It’s important to recognise how you feel and try to relax before getting in the car. So to help you stay calm behind the wheel, Ben, an independent charity which provides support for life to the people of the automotive industry, provided us with some tips to share with you on what to do if you feel stressed before driving.
Warning signs of stress
First of all, we need to recognise the warning signs of stress. You might feel some or all of these:
Becoming easily irritated with colleagues, friends or family
Feeling distracted, forgetful or moody
Having racing thoughts
Not being able to ‘switch off’
Becoming quiet and withdrawn
Under or overeating
Smoking more, drinking more alcohol or taking drugs
Not sleeping well / insomnia
Getting ill more often
Here are a few tips to do before you get in the car stressed:
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 stressing you out and set yourself some time to tackle them later on – sometimes writing your worries down and making time to sort them out helps clear your mind
Is stress causing you to struggle with addiction to alcohol, drugs or nicotine? Be aware that these could still be in your system before driving. If you’re struggling with addiction or substance misuse, then it’s important to seek help
If you’re having trouble sleeping due to stress then make sure you aren’t too tired to drive. IAM RoadSmart advises if you feel sleepy whilst behind the wheel, find a safe place to pull over and stop – not on the hard shoulder of a motorway. Research suggests that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related so don’t drive if you feel sleepy (ref: http://think.direct.gov.uk/fatigue.html).
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 need more advice about how to handle stress, read Ben’s top tips on managing stress.
If you feel you can’t cope, call Ben’s free and confidential support line on 08081 311 333 or use its webchat by visiting www.ben.org.uk. Or you can contact The Samaritans on 116 123 or visit its website www.samaritans.org