As a person who deals with anxiety, I understand how anxiety amplifies when driving. After months of preparing for my road test and being taught by drivers who were qualified, driving on my own was completely different.
There was no one there to tell me when I was veering too much off the road, or whether or not I could make a right turn at that red light. No one was present to comfort me either when some asshole honked their horn at me for hesitating to merge or make a turn.
In my short time of driving on my own, there are some things that have kept me grounded when driving gives me that churning feeling in my stomach. Keep the following driving tips in your arsenal and be sure to implement them whenever you’re feeling anxious.
Don’t let others intimidate you
As long as you’re driving within the speed limit, signaling before your turns, and staying alert, don’t let anyone intimidate you. They were all new drivers like you once, so they shouldn’t be losing their shit if you were in the right lane by accident when you were supposed to make a left turn. They can always drive around you.
The same applies to driving on the highway. If you’re going at a comfortable speed that’s reasonable with the flow of traffic, don’t be surprised if multiple people still try to pass you. People speed on the highway all the time. It has nothing to do with you.
While as a new driver you may only feel comfortable driving within the speed limit — usually 50 to 65 MPH — most people on the highway are speeding, going as high as 90 to 100 MPH.
Don’t drive at a speed that makes you feel uncomfortable or not in control in order to fit in or satisfy someone. Also, keep in mind that on most major highways the lane farthest to the left is known as the passing or “speeding lane,” the lane all the way to the right is known as the “slow lane” where people drive at the mandated speed limit or slightly below it, while the lane in the middle is considered the happy medium for people going at or just a little above the speed limit.
Whenever possible, stay in the right lane to help alleviate your worry of going “too slow” for more seasoned drivers. Remember to not go too much below the speed limit though, as a car going 5 MPH below the speed limit is more likely to cause an accident than a car going 5 MPH faster than the limit.
With all that can happen on the road, you need to remain calm no matter what is thrown your way. Even if there are a million cars honking behind you, or you witness an accident at the side of the road, you need to stay focused and remember that your main priority is safely arriving at your destination.
If you’ve ever been in a car accident you may be familiar with the anxiety that ensues. You begin to think about how you’ve caused damage to not only your car, but someone else’s car, and how you may have put both of your lives at risk.
Accidents happen. In regards to car accidents, try to keep calm and carry on. You don’t get into an altercation in your personal life and then stop living. Keep the same mindset when it comes to driving. The show must go on, so don’t be afraid to get back on the road.
Repeat a mantra or song in your head
I find that while driving, when I begin to feel anxious, focusing on things other than the fact that I’m driving can ease the tension I feel. I either hum or sing the words to one of my favorite songs or any song that comes to mind. The radio is also useful for this. If you don’t feel comfortable trying to pay attention to the road while listening to your GPS and the radio at the same time, don’t do it until you feel more experienced and confident in your driving abilities.
Other than music, mantras can help you when driving is making you feel anxious. Simple phrases like “I’m okay,” “I’m doing fine,” “I’m fine,” and “I will get home safely” are enough to ease your mind. If you’re religious saying things like “God is with me” or repeating the lyrics to religious songs will take the edge off of you as well. This seriously helped me my first couple of times driving on the highway alone.
The next time you get in the driver’s seat of a car and feel your blood pressure spike or your hands begin to shake, remember that you are not alone in that feeling. Continue with confidence.
If driving becomes too much, whether you’re on local roads or the highway, safely pull over. Breathe, and repeat your mantra. Now saddle up for the ride, because the DMV issued you a license for a reason, and you’ve got this!