How we drive always reflects our state of mind. Well prepared, rested and confident is best but not always possible.
On today’s busy roads, stress is a constant yet it’s important that we keep a clear head to cope with whatever we encounter and still be able to concentrate on staying safe. That’s quite a driving challenge.
To help remind us how to recognise and cope with signs of stress, we welcome this advice from Ben, an independent charity which provides support services to individuals working in the automotive industry, including tips to help us be safer drivers at all times.
How to recognise stress
Warning signs of stress include some or all of these
- Becoming easily irritated with colleagues, friends or family
- Feeling distracted, forgetful or moody
- Not being able to ‘switch off’
- Becoming quiet and withdrawn
- Under or over-eating
- Smoking more, drinking more alcohol or taking drugs
- Tense muscles
- Feeling sick
- Not sleeping well / insomnia
- Getting ill more often
Here’s how to de-stress before driving
The good news is that when you recognise you are suffering from stress, there are some simple things you can do to help, before you get into the driving seat.
- Go for a short walk around the block to get some fresh air and unwind from the stresses of the day.
- Wait until you feel calm, collected and well enough to head out on your journey. Driving itself can be stressful, especially in rush hour, so if you are already stressed this is likely to make matters worse.
- Try mindfulness and deep breathing before getting behind the wheel. You don’t have to be spiritual to benefit from mindfulness and meditation – anyone can meditate and it has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. If you’re new to meditation, try the Headspace app free trial or a lesson from the Free Mindfulness Project.
- If you’re feeling ill from stress with headaches or sickness, make sure you feel well enough before you drive. Drink plenty of water and get some fresh air.
- Write down a list of the things that are causing you stress and set yourself some time to tackle them later on. Very often recognising this, writing your worries down and making time to sort them out helps clear your mind and makes it easier to tackle familiar issues the second time around.
- Is stress causing you to resort to more alcohol, drugs or nicotine? Be aware that these substances could still be in your system before driving. If you’re struggling with addictions or substance misuse, then it’s important to seek professional help.
- A major area of concern for many drivers is when we’re sleep deprived as so many new parents are. Research suggests that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related so don’t drive if you feel sleepy. IAM RoadSmart advises that if you feel sleepy whilst behind the wheel, find a safe place to pull over and stop – always off the motorway of course.
- You can check your mood with the anxiety / stress checker tool on Ben’s website to see how you’re feeling and if you need some extra support.
- Tell someone you trust how you feel. Sometimes opening up about our problems to loved ones can make all the difference and they can even help you find solutions. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved
- If you prefer 1:1 help and support you can call Ben’s free and confidential support line on 08081 311 333 or use its website chat option at www.ben.org.uk.
Alternatively you can contact The Samaritans on 116 123 or visit its website www.samaritans.org.
NB: FOXY Lady Drivers Club provides members with a package of support services to help women drivers cope with motoring when it gets stressful. For example, we provide a motoring helpdesk for practical advice, monthly support tips and advice (like this blog) and a confidential counselling session to determine the best way forward in extreme circumstances.
It’s good to know that many motorists struggle with confidence and concentration – in some instances understanding and support is the first stage to future recognition of choices. Very often an empathetic professional Driving Instructor and a refresher driving course can provide the needed knowledge and support. Either way, worried Club members can count on FOXY for sympathetic help and advice to suit all occasions.
You can join FOXY Lady Drivers Club here.