Did you know, that over 40 million people suffer from an anxiety related disorder, ranging from Social anxiety, to SAD. Is it any wonder, that as stress and anxiety is on the increase, due to increasing work demands, family obligations, finances, etc.. that anxiety on the road is naturally going to increase.
More and more people are having anxiety in some form when they are on the road, and this has an understandable detrimental effect on their driving experience.
But how do you know when you are having an anxiety attacks, or any prolonged form of anxiety when you are driving? Well, quite simply, the usual symptoms of having an anxiety or panic attack are pretty much the same when you are on the road as when they happen anywhere else.
- Clammy hands
- Increasing heart beat/pounding heart
- A deep fear/terror
- The usual fight or flight feeling.
- Plus much more…
The only problem with being on the road and behind the steering wheel, is of course you simply cannot just stop. You have to keep driving! And the worse thing is as you are not being focused on the road, this could be a chance that this attack could cause you to have an accident! This of course only adds to the terror, and the anxiety attack cycle gets strengthened.
This makes the experience even more unbearable, and can be responsible for negative sub-conscious programing to take place. i.e. you begin to have a fear that driving a car is bad for you and your health, which naturally severely limits any previous enjoyment you may have had, and of course severely limits your freedom and your mobility.
Put simply, if you can't learn to cope and reduce (if not, eliminate) an anxiety or panic attack when you are driving, you are essentially going to create a phobia out of it, which will severely limit your life experience.
But it doesn't have to be like this. You can get behind the wheel, and beginning to enjoy driving again, without having to worry of those dreading feelings of terror and fear will suddenly lurk up.
But what is the best way to do it?
In truth, there is no, ‘best way'. Everybody is different, and what works for some people doesn't necessary mean it's going to work for somebody else. For me, the best way is what I call quick distraction.
All this means, ,is that you quickly distract yourself from the anxiety attack, and as a result, calm the anxiety down.
It's really quite easy, and you will be surprised and how effective this tool can be!
What we need to do, is to distract ourselves quickly, but without taking our concentration of the road, and what is ahead of us.
Now, the best way of distraction, is to do a quick maths sum, which should engage a tiny bit of your mind, but not too much as to take your concentration of the road.
Just quickly do a maths sum that is not too challenging, but requires a tiny bit of logical thinking. Obviously I'm not talking about a huge mathematical equation, like 432*64 (which would probably take me hours to figure;-) but something more like, 13 + 33.
You know, something that is slightly challenging, but not too challenging. Don't forget, we are driving on the road, so we need to keep the vast majority of concentration on what we are doing with the steering wheel, etc.
But if distraction isn't an option for you, or you would prefer something else, there are other techniques you can use to help you significantly reduce and even eliminate the anxiety or panic attack when it takes place.
Driving in least congested areas.
If you can, (and depending on your route to work, or where you live) try to initially avoid the roads with the most traffic on it. Try to stick to the minor roads where traffic is scarce, and if the anxiety attack is particularly bad, have the option to slow down and stop near the side (or curb) and calm down.
If you are in a town/city/area where there is only one road to use, and it's always busy, simply try to remember any junctions which can lead you onto a minor road/street, and simply turn off to go there. Use this as a great way to drive to a car park/parking lot to actually stop and take 5 minutes to gather your breath and calm down. But if this doesn't work, you can try the following instead…
Aroma-therapeutic oils like Chamomile, Vanilla, or Lavender can be used in the car to help soothe your nerves, if you are going somewhere that you know will be particularly stressful. Place some drops of the oil onto a tissue, near your air vents, and that will help spread the scent around the car. But if that doesn't work, you can try the following instead…
You can try playing some nice relaxing music, or naturistic/meditation sounds in your car, either via a CD or an MP3 player connected to your car stereos This should help you to relax and allow you to reduce your nerves, while keeping your mind concentrating on the road ahead of you. Of course, meditation music that easily puts you into a trance/altered state of consciousness should NOT be used, as we are trying to keep our full concentration here (and not doze off, causing an accident!).
Of course, you can try a bit of visualizing, to help you feel more relaxed being in a car, (if being in a car stresses you out. When you have 5-15 minutes to spare at home, simply sit down on a chair, close your eyes, and visualize yourself behind the wheel in a situation that you know is going to cause you to have an anxiety attack or panic attack. Try to visualize yourself driving with little/no nerves, and enjoying the challenges that come your way. This should help re-programme your subconscious into making your next driving trip a more pleasant experience, and help you reduce and eliminate your long-term anxiety problems.
If you are on the road, and your nerves are going haywire, you can try a quick bit of mindfulness meditation. Put simply, this is the ability to near to the present moment as possible, and also helps to re-programme your subconscious in the process. Just simply watch you breathing (ideally done when you are waiting at the traffic lights, but can be done anyway) and (similar to the distraction technique) feel the breath of air going in and out of your lungs. Again the trick is not to be too distracted by this, but distracted enough to significantly reduce the anxiety attack.
This can be a great tool to reducing long-term anxiety, and has worked for thousands of people worldwide. Simply put, EFT is about tapping the meridian points on the face and chest while reciting affirmations. When you have 5 minutes at home, sit down and close your eyes. Try to imagine a time you were really in a middle of a big anxiety attack while driving, and when you can feel enough of the fear (don't get too carried away with the fearful feelings, of course) start doing EFT.
This should replace the negative emotions with positive ones, energizing you in the process, and should help you feel more optimistic next time you think about driving in the future.
Hopefully as you can see, you can significantly reduce your risk (and even eliminate) having an anxiety/panic attack while driving. While we need to drive to work each day to help our families, driving shouldn't be a hellish experience but an enjoyable one.