Over the years I have worked with quite a few people who wanted to be free of their fear of driving, and I have learned a few things. First of all, no one is really afraid of driving. No one is afraid of cruising comfortably and safely down the road. Instead, people tend to be afraid of getting into an accident, having a panic attack, getting trapped in their car, driving in bad weather, falling off bridges, having a sudden medical emergency behind the wheel, and anything else that could happen while driving.
The other thing I have learned in all of these cases is that using hypnosis can help eliminate anxieties.
Most of these anxieties center around the feeling of a loss of control, but not all. And most people who have trouble driving have devised ways to get around their anxieties about driving, by only driving at certain times in certain places. But wouldn’t it be great to just eliminate those troubling feelings all together, and drive without limitations or fear?
There are several different types of driving anxiety and thousands of experiences that may lead to panic behind the wheel. Two of the most common triggers (things that cause anxiety) of driving anxiety include panic attacks while driving and dangerous situations.
Easily one of the most common triggering events of driving anxiety occurs when someone has a panic attack while driving a car. Panic attacks can take control of your entire mind and body, making it hard to concentrate on anything else. If you're also driving, it can feel like there is no escape and that the panic attack may be putting your life in danger. Eventually, that person may become afraid to get into a car because they're worried that driving will cause another panic attack.
Unfortunately, this can set off a cycle of stress and anxiety. The fear of a panic attack can be enough to trigger a panic attack.
Anxiety also occurs as a response to dangerous experiences, or experiences that were perceived to be dangerous. For example, an accident or a couple near accidents may spark a fear of driving. Hearing about accidents or seeing an accident can also contribute to that fear. It's also possible to experience repeated anxiety on the road. Small amounts of stress that are spread out over a period of time can have a cumulative effect and can eventually create anxiety. Since driving can often have the potential to be stressful, it can be hard for people to overcome those fears without help.
Driving Anxiety Symptoms
Symptoms of driving anxiety are very similar to those of most other forms of anxiety. People experience irregular heart rates, sweating, confusion, dizziness, dry mouth, and shortness of breath. These are all part of the classic "fight or flight” response. These symptoms can be really scary and people will go out of their way to avoid these kinds of intense feelings.
Experiencing these symptoms, and even just the fear of experiencing them, can seriously impact a person's ability to function on a daily basis, especially here in the Upper Valley where driving is necessary to get anywhere.
Where It Begins
Driving anxiety can start in a number of different ways. Like any other behavior, anxiety is a habit. Bear with me as I explain.
All of our reactions to events are based on our previous experiences. Our subconscious mind creates a database of events and successful reactions as we go through our day to day lives. Most of these reactions are learned when we are young, and we learn new behavior and reaction patterns as we learn and experience new things.
So, your subconscious mind stores up all these memories, and files them away according to how intense they were. Then, when something happens, your subconscious pulls out the file of the past experience that ‘feels’ the same and what is happening now, and reacts in a similar way.
Driving anxiety may have began early in life, with an experience that had nothing to do with driving, or from cumulative stress and nervousness experienced while driving or riding in vehicles.
The best news is that fixing the problem has very little to do with how it began.
Ending the Anxiety
Overcoming the fear of driving on your own is a process. Because driving is something that should always create a small and healthy amount of stress, reducing that fear can be more of a challenge. Here are a few tips to help you decrease your symptoms.
Face the Fear
I am not a big fan of what is commonly called “exposure therapy”, but I do see the value of putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation to prove to yourself that it “is not so bad after all.” For many, this is easier said than done. But for those that can get the courage to drive, do your best not to avoid driving. Even if it causes some anxiety, keep getting behind the wheel.
The idea here is that it becomes less of a big deal each time you do it. If that is not your experience, and your anxiety continues to increase, then move on to a different technique.
Don't Add to the Anxiety
Make sure that your driving is not adding to the anxiety you experience. Drive within the speed limit, signal before you turn, check your blind spots, etc. Make sure you're not contributing to this by driving in a way that is dangerous.
Drive in Safe/Slow Areas
Simply being behind the wheel in an anxiety-free environment can be beneficial, especially if you drive for such a long period that you get bored. Try finding an empty, large parking lot and simply driving around for a while where there is nothing around that can cause any dangers. The more you are able to drive without anxiety, the better you'll do.
Mindfulness is awareness. The more you notice the signs of tension and stress, the more you'll be able to look at them objectively. If you feel yourself gripping the wheel too hard, or your mind wanders to dangerous thoughts, or you are clenching or shaking, allow yourself to shift your focus by taking three deep abdominal breaths and focusing on your breathing for a moment. You will notice that your stress naturally decreases and that you feel more in control of your emotions.
The Role of Hypnosis
It is important to point out that if you experience driving anxiety, there is nothing wrong with you. You are functioning perfectly, with all of your awesome subconscious protection mechanisms in place. These behaviors are hard to change from the outside, and they are that way on purpose. Your subconscious mind’s job is to protect you, and it uses these habits and behaviors to keep you safe.
Hypnosis allows you to create change from the inside, right in the subconscious mind. An experienced and qualified hypnotist can guide you to where that memory of whatever event caused your driving anxiety, pull out that file, and change the reaction.
Now that we know that driving anxiety is a habit, we know that we can easily change that undesirable habit into something that we like better. If you have been reading my articles, you know that hypnosis is an excellent tool for changing habits, including quitting smoking, eating the ‘wrong’ foods, and resolving career and academic issues.
The change starts with defining the problem. Once you know what you don’t want to be like, then you can decide what you DO want to be like. Using hypnosis we can rapidly create that shift inside your subconscious mind, taking that file out and changing it so that you naturally react the way you want to. Once you are ready to create this change and improve your quality of life, contact a qualified and experienced hypnotist to guide you through this process.∎
Karen Gray is a Certified Hypnotist, a Registered Nurse, and the Director of Green Mountain Hypnosis. For more information on how you can use hypnosis to change your life, you can visit www.greenmountainhypnosis.com, contact Karen at email@example.com, or call (802) 566-0464.