1). Take small journeys
Go ‘around the block’ every day (or if you prefer – some other ‘more useful’ local, short journey.) Gradually increase the distance of each journey by 1 mile (or more, if you prefer).
Plan now when are you going to ‘go round the block’ – Today? Tomorrow? What time? Who with?
2). After a long lay-off
Have you not driven for several weeks? Your fear is having another accident, Isn’t it? Could you drive if we took all the cars off the road? Yes. Next Sunday, get someone to drive you to a supermarket car park 2 hours before or after it opens/closes. It will be empty and have no cars (customers or staff). Get in the drivers seat and drive slowly around this empty car park. Relax while you are doing this. Repeat another day.
Plan to go to a large car park this Sunday. Which one? Who with? What time? Discuss this with the other person going with you.
3). Relax in the car
Get comfortable and support your back. Take a deep breath at the start and every 5 minutes
and let it out slowly. Say the word ‘relax’ inside your head and let your shoulders, back and thigh muscles relax (possibly by tensing, and then letting this go). Let your hands relax either on the steering wheel or on your lap. If a passenger, don’t ‘brake’ with your feet or point things out to the driver.
Try this now. Sit back and ‘relax’ – imagine you are in your car. Try it again when you are travelling next.
4). Think: “Safe”
Tell yourself: “it is safe to be in the car” and “the journey will be fine”. When you arrive, tell yourself “that was good”. Remember the chance you will have another accident is extremely low. Most people feel more in control when they drive – but, in fact, usually the risk of an accident is no different as a passenger or as a driver.
Practice saying “it’s safe in the car” to yourself now, wherever you are.
5). Appreciate your senses
Remind yourself regularly that being in a car is a pleasant and calm activity. Use the travel time to talk to fellow travellers and listen to your favourite radio station or musician. If you’re a passenger – look at the changing scenery.
Look out of the window now. What can you see? Imagine you are in the car doing this.
6). Win the dual
Getting back on the dual carriageway doesn’t need to be a scary experience. The best plan is to go out early on a Sunday morning – say around 9am. There will be very few lorries or cars on the road. Take someone with you, if you want. Travel a short distance (e.g. 5 miles; one junction). Turn around and go home.
If you have done the first 5 Active Steps – now plan when and where you are going to go on a dual carriageway or motorway.
7). Enjoy a night out
Being on the road at night is no more risky than during the day…just different. Increase your confidence either as a driver or as a passenger by going out for a short 5 minute journey as soon as it gets dark e.g., 5pm (winter) or 9pm (summer). Relax after your long day and think ‘calm and safe’ thoughts. The bright car lights make your car and other cars easy to see and be seen.
When it gets dark tonight or tomorrow, go out for a short 5 minute journey.
8). Don’t get too intimate
I mean with other cars! Keeping a reasonable distance between you and other cars is sensible and safe. Let other cars around you drive close to each other if they want. If someone is too close behind you – put your hazard lights on for 3 bleeps and they will move back
Next time you drive, think about leaving a larger gap between your car and other cars in front.
9). Make the journey productive
When you’re a passenger – distract yourself by spending some time thinking about something useful. Make a mental list of ‘things to do’ when you get back. Plan a trip or schedule some time on your hobby or relaxation.
Think now… what could you think about next time you’re a passenger in the car?
10). Courtesy beats anxiety
It is difficult to feel anxious and be courteous on the road at the same time. Remind yourself to let other cars out of turnings or into your lane as often as you can. Flash or wave other drivers to go in front or across your path when safe to do so. They will usually thank you. Your courtesy and their gratitude will both feel good and are an extra antidote to anxiety.
Next time you drive, be courteous 5 times in the first 5 minutes.
Good luck with your travelling
These Active Steps will work for you with practice. Look out for more information this month about the ‘Road to recovery’ computer-aided programme we are launching. This is a more substantial set of ideas and active steps which go into travelling calmly in more detail.
Reducing stress tips – Active Steps is a practical way to find out how to reduce stress and anxiety in your life.
Visit the web site at [http://www.reducingstress.co.uk]