Coping with Anxiety and Driving

May 30, 2024 Kirsi Cannaday

I have anxiety while driving, despite my previously being a confident driver. I never worried about anything terrible happening while driving, but then I had kids, and my problems with anxiety and driving appeared. Suddenly, the precious cargo I was carrying weighed heavy on my mind. I saw potential accidents and danger everywhere. 

When my youngest was four months old, we drove five hours to visit my parents. While I was driving, I had a panic attack on the freeway. My vision tunneled, my breathing became heavy, and my heart beat rapidly. There was construction, the lanes were different, and the change triggered something in me. I felt out of control. 

Recognizing the Cause of My Driving Anxiety

Shortly after that experience, I began seeing a therapist. Through attending therapy, I realized that feeling out of control had been the trigger for my panic attack. My therapist also helped me see that I was in control the whole time. I maintained the speed limit, stayed in the correct lane, and got us safely to the next exit so my husband could take over driving. 

Tools I Use to Lessen My Anxiety While Driving

Now, when I have to drive, whether 10 minutes to the store or five hours away, I have a few tools that I learned in therapy on which to rely. The tools I use to handle driving and anxiety include:

  • Putting it in a box -- Before driving, I take a minute to close my eyes and visualize placing my anxiety into a box, closing the lid, and locking it away. This helps me maintain control of my emotions. 
  • Saying my mantra -- If I start to feel panic growing inside me as I drive, I repeat the mantra: "I am in control." This convinces my mind that everything is okay. 
  • Using a map -- I put every destination into Google Maps. This alleviates any stress about navigating and gives me a timer so that I can tell myself I'm in control for the 20, 10, or five minutes left on my trip. Seeing the time left in the trip decrease helps keep me confident. 

Driving is still anxiety-inducing for me, but by using my tools, I can cope with it and drive with confidence again. As I use them, I realize I'm in control, and there's no need to panic. I can get my precious cargo safely wherever we need to go.

APA Reference
Cannaday, K. (2024, May 30). Coping with Anxiety and Driving, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Kirsi Cannaday

Kirsi Cannaday is an Idaho-born Georgia girl and mom of two, finding herself after getting lost in anxiety for a while. Find Kirsi on Facebook and Instagram.

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