Your palms sweat. Your heart races. You may even get a bit weak at the knees, which may or may not be apparent as you’re sitting behind the wheel. You know the signs of your driving fear or driving anxiety quite well. And so do athletes.
While athletes may not be hit by anxiety symptoms in the driver’s seat of a vehicle, they can certainly be struck at the starting line. A few techniques they use to successfully cross the finish line can likewise help you become victorious over your driving fears and driving anxiety.
Don’t Forget to Breathe
How many times have you suddenly realized you’ve been holding your breath the entire time you’ve been riddled with driving anxiety? We’re betting a bunch. Taking several deep breaths can come to the rescue. Regulating your breathing can automatically engage the relaxation response, benefiting you by:
- Slowing down your sympathetic nervous system activity, which reduces the “fight or flight” response while bringing on calmness
- Helping you manage stress, allowing you to make level-headed decisions and avoid panicked, knee-jerk reactions
- Becoming a significant component in a relaxation routine that aligns your body with your mind to produce the most effective performance (in whatever you’re doing)
Get into the deep breathing training groove by spending at least five minutes each day practicing. Count to 10, using the first four seconds to inhale, the second four seconds to exhale, and the final two seconds to pause between breaths. Repeat for five minutes. Daily practice can help deep breathing become an automatic habit.
Give Yourself a Pep Talk
Add a mini-pep talk or mantra to your breathing routine, repeating it in your mind between breaths. Mantras can be incredibly helpful tools for reframing negative thinking. They can consist of any short, positive statement, such as:
- I am strong.
- I am capable.
- I can do this.
- Any phrase in any language that imbues you with confidence (sometimes even a simple “Om” can do wonders).
In addition to repeating your mantra during your breathing exercises, try saying it to yourself each morning upon waking and each night before bed. Write it on a note card to stick on your bathroom mirror. Do whatever it takes to truly live it.
Establish a Routine
Creating a routine involves setting up a series of mental and physical activities you engage in to bring your best self to any given situation. Situations can definitely include driving on the highway, driving across a bridge, driving through a tunnel, or simply driving down the road.
An ideal anxiety-beating routine will consist of actions that give your body a cue that it’s time to step up to the plate and perform the activity – without letting your busy mind and worries barge onto the scene.
Managing your driving fears works well with activities that achieve one of two functions:
- Slows down your breathing through physical exercises or movements
- Changes the way you think about a situation, which is where the mantra or mini-pep talk comes in
Establish a pre-driving routine using the combination of techniques, letting your body and mind know it’s time for action. Once given the cue, both can be eagerly ready to move forward and through the challenge, blocking out the chatter that can otherwise fuel anxiety.