A mum was so anxious about driving that she thought bridges would collapse on her and she'd be stuck in a traffic jam forever.
Nicola Ward says she would catastrophise about various situations that could happen to her while she was in her car.
The 30-year-old said she would feel "like I'm in turmoil" when in the car and that driving would leave her feeling "absolutely exhausted".
The small business owner from Reading noticed her driving anxiety started when she moved out of London and away from city life to the suburbs, to start a family.
She drives on a daily basis but since the birth of her daughter, Sydney, her anxiety in the car has significantly increased and says she's always ‘on high alert’ whilst driving.
Nicola admits she does not trust other motorists to follow the highway code and panics when she gets stuck in traffic.
She told Mirror.co.uk: "I need my car on a daily basis to get to work and for childcare so it's not something I can stop doing.
"I always feel most vulnerable when my baby is in the car.
"Things got worse after I had a collision in Spring 2018 when someone drove into me.
"After that I was extremely jumpy in the car.
"I started noticing and envisioning things happening and I would catastrophise situations.
"I would look in my rear view mirror and was certain that someone would drive into the back of me.
"I'd have extreme thoughts like I would be driving under a bridge and I would be terrified it would collapse.
"If I was stuck in traffic I would be extremely worried that I'd never get out of the jam and would plan my escape route.
"I was feeling constantly on edge while driving. I was unsettled and could never relax. I just wanted to get to where I was going."
Nicola shared her experience as it was revealed nearly a third of UK drivers have suffered a near miss on the roads due to feelings of anxiety, according to new research commissioned by 1ST CENTRAL Insurance and leading mental health charity, SANE.
As many as 2/5 (42%) of us have experienced anxiety while driving, putting themselves and other drivers at risk.
The research forms part of a new joint campaign launched earlier this month dedicated to raising awareness of anxiety and the threat it presents on our roads. SANE has also developed a suite of practical advice to address this problem, by helping motorists tackle feelings of anxiety.
Tackling the problem
To help address this issue and improve driver safety, 1ST CENTRAL has partnered with SANE to provide advice for how drivers might tackle feelings of anxiousness both before and during driving:
1. Before the journey ask yourself: are you safe to drive? Consider whether it’s worth taking the journey at all. If you must travel, could you take public transport instead, or call a taxi?
2. Pull over and stop at the earliest and safest opportunity. If you begin to feel anxious while driving, breathing exercises and meditation techniques can help ease the feelings of anxiety once safely stopped.
3. Be mindful of noise. Don’t be afraid to ask passengers to keep the noise down. If you listen to music, consider opting for songs with a lower tempo, or music you find calming.
4. Think about your environment. Keeping the car clean and tidy could help create a calm atmosphere. You could consider putting lavender, which can be soothing, in their car to create a relaxed atmosphere.
5. If you’re a passenger, and you feel unsafe due to a driver that appears to be feeling anxious, consider gently suggesting stopping for a toilet break or for a soft drink. De-escalation is important, because getting into an argument with the driver could make the situation worse.
Freelance marketer Nicola realised this was a problem she couldn’t face alone and needed to tackle in order to make her daily life easier; she sought the advice of her doctor and made small changes to her driving such as taking routes she is more comfortable with and allowing more time for her journeys.
She said: "I went to my GP after realising that the things I was catastrophising were extreme. However, the threat felt quite real.
"I went on a talking therapy course which taught me about anxiety and gave me tips to help me cope.
"Just addressing it and acknowledging that it's a problem seemed to take away a lot of it.
"I now try to to not let my thoughts run away with me and keep my mind focused when I drive.
"I still feel very vulnerable in the car but I feel much better.
"I would urge anyone in the same position to do the same."
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