The other day, my friend Mary Ann shared her difficulty with the fear of driving, since an accident. She was not sure what to do, even when her family tells her just to overcome it. I shared some thoughts with her that helped her a lot. Let me share them with you in case you or someone you know faces a similar situation.
My friend Mary Ann had a frightening experience one day while she was driving. It was a bad weather day, and a sudden rainstorm made it impossible to see. At one point, her car started to skid. She slowed and soon regained control of her vehicle. She was not in heavy traffic, so there was no accident. But her trouble with breathing and heart-pounding continued for some time.
After that, she experienced stress whenever she thought of driving. Her fear; “What if it happens again?
“Just drive,” her husband said. He wanted her to get over it and run errands as she always had done.
Mary Ann wanted to, but she was not able to overcome the fear. She was worried about another accident and especially the feeling of anxiety she experienced at that time.
She has tried to overcome this fear on her own, but nothing she has tried has worked.
She is reluctant to see a mental health professional due to fear of being called “mental.” Instead, she just avoids driving, limiting her ability to function and enjoy her life. She feels terrible and silently suffers.
Telling her to “just drive” is like telling me to “just swim.” I did not learn to swim as a child, so I can’t “just swim.” I have to train my mind to overcome the fear of water and teach my body to float. I have to develop my muscle memory to swim from scratch, as it was never previously developed.
Until I learn the skill, it would be tough for me to follow the suggestion to “just swim.”
Similarly, until Mary Ann learns to overcome the fear of accidents, she cannot “just drive.”
What can she do?
Most people say; Get professional help. That would help. But is there something she can do to help herself? Before and while she is seeking professional advice?
What would you advise her?
Would following the three basic steps of Stress to Joy Program help her? Let’s see. These basic steps are represented by acronym; ACR.
- Acknowledge the block/fear and why she wants to overcome it.
- Calm her body’s reaction.
- Reflect what is in her control and what is not and make an intentional choice
Acknowledging her fear and the reason she wants to overcome it will give her a direction to focus.
Practicing calming techniques will decrease her body’s reaction and her mind will be clear to think through her issue.
Reflecting will allow her to identify and process her fear thought; “what if it happens again?”
She may challenge the thought. “In my years of driving, the bad experience happened only once. I was able to drive without any problems thousands of times.”
What is the chance of an accident like that happening again? One in thousand times. That is less than 0.01%, so why am I just focusing on that 0.01% and not the other 99.99%?
Yes, It could be dangerous, so I need to take precautions, but I don’t have to stop everything. I have a choice.
“I choose to focus on the 99.99% chance that I will be able to drive and go where I want to go. I will take precautions to avoid that 0.01% chance that I can’t control.”
Do you think my friend will feel better?
If she does not make the choice to help herself, her life will continue to be stuck due to her fears. If she follows through, she may be able to overcome her block and be able to enjoy her life again.
If you face fears and worries like that, do you think using this approach may help you?
You choose. Let me know how it works.
Dedicated to your health and happiness.
PS: This technique is from the “Stress to Joy” program. Many people suffer from high work stress which leads to stress-related conditions like heart attacks. Therefore, I am on a mission to take this training to workplaces. If you would like me to bring this training to your team, please get in touch.
# 1 Bestselling Author, Psychiatrist, Transformational Speaker
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I share many tools and techniques that I have found to be helpful. They are not intended to replace treatments. Please seek treatment from licensed medical or health professionals as needed. I change all names for privacy.