Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Dealing with anxiety when driving and the things I do to calm myself😅
‘Your life is on the road’. That’s probably not the best thought an anxiety-driven person should drive with, but that’s the problem with this mental health disorder, you don’t really have that much control over your thoughts and reactions.
I was always eager to drive. Loved the idea of speed (still do actually), the convenience, the feel of controlling your car, and the intoxicating smell of petrol 😍 (yes..I'm a sucker for the smell of petrol). Unfortunately, this euphoric stage was all before I developed anxiety; when I thought life was just a smooth drive.😬
All of this excitement and eagerness dropped down several notches when I started my driver's training and began with my road assessments. It was a brutal phase,…the constant overthinking, the palpitations during exams, and the pressure of just wanting to get over and done with my training and get my license so that I can finally get rid of those obnoxious trainers and condescending examiners😞.
I had a three-month break because of university, and those were the best three months of my life. It felt relieving to get away from that confined space, with constant jabs and the struggle of trying to pass those exhausting exams. But once I came back for my winter break, even though I dreaded making the call to schedule my exam, I guess I got lucky, and within two weeks, I FINALLY got my license! Yay🙌🏾
It’s actually considered an achievement to get your license in the United Arab Emirates. The license is accepted worldwide because of how ruthless and strict their training is. So naturally, I was proud of myself of finally pulling through and securing it despite the bumpy journey.
But here’s the funny thing and something I didn’t think about before. When you’re learning, you still have someone beside you to guide you and control the car for you with the help of an additional break. You're still dependent on the trainer to help you out! But, once you are done with the training, you’re on your own. All alone in that enveloping silence, with your mind to focus on nothing but the road in front of you.
And dear lord, that was when every possible obsessive thought crept in. ‘Will I reach my destination safely?’, ‘Will I meet with an accident on the road?’, ‘Will I meet with an accident at the destination?’, ‘Am I going the right route?’, ‘Did I use my indicator when I changed the lane?’ And the questions just keep spiraling!
Everyone thinks I'm scared of driving. If that were true, I don't think I would've succeeded so far. I find that it's the stress of anticipation that projects the fact that I'm scared. Driving with anxiety is not something anyone should go through. It’s bad enough you experience it in everyday life. It’s worse when it’s your life in question. But there is no way to dealing with it, and you're just stuck in a vulnerable position, having to suck it up and just drive.
Yes, almost everyone says it’s OK to make a mistake on the road....that is, after all, the only way you learn. But that’s not what someone with anxiety would think..(at least to my knowledge). Instead, it’s the anticipation of what could happen before we reach the destination that occupies our mind. It's not about t making the mistake, it's a spiral of crazy and wild thoughts that run through your mind before the mistake takes place.
I t’s a daunting feeling😵 to be on the road with your mind in a frenzy and your emotions all haywired. Pushing the accelerator makes you think you’re going to tailgate and hit the car in front- the car would actually be miles ahead. The sound of a honk makes you rethink and diverts your focus onto all the mistakes you could’ve made in those few seconds- the honk was actually for someone else.
Over the past few months, spending the maximum amount of time on the road, brushing up on my skills, experiencing a few bumps here and there were was the only way I could push myself to eradicate the fear.
Does it help to force yourself to do something you are not focused on? Probably
Does it ease the panic? Not in the slightest.
But driving regularly and learning from mistakes does make it easier to control the uncontrollable thoughts.
Everything under this emotion revolves around you. It's thinking about yourself in the worst-case scenarios. Cops, crash, injury, safety are elements that get you in that overthinking phase, and there’s no one to help you with it. It’s just you by yourself, hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and your mind, a hundred miles away.
And no matter how much you try to escape those feelings, it just hounds back at you. That being said, you can't blame your anxiety for a drive gone bad. You have to find ways for yourself that can help you to cope with it when driving.
For all those struggling with anxiety with driving, here are some things that help me refocus and calm me that could possibly work for you too.
Have someone in the car: There's nothing worse than driving when you’re not in the mood or just plain tired. Combining your tired mind and body, along with anxiety, is bound to result in some form of damage. Instead, ditch the car and have someone chauffeur for the day or use any form of transport services. This will not only keep you safe but also won’t give you any more reasons for your anxiety to escalate further.
(Here are some pupper pics for you!!😍😊)
Music: A playlist to jam to is the best way I keep myself relaxed.🎧 I love listening to trendy songs with a fun beat and find that it keeps your mind diverted from compulsive thoughts and more aware of the surroundings.
Accepted attitude: the biggest challenge when driving is ’Anything Can Happen’ 🥺. It doesn't necessarily need to be your mistake. The roads are filled with rowdy idiots😝 and the only way you can save yourself is to be your alert self and make a conscious effort to have a positive attitude.
Tired….Just Don’t drive!: There's nothing worse than driving when you’re not in the mood or just plain tired. Combining your tired mind and body along with anxiety is bound to result in some form of damage. Instead, ditch the car and have someone chauffeur you for the day or use local transport services. This will not only keep you safe but also won’t give you any more reasons for your anxiety to escalate further.
These are just a few coping mechanisms I practice that really help me control migraines, palpitations, and shaky hands. You need to find things that help you and that's only going to happen once you take the chance and drive.
Keep in mind that you're not going to overcome it in the first go and that's okay. Take your time, keep practicing soon you'll find yourself calm and collected even when someone is blasting the honk behind you.
Take care and stay safe!