There was a time in my life when I thought driving anxiety was something I’d always deal with. And, honestly, there were days that I thought it had ruined my life. Now that I’ve fully recovered from driving anxiety (and have been for over six years now!), I want to share my experience with you. One of the biggest reasons I want to share this story today is because of how alone I felt when I was struggling. I thought I was the only person who struggled with these things, and it was incredibly isolating. And it wasn’t just in the car, but on trains, planes, and boats, too! So let’s talk a little bit about my personal experience.
My Personal Journey With Driving Anxiety
Much of my driving anxiety had very little to do with actually driving, which might sound funny! Instead, it was the feeling of being trapped, or not being able to “handle it” during a panic attack while in a car, train, or plane. For years, I was terrified I would lose control of the wheel, embarrass myself in front of others, or even poop my pants (which ties back into my toilet anxiety!). These fears made it really difficult for me to drive to work, travel, and do the things that are so mundane for others. I was always looking for exit strategies, “safe” routes, and backup plans. And even worse, sometimes I would just avoid it altogether.
And maybe you’ll relate to this…but riding as a passenger was always way more difficult for me! I needed to feel in control at all times because if I didn’t have control, I’d panic. And, of course, I was terrified of that! When those panic attacks inevitably happened, I was convinced there was no possible way that I’d survive. But as scary as they were, I always got through them.
I think the hardest part of having driving anxiety was constantly feeling like I was missing out on my life. I just wanted to do normal things without being consumed by so much fear! And I’m sure you can relate to this. So often, I would turn down plans and miss special opportunities because I was so exhausted from it all. And you might be hearing this and thinking “How the heck did you manage to recover, Shannon?!”. Because it blows my mind, too! Just last fall, we took a family trip from Maine to Arizona, where we took a 6-hour flight, drove two hours to Sedona, and then of course took a flight back to Maine… All without anxiety joining me. And before that, we took a trip to England, filled with long flights, train rides, and lots of drives. We even drove 5 hours from London to Cornwall, and then back to London, all while our daughter was less than a year old!
Why I Struggled With Driving Anxiety for So Long
You might be wondering why I struggled for so many years…and I really had to think about this myself, too! I think there were a couple of things that really kept me stuck in the anxious cycle. The first was that I thought I’d overcome driving anxiety by just doing the thing. Let me tell you… You can’t just drive every day and overcome driving anxiety. Trust me! I drove every day and I still struggled for years with anxiety and panic in cars. Although facing your fears is absolutely a huge part of overcoming them, there’s more to it than that. Let me explain a bit more of what I mean by all of this in the next one!
The other reason I struggled for so long was because I was trying to tackle specific fears. I would fixate on trying to make certain thoughts and symptoms go away, and this didn’t help me at all! For example, I would always try to figure out ways to not panic, ways to not get nauseous, how to not feel dizzy, and so on. But in reality, there was no one fix or solution for my anxiety. Instead, it was about creating a healthy relationship with anxiety! And don’t worry, there’s more on that later!
“Driving Anxiety Is Ruining My Life!” …Well, It Doesn’t Have To!
I mentioned earlier that when I was really struggling, I would think “Driving anxiety is ruining my life!”. But as I started to recover from anxiety, I realized that many of my unhelpful responses to the anxiety kept it coming back. And by trying to make the anxiety go away, I kept it hanging around even longer. With lots of time, practice, and courage, it became easier for me to allow the anxiety to be there. And even to take it with me!
Although you might hear that recovery is all about facing your fears, there’s so much of it that isn’t! Of course, it’s important to face your fears, but here’s the thing…it’s not just about allowing the anxiety to be there. It’s also about changing your self-talk, practicing self-care, changing unhealthy behaviors, and working to create new habits. And, of course, this takes time…but healing from anxiety takes time because it is so, so worth it! It really works, and my story is proof that it does.
Ready to Overcome Driving Anxiety?
If you’re ready to stop feeling like driving anxiety is ruining your life, and start feeling lots more peace behind the wheel, I want you to check out my masterclass on Overcoming Driving Anxiety. In this two-hour class, I’ll teach you the tips and tools that helped me (and so many of my students) create a healthy relationship with anxiety. You’ll learn how to put the trust back in yourself, and see just how capable you are of recovering! I want you to read the testimonials from my past students, so you can know that recovery is possible for you, my friend!
And if you take anything from my words here today, let it be this: you aren’t crazy, you’re actually pretty amazing, and you’re very capable of recovering from driving anxiety! You won’t struggle with driving anxiety forever, even though it might feel that way right now. Until next time, friend, keep taking healthy action!
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