Driving requires your full attention, concentration, and on occasion, a lot of patience. For anyone who gets anxious behind the wheel, it can be easier said than done trying to be patient or calm. If you get stressed while driving, you could also develop road rage, which only exasperates the feelings of anxiety and nervousness behind the wheel.
Experiencing stress while driving is more common than you may think. New drivers and experienced drivers alike can feel stress behind the wheel. Those who drive in rush hour traffic consistently are more likely to develop road rage or feel increased anxiety while in their vehicle. Driving in bad weather, performing certain maneuvers like parallel parking with an audience of other cars waiting to pass, highway driving, traveling unfamiliar routes, driving an unsound car, or driving with a back seat driver are also common reasons why people get stressed while driving. Most of the reasons for getting stressed are out of the driver’s hands, making them feel like they can’t do anything about it.
Stressed and anxious drivers may not realize they are developing road rage, but their actions on the road can become riskier the more stressed out they are. Nervous and anxious drivers are more likely to speed, tailgate, quickly change lanes, cut off other drivers, and speed through red lights.
How can you curb this behavior if you experience driver stress?
Avoiding the problem will only make it worse when you inevitably have to get behind the wheel of a car, so it’s best to confront it and work to increase your confidence. Here are some tips on how to relax when driving.
Listen to a Podcast or Soothing Music
When you’re experiencing driver stress, your brain is hyper-focused on the road and all the things that could go wrong. Giving yourself a bit of a distraction (but not too much – you still need to be aware of your surroundings!) can help relax you.
Here are some examples of podcasts to listen to while driving that can help reduce your any stress you may be experiencing:
- Stand-up comedy podcasts
- Pop culture podcasts
- Informative podcasts
Alternatively, you could make a playlist of music you like for when you’re driving full of happy, upbeat tunes. You could pick some music you love singing to, or you could choose calming, soothing music to help you stay relaxed. It’s especially great for when you’re sitting in rush hour traffic. If you’re laughing, learning or singing while you’re driving, your stress can be greatly reduced.
Listen to a Book
If you’re an avid reader, you can take your books on the road by downloading audiobooks and listening to them while you drive. It’s another way to take your mind off the aggravations of the road while staying entertained. Plus, you’ll get through your reading list much faster if you commute to work or drive often.
Give Yourself Lots of Time
If you’re wondering how to relax while driving, one good way is to give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going. Rushing while trying to get somewhere on time can add to your stress and cause you to make dangerous driving choices like changing lanes quickly and speeding.
Try and leave early and check to see what the road conditions or weather conditions will be along your route. If you’re driving during rush hour, make sure to account for traffic.
Try and Cut Back on Caffeine
Caffeine is a well-known trigger for anxiety, so if you commute to work with a coffee every day, it could be making your drive that much more stressful. If you limit your caffeine intake or have your morning coffee after you finish driving, you may notice a difference in your stress level while you’re behind the wheel.
Write Down Affirmations
Telling yourself that you feel calm while driving is a powerful exercise to help you feel more comfortable when you are driving. It may feel a bit silly to do it at first, but affirming positive feelings can do wonders in increasing your confidence.
Write down some short sentences like “I’m calm and relaxed while I’m driving and I enjoy singing along to the radio” and read them before bed when you wake up, and before you get in the car. Saying them out loud can help too.
The key is repetition – the more you read and say them, the more they will become true.