How to Overcome Driving Anxiety and Regain Control

Driving anxiety is a recurrent apprehension involving varying degrees of severity between hesitation and a virtual refusal to step into a vehicle. At its most basic level, driving anxiety can take the form of a fear or phobia, which requires different approaches.

For our purposes, anxiety refers to uneasiness and distress regarding future events. Feelings of intensity vary from worrying to intense fear or dread in the absence of a specific cause or threat. It is essentially a chronic state of alertness combined with helplessness.

Fear is a state of alarm or agitation resulting from the anticipation or expectation of danger, real or imagined. Fear is a basic instinct and one of the most powerful emotions humans and other creatures experience. It frequently defies logic, and many people suffer from anxiety and guilt resulting from what they deem irrational responses.

How to Overcome Driving Anxiety Using Hypnotherapy.

You Can Overcome Driving Anxiety.

Is Driving Anxiety a Fear or Phobia?

For our purposes, we define fears and phobias based on origin in reality or imagination. Fears result from actual events, such as an accident or other event causing traumatic feelings. In contrast, a phobia does not have a perceivable beginning or cause; thus, the paralyzing feelings seem irrational.

Phobias, such as driving anxiety (without a specific trigger), generally surface later in life and seem illogical since the origin is unknown. Whereas fear of driving resulting from a particular event, such as a car crash, may occur at any age.

A person may develop the phobia of "driving anxiety" through the Law of Association, such as driving over a high bridge after falling off a bicycle or tripping and falling. Consequently, driving anxiety is one of the most common phobias, and hypnotherapy is quite effective.

What Is Driving Anxiety?

In most cases, driving anxiety stems from agoraphobia, which is the fear of open spaces. However, it's not necessarily the fear of open spaces affecting people as much as being trapped in a car and feeling like they can't escape.

Consequently, being stuck in a traffic jam and unable to escape (get off the road) in the event of a panic attack may cause somebody to feel trapped. Hence the agoraphobia classification, but driving anxiety may also involve fear of passing out, losing control, or getting into an accident.

Suffice it to say, driving anxiety is a broad subject that includes everything from mild discomfort when merging onto the freeway to uncontrollable crying when going over a high bypass bridge and everything in between.

Driving Anxiety Symptoms

Common symptoms related to driving anxiety are similar to other forms of stress:

  • Confusion.
  • Disorientation.
  • Dizziness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Perspiration.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Sweaty palms.
  • Etcetera.

Consequently, the above responses are symptoms of the fight or flight response triggered by the amygdala, also known as the lizard brain. In this case, people essentially suffer an amygdala hijack, and emotion overrides logic.

That can be scary, and many people report feeling like they're going to die, which explains "the crazy" response. However, this can significantly impact people's ability to function because they'll do practically anything to avoid such intense feelings.

Although understandable, it's also essential to acknowledge that it's "just a feeling," and the most severe panic attacks are unlikely to cause long-term effects. Taking ownership of our feelings is essential to gaining control because we create feelings within; thus, we can choose how to respond through awareness and practice.

How Does Anxiety While Driving Begin?

People experience anxiety while driving for many reasons, and perhaps it begins with a close call or accident. In that case, the subconscious mind strives to protect the body by creating a state of hyper-awareness.

Driving anxiety can also appear out of the blue, seeming to start without a specific cause or event. However, we'll usually discover the origin, such as feeling unsteady on one's feet or a bike accident being a cause during treatment.

Somebody prone to anxious feelings might suffer from various fears and phobias, including driving anxiety. Surprisingly, low blood sugar is a hidden factor contributing to the development of many phobias, so eating a balanced diet may also be the solution.

How to Get Over Driving Anxiety

If you suffer from driving anxiety, you might have heard that you "just need to get over it." Another bit of unhelpful advice is to face your fears and do the very thing that causes the anxiety in hopes of desensitizing the experience.

Consequently, this is where things get tricky because desensitization practices, such as visualization and guided imagery, are effective for fears but may reinforce phobias. In that case, it's more effective to address the root cause of phobias, beginning with eating a balanced diet and learning to manage emotions.

You may wonder why we're beating the nutritional drum so loudly; the fact is, it works most of the time, and it's a quick and easy first step. Of course, we realize that the idea of eating more protein might seem too simple a solution, but imagine the following scenario:

It's another hectic morning, and you're on your way somewhere important. One thing leads to another, and it takes longer to get out the door than anticipated. Breakfast on the run consists of coffee, toast, or a sugared pastry, which provides a much-needed boost.

There's a traffic jam on the freeway, which is stressful but not unexpected. However, it coincides with a rapid drop in blood sugar accelerated by stress levels. The lizard brain kicks in before logic and reason, creating panic feelings, and identifies driving as the cause.

Of course, all this occurs on a subconscious level as you're navigating your way through traffic. The real problem begins the next day as you subconsciously anticipate being stuck in the same situation and strive to avoid those feelings.

Driving Anxiety Is Driven by Avoidance

Low blood sugar episodes can create anxiety under various circumstances, but the most common are driving and flying. Most people don't make the connection because they're more focused on external events at the time.

Not eating enough protein, or eating food high in simple carbohydrates like sugar, can cause conditions related to low blood sugar. That is especially true for people with family histories of diabetes or hypoglycemia, but it also affects others.

Anxious feelings may develop into a phobia that leads to avoidance, such as stopping to drive altogether. Unfortunately, avoiding the triggers that cause anxiety will not likely alleviate the dread or anxious feelings and often leads to guilt.

It's also harder to get back in the driver's seat once you stop driving and the phobia shifts into high gear. Thankfully, the fear of driving is a learned behavior; thus, it can also be unlearned.

If you ever felt comfortable driving, you can feel comfortable again; it's usually just a matter of regaining control over your emotions. Feeling calmer and more comfortable is the first step towards rekindling the enjoyment, freedom, and independence driving provide.

Consequently, hypnosis helps people experience more calm and comfort while increasing their ability to manage stress. Hypnotherapy is an excellent way to alleviate driving anxiety and other phobias like the fear of flying.

Driving Anxiety Tips

Feeling calm, comfortable, and safe to enjoy driving with confidence is essential to most people. If you avoid driving or being in a car due to anxiety, we recommend seeking help from a qualified professional.

Meanwhile, here are some tips to help get you back on the road sooner, feeling comfortable, safe, and confident. Starting with the basics, and pay attention to how you feel after eating specific foods, and ensuring you eat some protein before venturing out.

Avoid foods high in sugar, such as simple carbs like bread, candy, pastries, and sugary drinks. Caffeine is another leading cause of anxiety, and many people experience relief after reducing their intake of coffee, energy drinks, and soda pop.

We all know it's critical not to drink and drive, but most people don't realize that alcohol consumption the night before can trigger imbalances in blood sugar the next day.

Sleep deprivation or fatigue also affects blood sugar levels and may contribute to anxiety. In that case, taking better care of yourself and establishing self-care habits and behaviors is essential.

Engaging in conversation, or listening to an audiobook, is another way to distract yourself from feeling anxious. However, it's a double-edged sword because it's essential to remain focused while driving.

Stress Management

Studies indicate that exercise and physical activity significantly reduce stress and improve health. Overwhelming stress and fatigue for extended periods contribute to anxiety. Unfortunately, these factors are at an all-time high post-COVID-19, so it's imperative to learn stress management.

The pickle of not being able to enjoy going on a Sunday drive is not lost on us, but there are many other ways to relax and unwind. You can reduce stress by exercising, walking, listening to music, and practicing meditation or yoga.

Many people find positive affirmations are an excellent way to alleviate anxiety, especially if they associate listening to music with the experience. Of course, hypnosis is an effective way to embrace the power of the subconscious mind and enjoy a more profound sense of calm, comfort, and confidence.

Overcoming Anticipatory Anxiety

The anticipation of feeling anxious is a primary cause of driving anxiety, but it can also be the cure. If you find yourself saying, "I have to go into the city tomorrow, and I hate driving over that bridge, through that tunnel, around that curve, etc., try this instead:

"Yeah, I feel anxious, but I also know I can handle it."

Consequently, the need for control and safety are the driving forces behind anxious feelings and are primarily a matter of perspective. Remember a time you felt in control and safe, amplify the experience, and learn how to trigger those feelings when appropriate - this is something a trained hypnotherapist or NLP practitioner can help you achieve.

Breathing deeply and adequately is another way to easily manage anxiety and stress anywhere at any time. It surprises most people how quickly they can regain control over emotions with a few deep breaths.

Of course, it can be challenging to remember to breathe deeply when the lizard brain activates and triggers the flight or fight response. Trust me, it gets easier every time, especially when people realize that managing their feelings is within control.

These helpful tips can help you manage driving anxiety and the anticipatory feelings accompanying that phobia. However, most people benefit from coaching and guidance geared toward their specific experience.

As a certified hypnotherapist specializing in confidence, fears, and phobias, I believe people can live without anxiety. Hypnotherapy can effectively get you back on the road, driving calmly, comfortably, and confidently.