Anxiety and Learning to Drive.

A long post but worth the read

I am coming across this more and more on a regular basis, sometimes it's just plain old fear, over reaction to unknown circumstances, then there's Anxiety in its cruelest form, witnessed first hand by me this week, (nothing but admiration for the pupil involved).

So I thought I would type this explanation of how I help pupils learn to handle the everyday situations we come across, hopefully it will help others as well.

If you are fearful for example of stalling at a junction, then that fear will create the one thing you don't want, the stall, you become edgy at using the clutch, or taking a right turn into another road, you become agitated, miss your gear change / turning point or even braking, over shooting the turn, we can practice these things over and over, thus gaining experience and it becomes common place, so the fear reduces.

However anxiety doesn't work quite like that, sometimes no amount of practice / experience will over come the sheer dread that is felt. So how can it be reduced ? I employ 2 strategies, the 1st being planning / preparation and anticipation, the 2nd is scaling to help the realisation of how the exercise went.

If and when the anxiety begins you can train your brain to ask one simple question WHAT DO I NEED ?, it can then stay in contact with your hands / eyes / feet, for example, approaching a right turn, WHAT DO I NEED ? So you begin PLANNING the junction, then you start your PREPARATIONS, the car and yourself, gears / speed / position and observations, then there's the ANTICIPATION of other road users, maybe a small change is required as a result, all that's left now is the EXECUTION of the turn ! If you say to yourself WHAT DO I NEED ? Then following this there is no more room for the anxiety / fear to exist in its heightened form, your too busy with all this other stuff, I can't claim it's a cure all, and it's how your taught to drive by most ADI's, but stressing this in a way that relates to the anxieties is proving to be quite educational to both me and my pupils who suffer this illness.

After the turn, we then move on to SCALING, before starting we discuss on a score of 1 / 10 ( 10 being sheer dread) how they feel about any particular subject, at regular intervals I ask for a score, recently I saw a pupils score go from an 8/9 just on general driving to a 4 at the end of the lesson, another time a fear of emerging from t-junctions went from 7 to a 2, this realisation then helps the brain reinforce the system and hopefully we can reduce it further, with more practice / experience.

Whilst in the opening discussion with a pupil, I used an analogy of Xmas dinner, I asked when they intended to make it (planning), then when they would intend sorting this (preparation) and finally how it would come together (anticipation), rwould it be the night before, giving them time to enjoy Xmas morning with the family, or on the day, rushing around getting all flustered trying to complete the one meal every year we all enjoy. You know the answer I got back, it's obvious really, this helped to introduce the system ready for the brain to accept, at the end of the day it's common sense, but fears / anxieties don't do common sense, so we train it to see the light !!!!

Regards Phillip.

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