Driving is one of the most empowering and liberating joys for many people. However, those who feel anxious about getting behind the steering wheel can find driving a nightmare. While it is true that driving anxiety rarely results in long-term illness, it can become highly perilous if you suffer panic attacks when driving. Here is a deeper look at the problem to demystify the causes and best ways of overcoming it.
What is Driving Anxiety?
Driving anxiety is a form of fear that some people develop when they are about to start driving. Often, the problem lasts a couple of seconds or minutes before the affected person calms down. But in severe cases of driving anxiety, it could result in refusal to drive.
Driving anxiety can be natural or specific. When the anxiety is natural, the affected person does not appear to understand where the fear is emanating from. But in the case of specific driving anxiety, the fear is associated with a particular thing such as fear of driving in highways, bridges or road tunnels.
The problem of driving anxiety can worsen and cause panic attacks. Even if you had learned a lot in a driving school, the anxiety can cause paralyzing impact where common sense is replaced by subconscious thoughts of the bad things that can take place. Even where the road is safe, the anxiety makes you start visualizing something dangerous like a fatal accident.
Symptoms of Driving Anxiety
The problem of driving anxiety can be difficult to diagnose and indeed comprehend because the symptoms are closely related to other forms of phobias. For example, fear of heights and fear of enclosed spaces. Besides, driving anxiety can also be ignited by other things such as driving through a tunnel. The following are some of the common signs that indicate you might be suffering from driving anxiety:
- Sweaty palms.
- Dry mouth.
- Thoughts of losing control.
- Shortness of breath.
When driving anxiety starts, you feel like the mind is getting foggy and something very bad is going to happen as you drive. Note that these feelings become so emphasized even though no logical signs are pointing at such bad things taking place. Often, people end up giving excuses for driving or avoiding it completely. But the best solution is confronting the problem.
Causes of Driving Anxiety
To be able to confront the problem of driving anxiety, it is prudent to take a deeper look and answer the question: “What are the main causes?”
The main cause of driving anxiety is negative experiences that a person might have directly or indirectly encountered. A person who was involved in an accident and saw people die in great pain might get the flashbacks when he/she wants to get behind the steering wheel.
Another issue that has been associated with driving anxiety is low blood sugar. The main cause of low blood sugar is insulin spikes that happen when people use processed foods and beverages like sodas.
At this point, it is important to mention that while there are some genuine reasons to make you fear driving, it is advisable to work on overcoming it. Here are other causes of driving anxiety:
Fear of Driving a Vehicle over a Bridge
Thoughts of steering a vehicle over a bridge that is suspended tens or hundreds of feet from the ground often make some people get serious anxiety. The problem can get worse especially if you also have fear of heights. Often, some people opt to follow alternative routes to avoid getting through bridges.
Fear of Driving in Bad Weather (rain or snow)
While many people do not have issues with steering their vehicles in wet conditions, others are gripped by fear when rain droplets start pounding the windscreen. Though it is true that rainy conditions can compromise visibility, you only need to practice regularly.
Fear of Driving a Vehicle on the Highway
Some people develop fear of driving when they imagine the vehicles racing fast down a highway. The fear can get worse, especially when people hear reports of people who suffered from fatal accidents on highways. The problem is particularly common to new drivers.
Fear of Being on the Steering Wheel over Long Distances
While there are people who fancy driving long distances for fun or work, others opt to stay at home for fear of driving. They fear the worst happening on the road when they get tired trying to read their destinations.
Note that the notion of long-distance depends on an individual. For example, some consider driving 50 miles long while others might fear longer distances.
The anxiety of Driving in Darkness
Nights are associated with many types of fears. Even strolling at night can make some people fear and scramble to areas they consider safe. Driving at night can result in fear of getting lost, breakdown, and poor vision.
How to Overcome Driving Anxiety Naturally
No matter the cause of driving anxiety in your case, the good thing is that you can overcome it. Here are some tested and proven natural methods that you can use to naturally overcome driving anxiety.
Start by Understanding the Source of Your Fear
To overcome the anxiety of any type, you should begin with understanding the cause. Once you unravel the cause and when the fear commenced, getting a solution becomes easy. For example, did someone narrate how he experienced a fatal accident?
If the cause of fear is known, you can identify methods that can help to prevent it. For example, though your friend might have had an accident; it is also true that a lot of other people drive safely every day. You only need to be careful to be safe on the road.
Avoid Speed Lines and Drive at Manageable Speeds
The main secret to shredding driving anxiety is being in control. One way of getting this control is by keeping the driving pace nice and slow. You will feel comfortable and great knowing that in case of anything you can easily stop to avoid a disaster.
To help you get in greater control, try to target the goal of your driving and keep off the speed lines. For example, if you are going to a camping site, focus on driving the vehicle at a manageable speed and getting there. Go ahead and tune the car radio to your favorite station and the ride will be very enjoyable!
Replace Fear with Something Positive
One fact that you need to know about fear is that it resides in the mind. When you replace this fear with something positive, it becomes easy to focus on the goal and overcome driving anxiety. Instead of thinking about the horrifying things that can take place when you are driving, try to focus on why you are driving. For example, think of driving to a holiday destination, work, or business as an achievement.
At this point, one might ask: How can you achieve this? You should consider strengthening the positive views using hypnotic affirmations like these:
- “I will drive safely to work”
- “Today’s ride will be very lovely”
- “I will not be involved in an accident”
- “When I get to my destination, I will have some great time”
Drive During Off-peak Periods
When you are diagnosed with driving anxiety, it is advisable to use every opportunity to stay away from stressful situations. For example, you should avoid driving during peak hours because they are very stressful. Instead, you should focus on driving when the traffic flow is smooth such as weekends and afternoons until such a time when the anxiety is over.
Avoid Long Trips
If you are struggling with driving anxiety, adding long-distance driving on your to-do list can escalate it. Instead, you should focus on making shorter trips. When you need to cover longer distances, it will be prudent to break it into short sections. For example, you can break a 200 miles journey into bits of 50 miles each when you stop to relax, take some water, sightsee, or window shop. Indeed, the long journey will be more fulfilling!
Avoid Foods that can Excite Anxiety
One of the causes of anxiety is low blood sugar. Therefore, how can you maintain blood sugar at the recommended levels? You should stay away from foods that suddenly spike the blood sugar such as fast foods and sweetened beverages. These foods make the body to release excess insulin that mops all glucose from blood. The effect is very low blood sugar. Instead, you should go for slow carb releasing foods such as nuts, whole grain meals, and popcorns when driving.
The Final Take
While there are many situations that can cause driving anxiety, you should consider using every avenue to overcome it. This post has demonstrated that you can indeed use natural methods to slowly overcome driving anxiety. Go ahead and try several of them to overcome the problem.
Do not let driving anxiety stand on your way to getting the freedom and thrill of being able to chauffeur yourself around. If others have overcome driving anxiety, you too can become a great driver!