Tips to Cope With Panic Attacks While Driving

Anxiety is a normal part of living. It’s the body’s way of telling us something isn’t right. It keeps us from harm’s way and prepares us to act quickly in the face of danger. However, for many people, anxiety is persistent, irrational and overwhelming. It may get in the way of day-to-day activities and even make them impossible. This may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
Panic Attack Driving Phobia

Anxiety attacks while driving can be scary, because sometimes we’re unsure how our bodies will react. Many of us struggle with fear we may pass out or go insane, although this rarely (if ever) happens. Fortunately, there are ways of getting through these anxiety attacks. While driving can be stressful in itself, those of us who struggle with anxiety feel the pain in a whole different way.

Fear of driving, in its innate and sublime form, is there to protect you. But when it turns into driving anxiety and panic attacks while driving, it hampers your performance rather than help you in any way. Here we present you with solid tips and techniques to cure your panic and anxiety attacks while driving. When you apply these techniques you will see your panic attacks disappear, and what will remain is awareness to spot signs of fear and take appropriate action to protect yourself.

Be prepared — always best to be prepared, just in case you get overwhelmed when anxiety strikes. Before you drive off, make sure you have a paper bag and a bottle of water in the car with you. That way, should you get an attack, you have a couple of tools to help you relax. So don’t worry about fear, let it come to you whenever it is useful. And it is definitely not useful when you pull it towards you and multiply it a hundred times to create panic for yourself.

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Consider you are driving on a freeway or a long bridge, places most of you would tend to panic. Suddenly you start feeling the heat and you get squirmy with fear. Your hands start trembling and your palms start sweating. Now what you need to do is observe your feelings (identify them), accept them and worsen them. Yes you heard right. Worsen the feelings and symptoms yourself. If you are feeling jittery, consciously take control of your body and make it jitter more. If you feel like shrieking, gather yourself and consciously shout out something. This technique will help you relax and avoid panic attacks while driving.

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Avoid future tripping. This is when we think about what might happen, usually while imagining the worst possible outcome. These kinds of thoughts trap us deep in our heads, allowing fear to take control of us. Do your best to let those fearful thoughts go once you enter your car. Stay present in the moment using mindfulness. Mindfulness exercises can help you quickly shut off your anxiety attacks while driving, and is a powerful weapon against anxiety when used properly.

Pull over if necessary. Give yourself credit for getting as far as you did, and take some time to decompress. Where appropriate, try getting out of the car and taking a walk. Getting fresh air is a great way to calm your nerves and clear your anxiety.

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Stop panic attacks by ‘acting normal’. Keep talking – keep acting as if nothing untoward is happening. You may not feel like ‘acting normal’, but remember your panic is pretty dumb (even if you have a PhD in astrophysics) and is looking for cues from you as to whether it’s needed or not.
Drive Safely. All stress is bad stress when you suffer from panic attacks, so make sure you’re not contributing to anything that will cause you anxiety. Drive the speed limit, take very few risks, keep a GPS in the car so that you’re not worried about getting lost, and don’t try to swerve around traffic. All of those behaviors increase stress, and stress increases panic attack risk.
Keep thinking. Keep thinking or doing something that is methodical. During times when panic is really required (a hungry, fractious lion coming right at you), the thinking part of the brain becomes much less active. This happens because we need to become purely physical – to run or to fight.

Relax your forehead, eyes and jaws. You’ll be surprised how much tension you had unnecessarily built up around that region. Tell yourself it’s fine to relax the muscles of your face. Relax your jaws and slightly part your teeth. A relaxed face is not going to drop your stance; it is going to equip you with more awareness and alertness.

Slightly roll your head both ways. Roll your shoulders clockwise and anticlockwise. Bend your shoulders blades backwards and press them against each other. Hold for a few seconds and relax.
This will soothe your nerves. The best time to perform this exercise is when you stop at raffic signals.

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Listen to calming music — Listening to music that puts you in a happy place is another great way to dial down your anxiety while driving. Focus on the feeling the music brings up in you. Pay attention to that good feeling, and try keeping your mind there until you arrive at your destination.

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None of these are going to act as some type of rapid anxiety cure, nor are they going to provide you with a way to preventing all of your anxiety and all of your panic attacks. But they may reduce either the frequency or severity of your anxiety attacks while driving, so that hopefully you’ll find it easier to be on the road. Ultimately, the cure is going to be learning how to control the attacks themselves. Only then will you give yourself the best opportunity to prevent any and all panic attacks while in the car.

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