Driving anxiety can hold you back from doing the simplest tasks with your car. For example if you fear from causing damage to your car or to others, you won’t drive your car even down street.
It is important for you to face this anxiety to make driving an enjoyable experience again and do your daily tasks with ease and calmness.
In light of that, I made this roundup to offer the very effective ways that therapists and psychiatrists use to overcome driving anxiety with their clients.
Natalie Moore, M.A., MFT Intern
Psychotherapy, Counseling Psychology, Marriage & Family Therapy
1. Deep breathing – To take a deep breath, imagine that you are blowing up your belly with air like a balloon. If the lungs are taking in as deep a breath as they can, the diaphragm muscle will push the internal organs out causing your lower belly to protrude.
Breathe in to the count of three, hold the top of the breath to the count of three, exhale to the count of three and hold at the bottom to the count of three. Repeat as many times as necessary.
2. Positive self-talk/affirmations – Remind yourself that you are capable of driving safely, that you’ve driven safely in a car before and that the likelihood of you arriving safely to your destination is far greater than the likelihood of you getting into a car accident.
3. Guided visualization/positive imagery – Imagine the car ride going smoothly and visualize yourself arriving at your destination unharmed. You can also listen to a guided meditation on YouTube or a similar app.
4. Emotional support – Bring someone you trust into the car with you until you get the hang of driving alone. Make sure this is someone who has a calm and grounding demeanor.
We are highly influenced by others, and their presence may bring you a sense of comfort.
Sashi Gabrielle Kimball, LCSW
Clinical Social Work/Therapist
5. On a daily basis, create a little time to sit quietly and explore what is happening within the mind and body. First, follow and open to the feeling of the breath and begin to ground.
Feel the feet, feel the hands, feel the chest expand and contract. Once you are more settled, allow yourself to be interested in what is happening, rather than resisting the experience.
Open to feeling it all, and be curious. If there is fear, be curious about the fear. Lean in to the fear. Open to it. Listen to it.
Feel its expression in the body; if there are mental images or thoughts about the experience, notice and be aware of these, with curiosity.
Curiosity allows us to explore, rather than fix. And it brings a little more gentleness into the experience, rather than being harsh and judgmental towards ourselves.
We are already experiencing suffering, we don’t need to add more! With an attitude of open non-judgmental curiosity and exploration, we can begin to unravel some of the contraction, feelings and beliefs we experience.
Dr. Pamela Garcy
6. Be gentle with your SELF. Sometimes people make their fear worse by being overly self-critical. This is rarely a helpful approach, and often leads to secondary negative emotions such as shame, low frustration tolerance, helplessness, and depression.
Instead, realize that you probably developed your fear for a reason, and that you are doing your best now to find answers/resolve the situation.
7. Assuming there are no physical causes for your fear, one approach that works for my clients is to prepare yourself to take persistent action, and following preparation, gradually build yourself up toward driving again through actually taking persistent challenges.
· First, learn how to relax yourself. You will want to practice relaxation frequently so that you become very good at it when you don’t need, so when you do need it, you will be able to call upon it.
· Second, write a list of challenges from low level to high level. For example, a low level challenge might be to sit in the car. The next level up might be to drive around the block with a friend. Continue to write your list, moving up in challenge.
· Third, imagine yourself encountering each challenge and relax as you do. When you are ready, you may start to very gradually begin to challenge yourself in overcoming your fear.
· Fourth, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Often people employ the help of a psychologist as they embark upon this, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. If possible, seek help before the problem becomes more severe.
LPC Intern, MA, LPC-I
I would first recommend that you seek therapy for your fear as it could be a result of trauma such as a car accident.
It is important to understand your fear, and how it feels not just in your mind, but in your body as well. Your therapist can support and help you through verbalizing what this is like for you.
We can understand so much about our thoughts and experiences when talking about them. Additionally, your therapist can teach you relaxation techniques to calm your anxiety before you drive.
He or she can help you build up to driving in small steps, which should help reduce your fear. Please be safe, and I hope that you do not feel shame about your fear. We all are afraid of something!