Driving Anxiety and how to Overcome It
Today, one of the issues that affect people’s ability to drive is driving anxiety. Though it does not result in any long-term illness, it can become a serious problem especially if a person suffers panic attacks when driving. Here is a closer look at driving anxiety and how to overcome it.
What is Driving Anxiety?
Driving anxiety is the fear or hesitation that people have when they are about to drive. In many cases, the problem only lasts for a few seconds or minutes before the involved person calms down and normalizes. The people who are more prone to suffering from fear attacks are new drivers.
The good thing about the problem is that it can be addressed. Indeed, you are not alone if you are suffering from driving anxiety. A lot of people have suffered the same problem and overcame it. Therefore, you too can overcome it and become a great driver.
In some cases, driving anxiety could be natural. In such situations, people do not appear to know where the fear is coming from. But the anxiety can also be specific. For example, there are people who fear driving in jams, city or over bridges.
Driving anxiety can at times worsen and result in panic attacks. Irrespective of the details you learned in a driving school, the phobia of driving has a paralyzing impact as subconscious thoughts about the bad things that can take place replaces common sense.
Driving anxiety is difficult to understand because it comes with other types of phobias like fear of enclosed spaces, fear of open spaces, and fear of heights. If you suffer from driving anxiety, it can be ignited by things such as getting trapped in a traffic jam. For some, the fear could result in passing out, throwing up, or even running into another car.
Symptoms of Driving Anxiety
Symptoms of driving anxiety are in many ways similar to those of other anxieties. Here are some of them:
- Sweaty palms
- Shortness of breath
- Dry mouth
- Heart palpitations
When anxiety sets in, the mind gets cloudy and a feeling that something bad is inevitably going to happen even when common sense indicates otherwise sets in. In some instances, a person might feel like he/she is going to die. Therefore, some people opt to stop driving altogether. But this is not a solution.
Now that you know the symptoms of driving anxiety, it is time to dig deeper and explore the main causes.
Causes of Driving Anxiety
When the subject of driving anxiety is discussed, one question that comes into people’s minds is: “What causes the problem?”
The fear of driving in most of the cases result from negative experiences that people got either directly or indirectly. For example, you might have experienced an accident that resulted to injuries or loss of life. Then, the mind ends up replaying these bad experiences when you want to drive.
Low blood sugar level can also make people start experiencing the above-mentioned symptoms. One cause of low blood sugar is using processed foods that have simple sugars such as glucose and fructose. Because the sugars are already broken down, they easily get into the blood and cause insulin spikes that clear the sugar. This leaves the body with low blood sugar levels.
Though there are valid reasons why some people fear driving, you will get more advantages by overcoming it. Well, driving is a convenience that you do not want to live without.
Having noted some of the reasons that make people afraid of driving, here are some common fears they have:
Fear of Driving a Car Over a Bridge
One thing that a lot of people struggle with for years is the fear of driving over a bridge. The reality is that this fear is very common and is not associated with frail of heart. The fear of driving is more especially if a person also suffers from the fear of heights.
In some cases, this problem is so much that some people would rather change a route instead of going through a bridge. However, you can overcome fear through regular practice.
The Fear of Driving on the Highway
For some people, thoughts of vehicles racing down a highway are enough to cause creeps. Here, people think of the disasters that could emerge by making a mistake when driving on a busy highway. If you are new to driving or still learning, this problem can get worse.
Fear of Driving in Wet Weather (snow or rain)
While some people have no problem driving during wet conditions, others simply give up the plans the moment rains hit their screens. However, weather can change suddenly from sunshine to showers with no warning. While it is correct that rain or snow can make driving more difficult, you only need to prepare appropriately. You should also practice regularly.
Fear of Driving in Darkness
When the night falls, it ushers all types of fears. It is not just about driving. Simply taking a stroll in the darkness at night can cause fear and make some people dash to areas they consider safe. When driving at night, the things that cause fear include thoughts of getting lost, not being able to clearly see oncoming vehicles, and breakdown. It is important to appreciate that some of the fears for driving in darkness at night are rational.
Fear of Driving for Long Distances
Although some people love traveling far away from home to experience different environments, there are others who do not. When tiredness is added, the problem can get pretty complicated. When people think of driving over long distances, they fear they might be unable to put their vehicles under control.
At this point, it is important to understand that the term long distance can differ. For example, some might feel driving 50 miles is long while others can do over 300 miles comfortably. The secret to this is practicing and stopping along the journey.
Panic Attack While Driving
A panic attack is a sudden onset of intense fear that climaxes within minutes. Indeed, it is considered one of the causes of driving anxiety. Panic attack controls the whole body and mind making it difficult to pay attention to anything else.
In most of the cases, panic attacks are accompanied by physical symptoms like knots in the stomach and racing heart. However, panic attacks can be differentiated from other forms of anxiety because they are intense and frequent. These symptoms make panic attacks to closely resemble breathing disorders or heart disease. If you are driving, panic attack can create a feeling that you are no longer in control and a bad thing is about to happen.
A panic attack is very complicated and you need to learn how to control it to avoid harm to yourself and others.
How to Overcome Driving Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Though driving anxiety is common to many people especially in the early periods of their driving experience, the main target should be how to overcome it. Here are the best methods that you can use:
Identify the Cause of Your Fear
The first step of overcoming any type of anxiety is to understand the cause. This will reveal when the problem started and issues that caused anxiety in you. For example, did you witness a fatal road accident?
Discovering the cause of the problem makes it easy to identify useful solutions to address it. It is important that a lot of effort is put into identifying the causes to ensure that the problem does not recur.
Deal with the Fear
One thing you need to appreciate is that fear occurs in the mind. Even though the fears might be rational, they all hail from a point of restlessness in the mind. Therefore, you need to redefine what you need from driving and replace fear with something positive.
If your mind is filled with only the things that could go wrong, it is time to turn the tables and focus on the positive side. Instead of thinking about the accidents that could happen, focus on the scenic sites along the way, new people, new dishes, and associated thrill.
One way of reinforcing positive thoughts is hypnotic positive affirmations. These include affirmations such as, “I will get into my car and drive safely” and “I will not be involved in an accident”. The affirmations help to block negative thoughts that might have wanted to creep in.
Drive your Car at Manageable Speed and Avoid Speed Lines
When trying to be in control, the surest method is taking it nice and slow. This principle will work wonders when trying to overcome driving anxiety. By driving slower and avoiding the speed lines, you remain in control and feel more comfortable.
Note that though most people might be pressurizing you to move faster, the target should be focusing on what you want to do. Well, go ahead and turn on the car radio to listen to cool music as you drive. It might also help to wind down the window for some fresh air to make the environment cool, relaxing, and enjoyable.
Use Short Trips as Opposed Long Ones
If you have diving anxiety, you do not need to struggle hitting long distances. Well, look at it this way. A baby, just like a new driver, starts with short crawls before taking a few steps when learning to walk. Therefore, it is time to hit it short until you are comfortable doing longer distances.
If you must cover longer distances, consider breaking the journey into short sessions. For example, plan to make stops after a couple of hours to refresh before resuming. Well, you can combine such a journey with site seeing to make driving fun.
Consider Driving during Off-peak Periods
When battling the fear of driving, you should consider avoiding periods of stressful driving such as peak hours. Instead, the target should be driving during off-peak periods when the traffic is less. For example, you could consider driving in afternoons during weekdays and on Sundays.
Stay Away from Food that Trigger Anxiety
One notable thing that has been associated with anxiety is low blood sugar. It is, therefore, important to avoid foods that spike blood sugar and force the body to mop it fast. These include fast foods and beverages sweetened with processed sugars. Instead, you should take foods that release carbohydrates slowly to keep the blood sugar at the right level. For example, consider munching some potato crisps, popcorns, and nuts when driving to keep the blood sugar at the right level.
Using Herbs to Address Driving Anxiety
If you have tried the above methods but they do not appear to deliver the anticipated results, it might be time to go for the herbal remedy. The herbal treatments are preferred by many people because results are realized faster than other strategies. Here are the best herbs for driving anxiety:
- St. John Wort: This is one of the medicinal herbs that have been in use for more than 2000 years. It is used for treating nerve disorders and is beneficial for people suffering from mild to severe driving anxiety. It works by prolonging the impacts of serotonin to promote mood balance.
- Valerian: This is another common herb used for treating anxiety and stress. It contains valeranon that is used to help relax the body.
- Passionflower: Like valerian, the passionflower is known for its calming effect that helps to combat driving anxiety and fatigue. The main ingredients of passionflower herb include alkaloids, steroids, and glycosides.
- Lavender: Recent studies have confirmed that Lavender can help to calm nervousness and ease stress. The herb does not just have a lovely scent, but it also helps to reduce tension in the brain.
While there are many stressful situations that can result in driving anxiety, you should not let it stand in your way from enjoying this luxury. The above steps have been demonstrated to be highly effective in overcoming driving anxiety. Note that you can combine several of them to get better results.