As COVID-19 restrictions ease and the world begins to open back up, drivers are hitting the roads again. If you have found yourself behind the wheel and feel more anxious than before, you aren’t alone. A recent study by Aceable found that while 27% of people say they are driving less than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, over half feel more anxious behind the wheel now than they did before COVID shutdowns.
Driving anxiety can have many causes. An increase in stressors, lack of driving in recent years, or experiencing or witnessing a crash can all contribute to feelings of anxiety behind the wheel.
What Is Driving Anxiety?
The signs and symptoms of driving anxiety can be experienced while driving, getting into a car, or even just thinking about driving. They can include:
an increased heart rate
trembling or shaking
shortness of breath or tightness in your throat or chest
feelings of impending doom or danger
The good news is, there are many techniques that you can use to overcome driving anxiety, even before you get behind the wheel. Here are some tips for overcoming driving anxiety.
There are many relaxation techniques that can help combat anxiety and panic. Yoga, meditation, positive affirmations, and breathing exercises can all help to alleviate anxiety.
For example, square or box breathing can be used at any time to help calm the nervous system. This technique can be used even when driving anxiety while driving. You can even give it a try now! For each step, visualize one side of a square:
Inhale for a count of 4
Hold for a count of 4
Exhale for a count of 4
Hold for a count of 4
This is just one of many simple ways that you can help to center and calm yourself when facing a stressful situation. You can use a combination of the techniques that work best for you before and during your drive.
For some individuals, additional help and treatment for driving anxiety may be necessary in the form of counseling or medications. Be sure to ask your doctor for medical advice before taking any over-the-counter or prescription medication for anxiety, as some may impair your ability to drive.
Make Your Car a Positive Space
Making your car a relaxing and positive space can make a world of difference when you are behind the wheel. Here are some tips:
Make sure your car is clean: A messy car can make anxiety worse, and can also be a safety hazard.
Add personal touches: Adding accessories to your car or even having a little “mascot” in your car can help the space feel more personal and increase confidence.
Try aromatherapy: Keep some cotton pads or cloth in your car that are infused with relaxing lavender oil.
Create a playlist: A playlist of your favorite songs or podcasts can keep your mind at ease, and singing can also help to reduce stress.
Find A Driving School For Adults With Anxiety
If you want to refresh your driving skills, completing a defensive driving course can be a great way to refresh your driving knowledge and skills and feel more confident on the road.
Aceable’s online defensive driving is one of the best driving schools for adults with anxiety because we include helpful videos and visual aids to ensure you learn and retain the skills. Plus, the course can be completed anytime on a computer, smartphone, or tablet – all you need is an internet connection!
The coursework goes over topics to help improve your driving skills and confidence, including:
Handling difficult driving environments
Defensive driving strategies
Driving in inclement weather
As a bonus, depending on your insurance provider, completing a defensive driving course can help you earn a discount on your auto insurance premium.
Practice and Stay Local
There are ways you can stop driving anxiety while driving, too! If there are routes that you must drive on a regular basis, practicing them to become familiar with the journey can boost your confidence. You can also practice driving short distances locally in familiar surroundings to help ease anxiety behind the wheel. If possible, try to schedule practice sessions at times when the roads will be less busy.
If you have a friend or family member who is a confident and patient driver, ask if they will accompany you on some practice drives to assist you with increasing your confidence. You can also check if any local driving schools offer lessons for adults with driving anxiety in order to get some driving practice.
Plan Your Drive
Before you even get in your car, make sure to plan exactly where you are going. Input your destination into your phone or computer and study the route turn-by-turn beforehand, so you aren’t stressed on the road about suddenly being pressured to change lanes or make u-turns.
Having a driving checklist to look over before your drive can get you into a routine and help alleviate anxiety around driving. Take a look at this sample checklist and use it as-is or adapt it to fit your needs!