How to deal with anxiety
Stress and anxiety can affect anyone, at any time, but exam periods and preparing to take your driving test can be a time of added stress. First things first – you’re not alone! It’s completely normal to feel this way. We surveyed over 700 learner drivers and discovered that 90% were feeling anxious about exams, or their driving test – or both. Only 10% of those surveyed suggested they weren’t anxious about either.
So we’ve created ten top tips to help you cope with anxiety – it’s also worth remembering that these feelings will pass :)
1. Get physical and get releasing those endorphins!
Exercise releases endorphins – and endorphins are a feel good hormone. Not only that, but exercise can be a good outlet to release tension – and helps you clear your mind. This doesn’t mean forcing yourself to do a long run each day, if that’s not your thing – it could be throwing some shapes on the dancefloor, swimming or even scaling a mountain - find something you enjoy and feel the stress fade away!
2. Stock-up on sunshine and sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep and fresh air each day, allows your body and mind to recuperate and recharge. It makes a huge difference to the way you approach things when you are fresh and able to focus. Exposure to the sun helps our body produce Vitamin D which not only boosts your mood and, in turn, helps you to get a good night’s sleep. It’s amazing how just the feeling of being outside in the fresh air, stepping away from it all can give you a renewed sense of calm – even for a few minutes.
3. Find your Zen
It might not be for everyone but relaxation techniques and positive affirmation can really work! You may feel a bit silly at first – but any of these will only take a few minutes and can reduce the effects of stress:
Meditation – Sit on the floor, keeping your back straight and your feet on the floor, and close your eyes. Recite affirmations, either out loud, or in your head, such as “I feel calm” or “I can achieve anything”. Breathe in time with your affirmations – placing your hand on your tummy while you do this will help you stay focused on your breathing.
Breathing – Or rather, focus on breathing (we’d like to think you’re always breathing!). Take a 5-minute break, close your eyes and sit upright – placing your hand on your tummy. Inhale slowly through your nose and feel the breath fill your lungs and radiate to your fingers, toes and head – then exhale through your mouth – keep focusing your breathing like this for 5 minutes and feel distracting thoughts float away.
Experience the moment – Take 5 minutes to just experience your senses at the present time, wherever you are. Think about how the air feels on your skin, what you hear, smell and feel, or even taste. Shutting everything out for a few minutes to focus on the senses should help you feel less tense.
4. A problem shared is a problem halved
Cheesy, but true! You may be worried about talking about your anxiety, but you’ll find that whether it’s a parent, friend, teacher, driving instructor or even online support forum – they’ll often offer sympathy and support and good advice. Two of our young drivers shared their own experiences of dealing with anxiety - it really highlights how important it is to talk.
5. Keep a diary…
If you make a quick log of what’s happened each day of your anxiety level, from 1 to 10 (1 being cool as a cucumber – and 10 being ready to explode). You’ll soon build a picture as to what triggers your stress and when you feel calmest. This will help you focus on finding the ways to overcome the triggers, or avoiding them if necessary.
6. You’re the boss!
Anxiety can often set in when we feel out of control. By sitting yourself squarely in the driving seat you can take control of your feelings. A good idea is to take some time out to think, or talk, about what’s making you feel anxious – when you know what it is, you can then come up with a plan to deal with the issue(s). Which brings us nicely onto the next tip…
7. Break it up into bite-size pieces
If your feeling overwhelmed, rather than thinking about “everything” you need to do as one big problem, break things down into manageable chunks and set yourself short term goals – remembering to factor in a break – we’re not superhuman! If it’s the stress of exams that’s driving you crazy – setting a timetable where you split the subjects into chunks, and factoring in breaks – will allow you to see yourself fitting it all in, but give you a focus for each session. You can even tick each part off as you go, if you’re that way inclined ;) If you’ve just passed your test, or are learning to drive – take it one step at a time – whether it’s mastering a manoeuvre at a time, or driving alone for the first time on different roads.
8. Utilise the wide variety of resources online
In a digital age, we’re lucky that there is a lot of help available online – whether it’s specialist charity websites, support forums, self-referral to NHS wellbeing services or self-help resources. Depending on what you’re anxious about – it’s a good idea to speak to a teacher, parent, GP, or your driving instructor (if it’s around learning to drive) – who will be able to recommend on-line resources - or to visit trusted websites like Mind, Young Minds or the Mental Health Foundation.
9. Don’t beat yourself up
In your late teens and early 20’s you’re under a lot of pressure – whether it’s taking exams, starting work or learning to drive. Whilst it’s hugely exciting, it can also be overwhelming – remember, you will make mistakes (we all do!) and you’ll achieve great things too. When things don’t go to plan – use it as a lesson, and remind yourself of the good things you’ve achieved too :) It’s worth remembering that whilst other peoples’ lives may look perfect on social media – the likelihood is, your friends are feeling it too!
10. Too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing!
Caffeine, alcohol and sugar are all stimulants – which is great for a boost of energy, but too much could add to your anxiousness, as your mind will be in overdrive. Without wanting to sound too much like mum or dad, try and stick to a balanced diet – particularly when things are getting on top of you. Of course – there’s nothing wrong with a treat – so why not plan a meal or night out, or a big slab of chocolate cake as a reward for achieving the short and long term goals you set.
We hope you find these tips to help overcome anxiety helpful – feel free to share these with your friends. For further advice on anxiety around learning to drive and taking your test check out the driving anxiety section of our Young Drivers Guide.