Feeling anxious at the wheel? Here are some handy tips to keep your cool on the road.
Do you feel worried every time you drive? Does your work commute or trip to the local shop seem daunting? Do your palms get sweaty and your heart starts pounding when you sit behind the wheel? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Research shows that almost one in five British drivers experience stress because of driving.
Using public transport, car sharing or cycling are good alternatives to driving. However, if you can’t ditch your car just yet, carry on reading to find out how you can tackle driver’s stress.
Why so stressful?
Unfortunately, many factors influence one’s stress levels. Driving at peak times and in congested areas probably cause the most stress. The feeling of being stuck in traffic and the inability to do anything – even after the traffic light in front of you changes to green – can hugely elevate your stress levels.
Motorways cause a lot of stress to many, especially to new drivers. Things like bad weather conditions, and other drivers pressuring you to drive faster or driving too close to your car definitely add up. And that’s before taking middle-lane hoggers into consideration – or missing your exit!
Driving along unknown roads, and getting to places you’ve never been to before can also ruin your peace of mind. Many UK drivers share the fear of breaking down while on a long journey.
Driving an unreliable car may exacerbate this – especially as many families are unlikely to service their car until it’s absolutely necessary.
Things inside the car can sometimes get equally as bad. It’s not uncommon for Brits to blame “back-seat drivers” for increasing their stress levels.
All this takes its toll and the effects of stress on people are already well-known. Issues range from making you physically unwell and affecting your emotions, to not being able to concentrate while en-route.
But can you actually relieve the stress of driving?
Stress be gone!
Ok, so you want to bring a positive vibe to your daily driving routine? There are several ways you can do that.
Getting into the right mindset before you leave your driveway can help you overcome distractions on the road. If you think that you’ll inevitably get stuck in a traffic congestion, or that your journey will be lengthy or that you might be late, you may get stressed out.
Just accept that whatever will be will be, and your commutes will become more bearable. Try to avoid taking the blame for things you cannot prevent.
Also, give yourself extra time so you don’t feel worried about being late. Plan your route beforehand, avoid peak times when possible, or even try travelling at slightly different times of the day.
Leaving 15-20mins earlier, or later, can potentially transform your journey depending on where you’re going.
Plan your route in advance even if you use a satnav. Make sure your satnav is up-to-date, as certain streets might be closed. Have a quick check on Google Maps for any live disruptions. And if you’re worried about parking, use Google Street View to explore the location of arrival.
You could also try clearing your mind and staying calm. Avoid driving when exhausted or angry, because powerful emotions and stress don’t mix well. Taking breaks is usually a good way to recharge.
If you don’t feel confident in your car, carry out the necessary checks to determine its condition. Give yourself peace of mind with a decent working car, or consider renting one (especially if you need to go on a long journey).
Even if you’re an experienced driver – following the road laws, staying within the speed limit, obeying road signs and generally being respectful to other drivers – you have to remain vigilant.
Pay attention to other drivers and don’t get distracted by, say, changing your music.
One of the best ways to tame stress is to snack. Fruits and healthier snacks, such as cereal bars and dried fruits, can keep your mind and stomach at ease. But only do so when it’s safe or when you’ve stopped for a break.
Speaking of driving stress relief, taking your car out for a drive can actually help you relax. This of course depends on your locality. Imagine driving across a lonely road surrounded by nature, with your favourite tunes playing in the background.
Sounds good doesn’t it? Try and drive outside the city and explore the countryside when you can. But for the times when you have to hit the urban streets, let your favourite playlist distract you.
If you’re planning a road trip to the continent it pays off to learn more about the countries you’ll be visiting. British drivers who travel in Europe are mostly worried about parking in the right places, driving within the correct speed limit, and making mistakes when reading road signs.
You might still be searching for the key to a stress-free driving, but by following the aforementioned tips you will surely reduce stress and feel better behind the wheel.