A car accident can be a horrific experience that leaves emotional and psychological scars on survivors. One of the most common challenges that car accident survivors face is the fear of driving again. This fear can have a significant impact on daily life, limiting mobility, and causing anxiety and stress. But with the right approach, you can return to driving sooner and lower the risk of experiencing long-term complications.
Understand What’s Happening
The fear of driving after a car accident is a natural response to a traumatic event. It’s caused by the memories and emotions associated with the accident, which can trigger anxiety and panic when you are behind the wheel. This fear can affect your daily life, limiting your mobility and making it difficult to engage in activities that require driving, such as work or social events.
Start Driving in a Controlled Environment
One of the best tips for overcoming the fear of driving is to gradually expose yourself to driving situations in a controlled and safe environment. Start by driving in a familiar and low-traffic area, such as your neighborhood or a parking lot. As you get more comfortable, gradually increase the length, distance, and complexity of your driving routes.
It’s also important to practice defensive driving techniques, such as scanning the road ahead. It’s also smart to intentionally keep a greater distance from other vehicles. (If you normally keep five car lengths of distance, try ten.) These skills can help you feel more confident and in control when you are driving.
Hire a Car Accident Attorney
This might seem like odd advice, but trust us – hiring a car accident attorney is one of the smartest things you can do in your pursuit of getting back on the road. When you have an experienced attorney on your side, you don’t have to be the person in charge of fielding phone calls from insurance companies, compiling medical records, and stressing over insurance filing deadlines. Your attorney will do this on your behalf while you spend all of your mental (and physical) energy on recovering.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Another effective way to overcome driving anxiety is to practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and visualization. Deep breathing can help calm your nerves and reduce stress, while visualization can help you imagine yourself driving confidently and safely.
In order to practice deep breathing, sit in a relaxed position, shut your eyes, and breathe in deeply through your nose. Hold your breath for several moments, then slowly and steadily exhale through your mouth. Perform this same process several times until you feel more relaxed and calm. Doing this for five minutes every couple of hours will have a noticeably positive impact on your health.
To practice visualization, shut your eyes and do your best to imagine yourself driving confidently and safely. Visualize yourself reacting calmly to potential hazards, such as a car cutting in front of you or a pedestrian crossing the street. Repeat this visualization exercise several times until you feel more confident and in control when you are driving.
Try Massage Therapy Treatment
Sometimes your mental anxiety and fear is directly influenced by your physical condition. Any pain and discomfort you’re experiencing will heighten feelings of anxiety.
“The mind and body are more in sync than many realize. If you are anxious or stressed, your body will greatly be affected,” Injury Care Clinic notes. “Your body holds in all the stress and anxiety you are feeling. The body becomes tense and you may feel back, shoulder, and neck pain. This is where most people carry their stress.”
One healthy option is to get a medical massage therapist to work on the areas affecting you. (The key phrase here is “medical” massage therapist. You need someone who specializes in treating these types of injuries – not your run-of-the-mill therapist who specializes in giving romantic couples massages.)
Get Support from People in Your Life
It’s important to seek support from family, friends, and mental health professionals to cope with the emotional challenges of overcoming driving anxiety. Talking to a trusted friend or family member can help you process your emotions and fears, while seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor can provide you with the tools and strategies you need to overcome your anxiety and regain your confidence.
This is not something you want to attempt on your own. You’re fighting both a physical and mental battle. By reaching out and letting other people help you, you’ll speed up the recovery process and regain your confidence sooner rather than later.