- Mental Health
Getting Over the Fear of Driving
The fear of driving is actually more common than one may think. However, it’s not the same for everyone. Some may have a generalized anxiety about being in the car or behind the wheel, while others have fears that are more specified. Then some people have jitters while others may experienced full blown panic attacks with rapid heart racing, sweaty palms and shortness of breath. Either way, it can create a big hindrance by keeping one from venturing out into new places independently.
This fear of driving is something that can be conquered. I’m personally able to attest. Five years ago, you wouldn't catch me anywhere near the highway. I’d take the back roads every time, even if that meant adding 20 minutes to my travel time.
Where Do These Nerves and Anxiety Come From?
Often times, individuals form a driving or vehicle anxiety after personally being involved in an accident or witnessing one. This also includes seeing or reading about reports of car crashes on the television, newspaper or internet. Fears may have also been modeled from parents.
Different Types of Driving Anxiety
Fear of Highway/Expressway Routes – For many, like how it was in my case, driving's not an issue until the route requires going on the expressway. A combination of factors may cause drivers to freak out including high speed traffic, switching lanes, missing an exit and making way for oncoming, merging vehicles. Some people may get frightened when approaching large semi-trucks as well.
Hodophobia – Others have a fear of traveling long distances. As long as cruising is limited to the comfort of familiarity, it’s all good. The anxiety comes once they are away from areas they know best. There's also a fear of getting lost or stranded; having anxiety about not knowing where you’re going or what might happen.
Another driving situation that some many avoid is driving in rain or snow.
Conquering the Fear of Driving
With any fear, you want to conquer it and not be controlled by it any longer. With driving, you want to eventually become more relaxed with the wheel and used to driving with different volumes of traffic. Here are some ways to combat it.
Desensitization is the process in which you gradually expose yourself to a certain stimulus until a negative reaction such as anxiety completely subsides. This can be used to tackle the fear of driving. There are a few ways to apply desensitization, depending on the specific driving fear.
Some may want to start off by driving small distances, slightly venturing outside of familiar zones, and then gradually increasing the mileage as they get more comfortable.
Another way is to trail someone you trust (a family member or close friend) until driving solely independently becomes second nature.
If you are experiencing frequent panic attacks or your avoidance has hindered your work, family or social life, seek of a professional who can help you settle your anxieties.
GPS navigation has become like a best friend to most people. It's so helpful to have the voice notifications of upcoming exits, turns or traffic delays. Getting lost will become less likely, and you’ll have an idea of how long it should take to reach your destination.
When using navigation, it’s a good idea to pull up the directions before you get in the car. Then before you take off, take a little time to write down the step by step list or print it out if you can. Let’s face it, there are times when a GPS signal can get lost. Having the directions on hand will help to avoid unexpected anxiety. Also, there is nothing wrong with using the old fashion paper map as well. Remember those?
Be confident in your ability to drive.The majority of what it takes to be a good driver is being aware of your surroundings (being cautious of other cars on the road) and simply following the driving rules that you already know. If you need to brush up on some of the rules, you could always just go pick up a driver's manual.
As you drive confidently, don't let your mind slip into negative thinking. Yes, accidents may happen sometimes. However, that is not a reason to avoid driving situations. If you think about it, mishaps can occur at any instance, but that doesn't prevent us from eating, playing sports or enjoying life.
Also, when you go out, remember you could always pray that God sends His traveling grace and mercy. Feeling that umbrella of protection will help ease worries. With all this in mind, you can put faith and confidence over fear.
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