Driving is something that a lot of people take for granted but that’s absolutely not the case for me. Whilst some people might have passed their test, jumped in their first car at 18 and never had any second thoughts about the process of driving, others, like me (and maybe you) would have had a different experience and might need some tips for nervous drivers.
Driving is a luxury. Having a car is a privilege. The fact that you have a car and a driving license means that you or your parents were able to send you to driving lessons as a teenager and you then had enough money to buy your own car and keep it running.
We talk a lot about privilege in today’s society but with something like driving, that most people do every day and don’t think twice about, we definitely don’t give it that same recognition.
I’m all for gratitude and expressing gratitude and considering my history with driving, I am VERY grateful that I can drive today and get around easy – especially considering we’ve just moved to the countryside where I would be extremely f***ed, if I couldn’t drive.
My driving story: How and why I stopped driving
So like I said, I have quite a history with driving and the reason WHY I’m so grateful that I can drive will become apparent.
Like a lot of kids, I passed my driving test just before 18 and got my first car four days after I turned 18. It was such an exciting time of my life and I was one of the first of my then friendship group to get a car, so it was very exciting.
It took me 3 times to pass my test and I also completed the pass plus certificate to help with car insurance. I didn’t have any fear around driving, nor did I really have much nerves around my tests. Before my anxiety disorder, I wasn’t a nervous person at all.
Then, as a lot of you who read my blog will know, I got diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which completely changed and ruined my life. I lost all my friends, my independence and my whole will to live. To keep it short and sweet, every day was hell.
And one of the things that got affected was my driving.
I had only been driving for around 2 and a half years before this happened, so no time at all.
I experienced a couple of panic attacks whilst I was behind the wheel and they were honestly the most terrifying things to ever happen, in one of the most dangerous situations to happen in.
I stopped driving. Stopped trying. I didn’t trust myself – so how could I possibly be trusted behind the wheel of a car, with passengers and other people’s lives LITERALLY in my hands? I absolutely couldn’t.
So there lied the end of my driving journey for around 7 years.
How did I get back into driving?
Over the subsequent years, I had a whole journey ahead of me trying to overcome my anxiety disorder. Which I did end up doing! I had therapy and started anxiety medication and slowly got my life back.
But driving was still an obstacle. I knew I had to get back behind the wheel properly eventually so I persevered and practiced and practiced – almost like I was a learner again.
So what did I do?
- I started with only driving with a passenger: Having someone there beside me when I started driving again was a must, so I had that safety net, in case I couldn’t do it.
- I only did short journeys down road I was familiar with: Whether I was alone or with someone, I started with small roads and familiar journeys.
- I extended my journey time gradually: Building up to drive for longer periods of time is a tough one, so I did this very gradually as well.
- I slowly experimented with different roads: I didn’t throw myself onto the motorway to “rip the plaster off”. That wouldn’t have been safe. So I slowly experimented with different types of roads and levels of busyness.
- I established habits that helped me feel more comfortable: For me, that was having a bottle of water and a snack in the car and also keeping the air-con on to keep me cool.
8 Tips for Nervous Drivers
Driving is NOT easy. You will always get people who it comes completely naturally to, which is great for them but that’s not the case for everyone. Not everyone finds driving so easy. Whether that’s the physical task of driving, the mental fatigue or the risks involved.
Because cars can be dangerous things and there is ALWAYS someone acting stupidly on the road. You absolutely can’t beat around that bush when it comes to driving.
So it’s important to know what you’re getting into every time you get into the driving seat of a car. But driving is such a vital part of most of our lives, in order to get from A to B, so we need to push our fears aside sometimes.
Here are my top tips for nervous drivers for making driving a bit more comfortable from someone who, TRUST ME, has been there:
Don’t feel pressured to drive at a speed you’re not comfortable with
Speed and speed limits are a funny thing. We all have our opinions of whether limits are too slow or too fast. But just because it says 70, doesn’t mean you HAVE to go 70. If 70 makes you feel uncomfortable, take it down a notch.
But do be aware of the risks of driving too slowly
However, there are some real risks involved with driving too slowly. Especially on motorways, country lanes and a roads. So don’t drive too slowly that you’re putting yourself and someone else on the road at risk. If you can’t stick to a reasonable speed that’s safe, then I’d suggest not driving on those types of roads.
Have something comforting in the car with you
A comforting item can have a big impact in the car. Something you can take a quick glance at (if it’s safe) or you know is there in case you need it. Like I said, for me, that was a snack and a bottle of water.
Learn breathing exercises for when you need them
Breathing exercises are excellent for any and every situation in which you might feel anxious, driving is no exception. Although do be careful that your breathing exercises don’t make you light-headed.
Take extra lessons if you feel you need to
There’s no shame in taking extra lessons and getting extra guidance if you feel like you need it and it will benefit you. Although not ideal and financially might not be viable, it’s still an option to have at the back of your mind.
Use a quality sat-nav if you’re nervous with directions
A super simple solution if you’re trying to get used to new roads and you’re not familiar with an area. A good quality sat-nav that isn’t going to run out of battery or not recognize new roads is really important to have.
Open windows if you’re feeling nervous
A simple trick but fresh air does wonders. If you’re feeling anxious, even if it’s minus 2 outside, just crack the window open and get a bit of air on your face. A change in sensation can distract you from your anxiety.
Celebrate your driving achievements
I’ve always been one for celebrating the small achievements and that should absolutely be the case for driving if you’re a nervous driver. If you’re trying to tackle a fear of driving on certain roads or at certain speeds or anything, CELEBRATE it!
I really hope this will be helpful for anyone who’s nervous about driving. Perhaps you haven’t started lessons yet or, like me, something happened that stopped you driving for a while.
Being nervous about driving is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about and if you’re really struggling, especially with anxiety around it, speak to your GP or refer yourself for some counselling.
Tell me your driving story! Have you always found driving easy? Have you had to overcome any obstacles with it?
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