Experts share five tips for overcoming driving anxiety

With recent data from DVSA showing a significant spike in driving test pass rates, there will be a wave of new drivers on the road very soon.

But, with so many things to remember and safety at stake, driving can be an unsettling experience.

As a result, driving anxiety is incredibly common.

It could be an individual is worried about getting into a car or driving to a new destination – there are a number of ways this anxiety manifests itself.

Counsellor Hilary Sims from Life Balance Counselling says: ‘You feel impending doom and feel that everything is going to go wrong, therefore, if you have driving anxiety, you can believe you are going to crash every time you get in the car. 

‘Anxiety also can affect your concentration levels, which can affect your ability to drive properly.’

Car leasing company Vehicle Contracts have teamed up with Hilary to share some ways individuals can overcome it. 

Check traffic updates and plan your route 

More control of a situation should help individuals to feel a little less anxious. So, consider planning your route thoroughly by charging up your phone/SatNav and looking at traffic updates before you set off.

You could even do practice runs of a route if you have an appointment coming up, or need to visit a new place.

Take your time and take breaks if needed

Sticking to national speed limits, or even creating a route that avoids potential triggers – like dual carriageways and motorways – can also help reduce anxiety. 

If you feel tension or worry building up, be sure to pull over until you feel more calm to drive.

Do breathing exercises

Breathing exercises are a great way to calm down and regain a sense of control.

Plus they can be done anywhere – even in a car.

Hilary says: ‘Initially, when anxiety takes hold, take control of your breathing. Breathe in and out a number of times, while holding your breath for a few seconds at a time. 

‘This slows our breathing down which in turn slows down our heart race. Anxiety increases the heart rate and the first step to deal with anxiety is to slow the breathing and heart rate down.’

Consider why you feel anxious 

Hilary suggests taking a moment to think about the possible causes for this driving anxiety.

She adds: ‘Ask yourself, what is the evidence to support my worry and what is the evidence to contradict my worry? Can I see a bigger picture when looking at this worry? And a really good thing to ask yourself is, “what would I say to a friend if they were worried about the same thing?” 

‘This is a great way to get you to look at the worry from the outside in.  When the worry has got hold and turned into anxiety, sometimes it is difficult to see that there is another opinion about this worry.’

Look after your general wellbeing

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, cutting back on coffee and alcohol, and generally living a healthy lifestyle, as this can help reduce anxiety, too. 

However, it’s important to seek professional advice if you feel that anxiety is impacting your day-to-day life.

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