Motor(NO)way! Easing Anxiety Behind The Wheel

On my seventeenth birthday I had my first driving lesson and I could not have been more excited. A couple of months of lessons and a theory test later, I had passed my driving test and was ready for the road. 

Or so I thought. 

Having been fortunate enough to have the means to drive, the expectation was that I would be able to just get out and explore wherever I wanted. However, the reality for me was quite different.

I struggled to find the courage to drive anywhere further than where I already knew. The thought of multiple lanes and traffic lights, one way systems and motorways caused me to panic. To me, it seemed that all of my other friends were driving off to various cities within the first few weeks of passing their tests or making trips that were a couple of hours away. 

VIA UNSPLASH

VIA UNSPLASH

This always led me to feel both frustrated and embarrassed at myself as I couldn’t work out why I couldn’t get over this anxiety behind the wheel. After all, I was excited to drive, I knew I WANTED to explore new places and I didn’t really have a reason to be scared. I just was.

It was only really at the start of this year that I discussed this openly with a few of my friends. Through conversation, it turned out that some of them also shared the same driving fears as me, which got me thinking that maybe it’s more common than I originally thought? 

There’s still a way to go, but during these last couple of years I’ve gradually overcome this fear of driving to new places. I’ve written a few things below that have really helped me to develop confidence and ease the anxiety behind the wheel.

 

VIA UNSPLASH

VIA UNSPLASH

PREPARE THE ROUTE

This is the most reassuring thing I can do for myself, pre-road trip. Being able to see exactly what roundabouts, junctions and systems I may have to encounter on the journey, makes the unknown slightly more familiar. My best friend and I once spent an entire evening purely planning our road-trip route on google street view (extremely extra, I know, but so comforting!)  

If this doesn’t work for you, perhaps try and drive the route with someone you trust or even take a mental note whilst watching them drive it if there is an opportunity to do so. Often it doesn’t seem so scary when someone else is doing it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

FOLLOW THE ZERO PRESSURE PRINCIPAL 

What I mean by this, is don’t place pressure on yourself to drive and don’t let others pressure you into it either. You want to drive with a clear mind and when YOU are ready. Before a big trip, I only ever decide whether I’m driving or taking another form of transport the day of or the day before the journey.

I know this could potentially be pricey, but it helps to ease the pressure knowing that you don’t HAVE to drive if you don’t want to. This also means I’m not losing any sleep over it!

MUSIC

A simple one, but always helpful. Listening to music in the car (providing it doesn’t distract you!) can relieve the stress a little. Audiobooks are also a good choice, especially for solo trips as it can make you feel like you have another passenger in the car with you!

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LOOK AT IT AS AN ADVENTURE

Treat your drive like a little road trip adventure. Bring snacks, bring water and maybe take a few breaks. At every little milestone you can check in with how you’re feeling and with this your confidence will probably grow knowing that you’ve made it so far. 

Whether this may resonate with yourself, a friend, partner or family member, the most important thing to remember is that there is no pressure. A lot of the time this is self-inflicted because you watch everyone else being able to do something you seemingly can’t. But sometimes all it takes is a little reminder that you can do it (providing you have a licence). You passed your test for a reason. 

So, sit back, relax and enjoy the drive!

Written by Em Hope

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