– Contributed by – Barry McDonagh, the creator of the best selling anxiety treatment program “Panic Away”.
One of the more common questions I am asked is how to cope with anxiety while driving. Ranging from fear of being caught in traffic to crossing waterway bridges‚ people have many different fears in this area.
Often the anxiety stems from a fear of being trapped in the vehicle in gridlock traffic or losing control of the vehicle and causing a collision.
Needless to say‚ even though they may have been battling with a driving phobia for many years‚ almost all of the people I have consulted with have not had their fears of a mishap occur. Let’s look at the primary fear‚ that of having an accident due to the distractions of possible panic attacks while driving.
Most people will work themselves into a state of high anxiety even before they have pulled out of their driveway with imagined scenes of causing ten car collisions on the highway because they “freaked out” and collided with another vehicle.
If you have such concerns‚ the first important thing to begin with is a review of your driving history.
Have you been a reckless driver in the past? Have you had a history of bad driving?
Most phobic drivers in fact have clean driving records and have never even been in a minor road incident. Anxious drivers are not a deadly hazard on the road, in fact‚ they can be a lot more vigilant than many ordinary drivers who after a long day in the office are virtually asleep at the wheel.
When looking at the biology of anxiety‚ by virtue of his or her condition‚ an anxious driver has a high level of sensory alertness. This level of alertness keeps the driver aware of any potential hazards and focused on the task of driving‚ not daydreaming‚ chatting‚ or rooting around in the glove compartment.
This of course is not to suggest that anxious driving is the ideal way to commute‚ but I believe it is important to make this point because so many chastise themselves for being anxious in their cars.
If you are generally a good driver‚ then before you set out in your car, take confidence in that and reaffirm that fact to yourself.
Acknowledging and reaffirming that you are a capable driver will go some way toward alleviating this concern.
The second major concern of most phobic drivers is the fear of being trapped in the car in some manner. By this I mean‚ being caught in traffic‚ on busy three–laned motorways‚ on long bridges‚ or even stopping at red lights.
When allowed to‚ the mind will run away with this fear and will imagine all kinds of deadly scenarios where you might feel cornered or trapped in your vehicle with no assistance available should you experience a major panic attack while driving.
The important thing here is to curb these fears before they take root by offering yourself viable solutions to any of these scenarios and not letting your mind trick you into believing there is a trap ahead.
Is there really any situation where you truly are trapped with no means of escape? No‚ of course there isn’t.
Eventually‚ traffic always moves, it does not remain grid locked forever. There is flow‚ and there is always an exit. This may mean having to figure the exit out for yourself‚ but never let these thoughts corner you into thinking that there is no escape.
When you counteract these fears with logical solutions‚ you undermine the control that fear holds over you. You begin to see the bluff it is playing to keep you petrified of what could potentially happen out there in the traffic.
Your mind may rebel and come up with the worst possible scenario you may get “stuck in‚” but again‚ is this really the terrifying trap you imagine it to be? Be careful not to let these thoughts trap your thoughts.
Every minute of the day‚ people’s cars break down in traffic. These drivers have no option but to put on the hazard lights and leave the vehicle. It’s not going anywhere. There you are‚ that’s an exit‚ albeit an extreme one.
By using my technique‚ it never needs to come to that. In fact‚ you are going to learn how driving can actually be an enjoyable experience once again.
To finish‚ I want to give you some affirmations you can use while out driving. These can be repeated silently or out loud and will help relax and center your mind‚ keeping you focused on driving well:
– “I am a competent driver and always arrive at my destination safely”
– “I am calm‚ alert‚ and in full control while driving”
I hope you have found some useful information in this article, for more information on how to cope with panic attacks click here!