Most teenage drivers are excited to get behind the wheel for the first time, but for some, it can be a scary experience. If you’ve driven as a part of your drivers education course but feel scared at the thought of doing it on your own, you’re not alone. New-driver anxiety is common, but many young people feel too ashamed to talk about it.
1. Allow Yourself to Take a Little More Time
If you’ve passed your drivers test but still feel uncomfortable driving alone, don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay to ask a trusted adult to ride along with you until you feel ready. Take as much time as you need to practice and develop confidence in your abilities. You will have plenty of opportunities to drive by yourself throughout your life. It’s okay to be a kid for a while longer if you need to.
2. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Depending on your worldview, you may be open to a number of techniques that can help you relax. Before heading out to drive, try spending a few minutes sitting still, breathing deeply and visualizing something that you find positive and relaxing, such as a waterfall, sunny meadow or snow-capped mountaintop. You can also try visualizing yourself happy at the wheel. Tell yourself that what you’re seeing will come true, and do your best to believe it. If you’re more of a religious type, try saying a prayer of protection before you hit the road.
3. Continue Studying the Law
If some of your anxiety comes from the worry that you’re going to inadvertently break the law and get yourself into trouble, consider spending a few minutes each night going over the drivers handbook and reaffirming the information you aren’t yet comfortable with. Remembering the laws of the road can be overwhelming at first, but with time, the process will become intuitive. Don’t let yourself get bogged down with all of the small details. Focus on the most important aspects of driving, such as changing lanes, stopping at lights, learning who has the right of way and paying attention to your speed.
4. Begin With Easy Trips
When you’re ready to try driving alone, challenge yourself to a few short and easy missions, such as going to the grocery store or meeting your friends at the movies. After a while, you will begin to grow comfortable with the short trips and feel ready to brave the freeways. From there, the world will be yours.
5. Talk to a Professional if You Don’t See Improvements
If you find that your driving-related anxiety isn’t improving with time and practice, it may be time to talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling. It’s possible that you’re suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder and driving is just a trigger for you. If this is the case, you don’t want to allow the problem to grow worse. Talk to a doctor and see if there is any therapy or medication that could help make driving easier.
Above all else, know that it’s okay to hold onto a little nervousness about driving. If you use it to your advantage, nervousness can help keep you alert and focused on the road. As long as you practice safe driving and don’t let your anxiety become crippling, you will likely get where you’re headed without any problems along the way.