. I also like to drive with my window slightly open. It allows me to remain calm and reminds me that I am not trapped or confined to my car. I can breathe a little easier.
Create yourself a driving playlist, I have multiple for different situations to comfort me when I am driving. There is nothing worse than being at a roundabout, having no clue which lane you are supposed to be in and not being able to think clearly because you’ve got some aggressive music playing.
Also turn the music down…make sure it’s at a comfortable level for you as the driver.
9. Recognise Your Progress
It’s really important to recognise what you did well and what needs working on after driving somewhere new. Maybe even check in with whoever is in the car with you, how did that trip compare to the last one?
I am proud that I managed to drive to London but I am not impressed with the way I handled my anxiety. I learnt a lot more about myself and my anxiety so that next time I can manage myself better.
Practice makes perfect. Like with most things the more you do it and the more you put yourself in these uncomfortable situations the better you will get at managing yourself and your anxiety. Since my trip to London I have driven to multiple new places and each time it’s getting easier.