Feeling anxious or stressed while driving is not uncommon, especially in people who were previously in a collision or know someone who was. Being a little extra cautious while driving can help you be a better driver, but feeling overwhelmed by your fear and anxiety about driving can be just as much of a danger as reckless driving.  

For those of us who have driving anxiety, it can be disruptive of our lives and cause us to not be able to drive at all! However, there are several ways to help you overcome driving anxiety and slowly work your way up to being comfortable behind the wheel. 

1. Identify the Reason for Your Driving Anxiety 

It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where driving anxiety can come from, particularly because there are many different factors that go into it. According to Healthline, driving anxiety can come from several different places including 

  • Fear of being stuck – in traffic or otherwise trapped in the vehicle 
  • Fear of having a panic attack or other symptoms of anxiety while driving 
  • Fear of going too fast and losing control
  • Driving outside of one’s comfort zone 
  • Past negative experiences while driving, such as getting into a collision 

Whatever the reason, it’s important to identify the root cause of your driving anxiety so you can take steps to mitigate it and seek professional help if necessary. 

2. Deep Breathing Exercises 

While you’re driving, if you feel your anxiety start to rise, a great way to relax is deep breathing exercises. Sheryl Ankrom, a nationally certified clinical mental health counselor, states that fast, shallow breathing contributes to anxiety, and a great way to help calm your nerves is to consciously focus on slowing your breathing.

There are many different deep breathing exercises that you can try, “Box Breathing” is one of my favorites. Make sure you’re breathing from your stomach, and inhale while slowing counting to four. Then hold the air in your lungs for a count of four, and exhale counting to four. Finally, hold your lungs empty for a count of four before inhaling again. 

3. Desensitization 

Desensitization is another way you can start to overcome driving anxiety. It involves slowly exposing yourself to situations that cause anxiety in a controlled way.  

For example, if driving on the freeway scares you, take little steps to work up towards the freeway. Start on normal neighborhood roads, slowly moving up to roads with a faster speed limit. Then try multi-lane roads and county highways. Once you’re comfortable with each type of road, you can move up to the next until you’re on the freeway. 

Depending on your level of anxiety, the process of desensitization should be done with a mental health professional to ensure you’re working through your fears safely. 

4. Working Around Triggers 

Understanding what scares you about driving can help you avoid those things that trigger your fear. A common trigger is high volumes of traffic, which can be avoided by changing your route to less busy roads or changing your commuting time to when there are fewer cars on the road. 

However, Psychology Today recommends working towards eliminating avoidance in your driving. The goal of overcoming driving anxiety is facing what scares you about driving in a controlled and safe way. While you start to work on your fears, you can avoid some of the main triggers for your anxiety, but avoidance should never be a permanent solution. 

5. Seek Out a Professional 

Finally, it should be noted that if your driving anxiety is in any way negatively affecting your life, especially if it leads you to avoid driving altogether, you should seek out help from a professional therapist or medical provider. 

Anxiety, whether it has a specific cause or not, is considered a medical condition, and for many people, the only way to cope with it in a healthy way is with the help of a medical professional.  

If you don’t know where to start, talk to your primary care physician for recommendations and a referral if needed.  

Conclusion 

With more and more vehicles on the road, driving anxiety is becoming much more common in both new and experienced drivers. With a mild fear of driving, using simple tactics to reduce stress and desensitize yourself to triggers can work wonders for helping you get more comfortable behind the wheel. Most importantly, no matter how mild or severe your anxiety might be, there are professionals out there who are just a phone call away to help. 

Disclaimer: 

This article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If you are experiencing anxiety or other mental health symptoms, you should speak to a medical professional.

Feeling anxious or stressed while driving is not uncommon, especially in people who were previously in a collision or know someone who was. Being a little extra cautious while driving can help you be a better driver, but feeling overwhelmed by your fear and anxiety about driving can be just as much of a danger as reckless driving.  

For those of us who have driving anxiety, it can be disruptive of our lives and cause us to not be able to drive at all! However, there are several ways to help you overcome driving anxiety and slowly work your way up to being comfortable behind the wheel. 

1. Identify the Reason for Your Driving Anxiety 

It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where driving anxiety can come from, particularly because there are many different factors that go into it. According to Healthline, driving anxiety can come from several different places including 

  • Fear of being stuck – in traffic or otherwise trapped in the vehicle 
  • Fear of having a panic attack or other symptoms of anxiety while driving 
  • Fear of going too fast and losing control
  • Driving outside of one’s comfort zone 
  • Past negative experiences while driving, such as getting into a collision 

Whatever the reason, it’s important to identify the root cause of your driving anxiety so you can take steps to mitigate it and seek professional help if necessary. 

2. Deep Breathing Exercises 

While you’re driving, if you feel your anxiety start to rise, a great way to relax is deep breathing exercises. Sheryl Ankrom, a nationally certified clinical mental health counselor, states that fast, shallow breathing contributes to anxiety, and a great way to help calm your nerves is to consciously focus on slowing your breathing.

There are many different deep breathing exercises that you can try, “Box Breathing” is one of my favorites. Make sure you’re breathing from your stomach, and inhale while slowing counting to four. Then hold the air in your lungs for a count of four, and exhale counting to four. Finally, hold your lungs empty for a count of four before inhaling again. 

3. Desensitization 

Desensitization is another way you can start to overcome driving anxiety. It involves slowly exposing yourself to situations that cause anxiety in a controlled way.  

For example, if driving on the freeway scares you, take little steps to work up towards the freeway. Start on normal neighborhood roads, slowly moving up to roads with a faster speed limit. Then try multi-lane roads and county highways. Once you’re comfortable with each type of road, you can move up to the next until you’re on the freeway. 

Depending on your level of anxiety, the process of desensitization should be done with a mental health professional to ensure you’re working through your fears safely. 

4. Working Around Triggers 

Understanding what scares you about driving can help you avoid those things that trigger your fear. A common trigger is high volumes of traffic, which can be avoided by changing your route to less busy roads or changing your commuting time to when there are fewer cars on the road. 

However, Psychology Today recommends working towards eliminating avoidance in your driving. The goal of overcoming driving anxiety is facing what scares you about driving in a controlled and safe way. While you start to work on your fears, you can avoid some of the main triggers for your anxiety, but avoidance should never be a permanent solution. 

5. Seek Out a Professional 

Finally, it should be noted that if your driving anxiety is in any way negatively affecting your life, especially if it leads you to avoid driving altogether, you should seek out help from a professional therapist or medical provider. 

Anxiety, whether it has a specific cause or not, is considered a medical condition, and for many people, the only way to cope with it in a healthy way is with the help of a medical professional.  

If you don’t know where to start, talk to your primary care physician for recommendations and a referral if needed.  

Conclusion 

With more and more vehicles on the road, driving anxiety is becoming much more common in both new and experienced drivers. With a mild fear of driving, using simple tactics to reduce stress and desensitize yourself to triggers can work wonders for helping you get more comfortable behind the wheel. Most importantly, no matter how mild or severe your anxiety might be, there are professionals out there who are just a phone call away to help. 

Disclaimer: 

This article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If you are experiencing anxiety or other mental health symptoms, you should speak to a medical professional.

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