Best Tips on How to Overcome Driving Anxiety

December 30, 2019Car Driving Tips
Hannah Michaelson

Hannah is a freelance relocation writer from NYC that has become an expert on packing and unpacking.

Driving anxiety is a type of phobia where a person hesitates to drive or totally refuses to do it – then it escalates into a fear of traveling by car. If you are experiencing some of these issues, you should know how to overcome driving anxiety. The good news is – this neurosis, also called vehophobia, can be conquered since it is a learned behavior. But how should you cope with panic attacks and finally defeat them?

The truth is – your extreme fright is irrational but paralyzing nevertheless. Vehophobia is widespread, and you should start thinking about how to conquer it. Reason enough to do that is the possibility to regain your happiness and mental health.

Keep reading our tips, because we have put our years of experience into compiling them, and relearn how to feel relaxed in your vehicle. Make your life easier in the future.

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Discover the Reasons Behind the Fear of Traveling by Car

Every negative experience related to traveling on four wheels can affect your future feelings toward this everyday activity. If you had a car accident, then you endured trauma and it is easy to understand why you are feeling gloomy about it. However, most drivers’ fears and phobias have nothing to do with these bad experiences. Some of the most common reasons why people avoid going by car are:

  • Past experiences
  • Unfamiliar places and faces
  • Fear of confusion
  • Losing control
  • Imagining the crush and the worst possible scenario
car on the street
Anticipating a car accident is one of the most frequent reasons behind this irrational fear

Recognize the Symptoms

Whenever troubles start knocking on your door, you’ll face the symptoms that are similar to other types of anxiety:

  • Sweaty palms
  • Perspiration
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Shortness of breath

Besides all these manifestations, sometimes you may feel like going crazy or as if you’re going to die – but don’t worry, even the most dreadful panic attacks won’t do you any harm nor cause illness. These are just feelings and this is one of the most common phobias in the USA. If you accept that, you will be able to reclaim your confidence.

Sunny and warm day is ideal for washing your seatbelts - it will fasten the drying process
If you are panicking every time you find yourself behind the steering wheel, maybe your problem is a phobia

First Step – Identify the Specific Sense of Angst You’re Dealing With

How can you conquer the vehophobia? First things first, recognize and highlight your specific sense of angst and the situation when it occurs. After that, write down the most important reasons why you want to overcome it. Your readiness to face and cope with fears and phobias is the crucial factor when it comes to finding the right solution to your problems. You cannot heal your symptoms overnight, this process takes time. With enough motivation and determination, however, you will be proud of yourself and feel relief.

car interior
When you define the origin of your anxious feelings, coping with driving tension will be easier

Tips on How to Overcome Driving Anxiety

Fear of sitting behind the steering wheel is a tremendous, yet undiscussed neurosis of modern times. Some of the key triggers for this state of fear include:

  • Traveling abroad by vehicle (36%)
  • Taking a trip on unfamiliar roads (28%)
  • Driving at night(21%)

Being anxious every time you need to go somewhere by car can develop into a vicious circle. It can also lead to a lack of confidence, doubting your skills, and avoiding any situation related to operating the vehicle. Luckily, there are many valuable tips and tricks on how to come to terms with your fears and feel at peace again.

white jeep car
Consternation related to operating a vehicle becomes a matter of past when you practice to overcome it

Adopt Healthy Habits Like Avoiding Products with High Sugar Content

Maybe it seems like a silly thing to do, but pay attention to certain foods and how you feel after eating them. Avoid products high in sugar or simple carbs, and moderate your alcohol consumption. They can lead to blood sugar imbalances and make you nervous.

Avoid Caffeine – It Can Be an Anxiety Trigger

Since caffeine is a stimulant, this can be bad news for anxious individuals. You might sometimes hear from your friends that caffeine makes them jittery, and this statement is not a product of their vivid imagination.

In general, drinking coffee may help with concentration, but it can be a trigger for anxiety disorder for those who are prone to it. In case you feel blue after caffeine, reduce it, or start avoiding it in the future.

man searching for a car shipping company
Caffeine overuse can have many unpleasant side effects, such as jitters, troubled sleep, gastric distress and irritability

Check Your Car Before Driving

Sometimes it happens that the reason for your panic has its origin in particular aspects of driving – for example, your car’s condition. Knowing that it is in top-notch shape can significantly affect your emotions and feelings about sitting behind the steering wheel.

Perhaps buying a new, modern car equipped with all possible safety accessories can provide you with more self-confidence. Having enough assertiveness may speed up the healing process.

Be Patient With Yourself

Becoming aware of your concerns and fears is a process of exposing yourself to something that scares you. Bear in mind that overcoming them can take some time. Some people need two months to defeat their fears, and you might take two years. That’s a regular flow of healing, and it is a gradual process. What works for others might not work for you.

Affirmations Might Be the Cure for Your Fear

Positive affirmations are a very effective exercise but one that is usually underestimated. Write simple statements about your competence to drive relaxed and calm, such as: “This is not reality, but just my thoughts,” or “Yes, I feel anxious, but I can handle this feeling and conquer it.” This method is very useful in facing your worries and phobias in the beginning.

A woman creating a to-do list for cross-country moving and auto transport
Write positive affirmations and read them before going to bed, and in the morning after waking up

Practice is a Way to Perfection

If you want to reap the benefits of your efforts to overcome anxious feelings, do not underestimate the power of practice. You should practice managing your driving or parking skills for an hour every day – the rate of recovery depends on the frequency of training.

Don’t Give Up – Ask for Help

No matter how much time you need to experience the first signs of recovery, the most important thing is not to give up. Feeling scared is a normal state due to the anxiety, and it won’t kill you. Just keep in mind that trying over and over is the only way that leads you to victory. When you hit a rough spot, remember the affirmation and breathing control techniques, and after that, try again.

Setting and enforcing your own tactic of coping with panic attacks is one step closer to dealing with the problem and overcoming it. However, some individuals are paralyzed by having a phobia and stuck in one way of thinking. If they are not able to help themselves, asking for professional help might be the best way to go about this problem.

In case your level of tension is very high, you probably need a therapist’s help. You should consider these types of therapy:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Prolonged exposure therapy (PE)
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Medication

During the treatment, you might be exposed to a situation that triggers your worries. You should know how to recognize a panic attack and learn just how to handle it. Practice this as long as it takes – until you can sit in the car or drive it without a worry.

usa auto transport areas
Do not hesitate to ask for professional assistance if you feel stuck

Keep in Mind That Phobia Can Resurface Later

It sometimes happens that people who conquered their phobias experience a kind of relapse later on, mostly because they lost their driving routine. Also, it happens if the person who used to drive before cannot do that anymore due to different reasons.

Don’t Be Afraid of Panic Attacks – Accept Them and Free Yourself

If you were trying all this time to stay away from anxious feelings, you’ve probably noticed the contradiction: as much as you try to escape, their power becomes more intense and annoying. That’s the real nature of anxiety and phobia. They feed on fear and it allows them to grow and occupy your mind. Many people even experience fear of a possible panic attack. By thinking in advance what disaster could happen next, they are caught in the double angst trap.

Next time you experience heavy perspiration or heart skipping beats, here is what you should do – nothing at all. Maybe it is ridiculous advice, but it works. Don’t fight your worries, just observe them with indifference. Take deep breaths, try not to think about what might happen – just be present. When you become aware of the fact that anxieties and phobias have their roots in your thoughts, you’re on the right track.

couple moving long distance
Only the acceptance of your worries can reduce the strength of tension and phobia  

Try Relaxation Techniques

Besides deep breathing and repeating positive mantras, there are several methods you can use whenever your fears start capturing your mind. Consider these relaxation techniques and improve your health:

  • Relax arms and shoulders– this will cause the rest of your body to relax
  • Listen to calming music
  • Imagine a confident driver you respect and pretend to be him
  • If you like chewing gum, chew whenever you can– this can reduce stress hormones
  • Think of your “happy place” – it should be peaceful, safe, happy and calming
  • Count to ten– it is a simple way to reduce your fears
  • Break your anxious thought cycle– this can be done by asking yourself logical questions, such as: “Is this endless worry a problem? Will I achieve something useful with it? ”
two women standing in front of a window and hugging while there's snow outside
There are plenty of relaxation techniques that can help to decrease the level of tension and concern

Defensive Driving Course – One More Kind of Help

In case your extreme fright has its roots in a car accident, it technically represents a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Taking defensive classes is an excellent solution to overcome this stress disorder. The program uses a useful approach that can help you fight against the fear of the lanes, to restore the faith in your vehicle-operating abilities and to reassure you that you can handle unpredictable situations that occur on the road.

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