Oh man, am I an anxious driver. Working from home, it only gets worse, since I physically drive about 2 times a month. When I do, if I don’t take action to quell my anxiety (I’m anxious about nearly everything), I feel like I am going to actually pass out behind the wheel. I flinch at other drivers, sit at red lights like I’m about to be shot, and have actually sat at a red light that turned green several times before I was able to drive through it. If I don’t take precaution against my seemingly uncontrollable anxiety, I drive around like a shaky, nauseous, heart pounding in my ears mess. But I HAVE learned a few tactics that work for me, and perhaps they can work for other anxious drivers as well.
The first tactic I use is to get in the car as soon as something arises rather than dwell on it and “mental masturbate” about it for hours. If I don’t leave right away (like this morning I had to fax a document and left the house as soon as I woke up, sans coffee), I will talk myself out of leaving the house and getting in the car. If I just hop in the car and go, the situation doesn’t get snowballed into an obstacle in my mind. Don’t sit there and think about driving, if you have somewhere to go, GO already! Don’t give yourself the opportunity to analyze the drive to death.
I take my dog with me everywhere I go. This way, I don’t feel “alone” and the fear that everyone is “watching” me drive dissipates. I also would in no way ever harm my dog (the one and only wreck I was ever in my dog was in the car with me), so my mind focuses less on anxiety for ME and more on just getting somewhere safely. Plus, it’s joyful to watch my dog hang her lobbing head out the window- SHE enjoys the ride, and I enjoy it for her. It makes driving more of a fun thing rather than a fearful one. I’m doing something fun for my dog. If she isn’t nervous about my driving, it calms me down as well.
I chew gum and blast my radio to ear-splitting. If I can’t hear my car in motion, it makes me less nervous about always thinking my car is going to break down. It also takes my mind off the constant thought that I am DRIVING, and I pay attention to road signs and other drivers less intensely, which means I’m flinching less, not freaking out at red lights, and not hitting my breaks constantly. When I am not so focused on driving that I actually lose focus (anxious drivers, you know what I mean), I can hit my destination more calmly, and not miss turns and forget where I’m driving.
If at all possible, I park where I don’t have to back out, and I always park far away from other drivers. I may have to walk a block or 2 to my destination after I park in a larger parking lot I can drive straight out of, but that fear that I can’t back out, or am “stuck” between other drivers isn’t there, and it’s worth it. Walking is great exercise anyhow.
I clear all debris from my dash and passenger seat. If I can see a reflection of paper in my window, I get vertigo hardcore and freak out. Keeping my dash and passenger seat free of purses, wallets, paperwork, etc keeps me from getting distracted. I will sit in my car for about 5 minutes before I actually pull out of the driveway scooting stuff out of the way and making sure my music is the volume I want, my mirrors are where I need them, and just getting familiar again with the car. It helps to be in the driver’s seat for a minute to just get everything just where I want it, and I don’t drive off until I’m good to go.
The most helpful thing that I do is to remind myself that I AM a good driver, and that no one is going to be criticizing my every motion behind the wheel. I may have to create daily confidence behind the wheel and alter a bit of my driving route so I feel comfortable on the road, but when I accomplish getting somewhere and back all in one piece I make sure to congratulate myself on a job well done. Some days are better than others, but even the totally freak out days are easily handled by following a few simple tactics behind the wheel.