I’ve been doing a few media interviews this week about driving anxiety after lockdown – in particular, why is it an issue now, and what can we do to help ourselves get back on the road confidently in the future?
This is one of my specialist subjects after I had a seven year fear of driving in my thirties. I went on to write the book How to Overcome Dear of Driving which I’m happy to say, has helped thousands of people around the world regain their driving mojo.
So why is fear of driving such an issue now?
Many studies have found that driving anxiety is at an all time high, rising by 52% in lockdown. Uswitch have some interesting stats on it all here. I also spoke to The Telegraph about the fact that it’s particularly common in women and midlifers.
Personally I think this is a combination of the fact that life is so stressful at the moment. You would have to be made of stone not to be affected by it. That plus the fact that most of us are driving much less than normal, therefore our confidence behind the wheel is bound to be affected.
What to do if you feel nervous about getting back in the car after lockdown?
Don’t push yourself too much. Take it easy at first. Make a few local journeys on routes you know well. Music is a great mood lifter and stress reliever, so make a playlist of songs you love that you can play and maybe sing along to in the car. When you do tackle longer journeys, focus on the end destination and why you’re excited to go there, rather than focusing on the anxiety.
Take care of yourself before you even get behind the wheel. Whatever keeps you calm, do more of it; whether that’s yoga, running, meditation or listening to music. Avoid caffeine before you drive as this can trigger anxiety in some people.
Getting into the car as a calm person gives you a much greater chance of staying that way. Much better than getting into the car already feeling stressed and anxious.
Regaining your driving confidence
On longer journeys, take regular breaks and stay well fuelled. An audio book, comedy podcast or uplifting music can be a great way to put your mind into a happier state as you drive.
Aromatherapy is another good tool drivers can use. You could put a cotton pad with drops of calming lavender oil in the car, or wear your favourite perfume when you’re driving to give you a boost.
Deep breathing can be a great way to help anxious drivers feel calmer, and it’s a good idea to practice this before you get in the car.
Repeating a positive mantra out loud can also help – my favourite is ‘Calm and confident’ – I say this a lot when I’m in busy traffic.
The trouble with giving in to fear is that you end up living a life controlled by fear, and it bleeds into more of your life. It won’t go away by itself. It only gets more stressful.
But if you, like me, have driving anxiety, know this: you’re not alone and you can do something about it. Pick one thing from the suggestions above and try it out next time you have to drive.
Let me know how you get on.