Some teenagers can’t wait to get behind the wheel and start driving as soon as possible, but others might be more apprehensive.
Driving is a big responsibility! It might help to have some mental tools in your toolbelt for those who are apprehensive to begin driving. These tools can help the new driver cope with and overcome driving anxiety. Here are some things to keep in mind to help you mentally prepare to begin driving.
It’s Ok to Be Nervous
If you were to describe modern driving to those living in the days of Model T’s, they might think we are all speed-crazed hooligans. When broken down, the thought of driving a car can seem quite scary. So, it’s ok to be nervous. Your feelings are valid, but it’s not healthy to let your nerves rule your life.
When nerves turn into a fear of driving or anxiety-related symptoms such as panic attacks, it can be dangerous to your mental and physical health. Being unable to control your nerves can prevent you from truly experiencing life. The main source of travel around the world is via an automobile! If your fear of driving takes a turn for the worse, you may consider seeking professional help. This may be especially helpful if you’ve recently lost a loved one or close friend in an automobile accident.
Focus on The Road Ahead
Don’t work yourself up into a frenzy before you have a chance to get into the car. Try to remember to breathe and remain calm. Acknowledge that you might be nervous at that moment, but everything will be fine as long as you are alert and practice defensive driving.
If you’re nervous while driving, try to calm your thoughts and focus on the things you see, hear, and feel. Watch the street in front of you, feel the steering wheel in your hand, etc. Do your best to focus and drown out the “white noise.”
If you find anxiety rising, you can also try deep breathing exercises. Slowing your breathing helps clear your mind by giving you something to focus on, but it also gives your brain more oxygen, allowing you to think more clearly. Inhale through your nose for 10 seconds and then exhale through your mouth for 10 seconds.
Most people say to avoid stressors to lower anxiety attacks, but you can’t really do that when you’re anxious about driving. Sure, you can take public transportation when possible or carpool with others to school or work, but eventually, you’ll have to drive. Being able to come and go as you please is liberating!
The more you avoid driving, the more you’ll associate the act with anxiety, and enhance your fear. Think about having a good driving experience each time you practice driving. As your comfort level builds try adding a new feature that makes you feel slightly uncomfortable but make sure the feeling is manageable. An example of an advanced new feature is a four-way stop or using a roundabout with more than one lane.