Motorway driving – back in the day
About a month ago I wrote a blog post about my driving phobia so thought I would give you an update. I have had to be fairly strict with myself and make myself drive if not daily, then at least every other day and even if it is only a short distance. So, has this helped?
Yes! I set up a ‘fear diary’ in which I noted my anticipated fear of the drive, and the actual fear, and also ticked off each road driven. I still feel nervous about getting into the car, but I tend to go the quickest way now rather than go the long way around to avoid certain sections of road. The sections of road that were an issue are still problematic, but it is becoming less over time. I have still not driven on very large A roads, but I have negotiated the local bypass a few times without too much of an issue. Being able to look back over a paper record of all the roads I have driven on, and how little fear I actually experienced at the time has given a much needed sense of perspective, and of achievement in seeing how far I have come on in a short space of time.
Things that I must have in the car in order to have a good drive:
Quiet and calm. No sudden movements or noises from passengers and no constant extraneous chit chat. This tends to jangle my nerves and make me more anxious. It also makes me grumpy and I will have a go at passengers who piss me off whilst driving, because on one occasion I did actually have to pull over and it set me back in my progress. I often feel calmer when driving alone. Conversely, I find playing relaxing music can help.
A sense of purpose to the journey. If I have somewhere to go, something to do, it helps motivate me to work through any feelings of anxiety during the drive. I can focus on the outcome. Also once back home the drive seems ‘worth it’ because it enabled a good time to be had, or a task to be completed.
Symptom easing stuff. The most unpleasant symptom I get whilst driving is an extremely dry mouth and the feeling of being unable to swallow. Having a mint, or some water in the car is a must have item. It removes the symptom almost immediately. Relaxing for a few moments before starting the drive, and focusing on some deep breathing also helps prevent the onset of fear like feelings.
Drop Your Shoulders This helps promote the overall feeling of being relaxed. To check to see if your shoulders are as relaxed as you think they are, hunch them up, hold for about 5 seconds and then relax. This is what your shoulders should feel like when driving, they should not be up around your ear.
Posture and technique. I picked this up from a book by a police driving instructor who now specialises in teaching nervous drivers. Ensuring that your hands are on the 10 to 2 position on the wheel not only gives you more control, it also makes you feel like you are in full control. Keep your arms relaxed and slightly bent at the elbow. Adjust your chair so you are not perched forward in a tensed position. It sounds basic, but a lot of us don’t do this after we have been driving for a while and especially when we are nervous. It does help.
Appreciate the car. Think about how lucky you are to own this amazing piece of kit, which will take you all over the place quickly and in comfort. Think about all the safety developments that have been made in motor vehicles, and how much safer you are inside the car than trying to cross a road or ride a bicycle!
Ignore Unsympathetic Haters and Inconsiderate Road Users. Remember you have as much right to be on the road as anyone else. It is also your responsibility to drive according to your own level of skill and confidence. Don’t let arseholes who want to zoom along at top speed bully you into going faster if you do not feel confident to do so. If someone is tailgating you, slow down and let them pass, or pull over and just focus on what a sad little muppett they are. You won’t see them again after the 5 seconds it takes them to pass you! Don’t let anyone tell you that you are just being stupid or pathetic. Yes, these are just feelings, but they are still real! The symptoms are unpleasant, and the fact that you have taken steps to try to overcome this should be applauded and respected and not ridiculed. It says a lot more about them than about you.
Don’t Get Angry. People who inflict their road rage on others are as likely to suffer from a phobia as their victims are. It all adds to the overall tension on the road, and in your body when you drive.
As I become more confident I shall be going not only further afield (which I have started doing already) but also onto larger roads. I intend to plan the trips so I know exactly where and when I am going onto the road and coming off the road. This way I believe I will feel more in control, and be able to extend the journey time on these roads. After this I may consider a motorway driving course.
Thanks for reading, and if you are suffering from fear whilst driving, I hope these small blogs help if only a little.