Updated: Jun 22, 2020
I was once told that I had driving anxiety by a therapist. Being a new driver on the road came with a lot of concerns and I could see the many aspects that I wasn’t great at. For example, spatial awareness isn’t one of my strengths and that’s a pretty important part of driving. Because of these concerns, I was labelled with having driving anxiety.
The first thing I want to clear up is that being concerned about something doesn’t necessarily mean that you have anxiety about it. However, driving is something that causes people a lot of stress so hopefully the tips below can help you deal with any worries or anxiety you may have with driving.
1. Take your time
One of the main things I noticed about being on the road is that there is a lot of pressure from other drivers. No matter what, take your time. Don’t go faster than you feel safe. Don’t overtake the cyclist until you feel safe to do so. Don’t be distracted by the other drivers. If you passed your test, then you know you can drive and you have good judgement so be sure to take your time. Being anxious means worrying a lot about things so just focus on what you can do in the moment.
2. Practice with shorter journeys
If you’re nervous about driving and you’re a new driver, practice driving shorter journeys like down to a supermarket or a train station. It’s a good way to get comfortable in the car without being committed to a long journey or getting somewhere stressed and then realising you have to go all the way back.
Doing short journeys often will increase your confidence gradually and at some point you will feel alright to just drive. You will have experienced various things on the road but not all in one go.
3. Listen to music
One of the first journeys I drove by myself was quite far. On the way back home, I took a wrong turn and got lost. It was dark and raining and I was very, very stressed. In that moment, I turned up the music in my car (panic at the disco if you’re curious) and started singing along very loudly. It was the easiest way I could process the fear but also make sure I would keep going without having a meltdown. It worked. I found some signs back home and followed them until I recognised where I was.
Music is a powerful tool and can help with many emotions so if you’re nervous about driving, try listening to some music and turning into a fun activity rather than a stressful one.
4. Have someone with you
This one is pretty subjective. Some people feel better being along when they are stressed but for me, I felt better having someone with me when driving. It wasn’t because I needed them for advice, but it was more about having moral support. I could vocalise any concerns without feeling crazy for talking to myself.
Be warned though, having someone with you can be worse. They can distract you and they can cause more of a problem than if you are by yourself.
5. Drive to where you want to go
My general rule is that I’ll only drive when I want to go somewhere or need to get somewhere. That way it becomes less about the driving but more about the activity, and driving is just a means of getting there.
Driving can be really fun but as the roads are getting busier, it is becoming more challenging. As long as you take care and do your best, then try to leave the anxious thoughts out of your head. Focus on what you’re doing and everything should be alright.