November 9, 2020

Written By: Lisa poe

struggle with driving anxiety? here’s what has helped me

I truly cannot believe it’s taken me over two years to write in-depth about my ultimate anxiety trigger: driving. *shudder*

My first panic attack happened while driving over a bridge – the moment that ignited a vicious cycle of constant panic attacks and paralyzing fear. Feelings I suffered with for years.

To this day, I still struggle with driving. Truthfully, it holds me back a little bit. I lean hard into my husband and my family to get me to most places, and I hold a lot of guilt about that.

With that, I do work through this fear every single day, and hope to make more progress as the days move forward.

So, if you have driving anxiety, you are not alone.

While I may not be planning my next road trip or anything, I am able to drive to the places I need to go on a daily basis … and to me, that’s a win!

Here’s what has helped me make progress with my driving angst:

Make your car a safe space.

Sounds a little woo-woo, but I have protective crystals in my car. They bring me a sense of calm. I have all my favorite playlists on Spotify and podcast episodes ready to go whenever. I pack a snack for longer drives and always have water to help regulate my breathing and bring me comfort. Also, I usually take four deep breaths (breathe in for four, out for four) every time I get into my car. Over time, this has all helped significantly!

Start small.

We all know in order to move beyond our fears, we must face them … Even though it really is one of the hardest things to do in life. So, start small. Simply get in your car and turn it on. Then, try driving around large parking lots. Work your way to side streets or low-traffic areas, and slowly, gradually to busier roads and highways. I really don’t have much advice on the whole driving-over-large-bridges thing, because they still get me. Holla at your girl if you’re a pro here!

Be prepared.

Map out your destination and review it in Google maps (street view is a game-changer!) – this way, you’ll know what’s coming and if there are any safer routes for you to take. Make sure to download your go-to podcasts and feel-good playlists, and have a friend on standby you can call (via Bluetooth, of course!). Also, have a back-up plan. If you need to pull over or park somewhere, make sure there’s someone you can call, or you have access to a ride sharing service (Uber, Lyft) to help you get to your destination.

Be prepared … Hours before you step into the car.

Get your workout in. Eat your greens. Hydrate. And please, just don’t drink caffeine beforehand. Or alcohol, of course.

Try EMDR therapy.

I’ve been going to talk therapy for years, and it has helped! In the last year, my therapist and I decided to try EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy to tackle my driving struggles, specifically. This type of therapy helped me understand and work through past trauma to feel calmer overall, including when I’m driving. Learn more about it here.

Spoken word.

Starting to panic while behind the wheel? Remind yourself that you are okay. Say this aloud as many times as you need to: “Right now, I am safe. I am in control.” Sounds a little silly, but it makes a difference!

Driving anxiety is common, and something I have to work through daily. While I still have more progress to make, these tips have made driving more manageable for me. I hope these are helpful for you, too!

Have anything to add? Share below in the comments, or shoot me a DM on Instagram!



Please note that I am not a mental health professional. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

  1. Lisa, so happy about your progress! This can be debilitating !
    Now just merely work up to your bridge!
    You’re a wiz bringing people along with you with their fears!
    Proud to be your mom!
    Baby steps to get back!
    Love love love your column!

  2. Susan Howard says:

    I just watched your interview on Anxiety & Depression and was in tears. I, too, had my first panic attack out of no where while driving over an inter-belt bridge with my young daughter in the back seat. It has been 9 years since then and has been debilitating for me. I am just now becoming comfortable talking about it. Thank you for sharing your story so that others may find comfort.

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Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. Everything I share comes from my personal experiences. If you are struggling with your mental health, please seek a medical professional.