Driving with Stress

It’s safe to say that we will all feel stressed in the car at some point during our driving lifetime. Sat in queues. Cars cutting you off. Road works at every junction (M1 I’m talking to you!). It’s easy to become stressed whilst driving. It’s even worse if you’re already stressed before even stepping into the car. 

In the third part of our driving series, we consider the role that stress can play on our safety in a car. Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society and author of ‘The 10-Step Stress Solution’, talks about how to avoid stress whilst driving.

Q1. What might cause someone to feel stressed when in their car?

“There’s a broad variety of things which cause us to feel stressed – whether it’s spilling coffee down ourselves, being stuck in traffic, thinking about something that happened last night, or even driving to an interview or presentation.

Feeling stressed is a reaction to modern life. Nowadays we are overloaded with an overwhelming excess of demands, and if we reach a pressure point, it may be a case of ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’.

Technology is one cause of this; with a constant flow of communication and information. Work used to start when you arrived at work and stop when you left, however due to our current use of technology, work begins the moment you open your eyes and check your device, through to when you go to sleep.

We have so much to absorb and think about during our time stuck in the car, and can feel stressed by the external factors of a commute, on top of everything else.”

Q2. What tips or techniques would you give to a driver, to help them control (or avoid) stress before they get behind the wheel/ whilst driving?

“Your emotional state can be effected by your physiological state. If you’re feeling stressed before a long drive, doing exercise will help, as it burns off adrenaline and cortisol. You could even go for a walk around the block to clear your head before getting behind the wheel.

If you start to feel stressed during your journey, take long, slow, deep breaths. This will mean you’ll get more oxygen to your brain and will help you calm down.”

Q3. Why is feeling stressed distracting and how does it cause lack of concentration? How might this lead to dangerous driving?

“This all comes down to the ‘fight of flight’ response, which is a survival mechanism we’re equipped with. During this state, in order to maximise certain resources, others need to be minimised.

This can therefore diminish brain function, as the frontal lobes of our brain can’t get enough oxygenated blood. This means we can lose our ability to focus, may not be able to think clearly, or we can freeze and our mind can go blank altogether.This can cause our driving to become more aggressive and reactive, which means we’re more likely to drive faster, make mistakes and therefore cause accidents.”


Do you find yourself getting stressed whilst driving? What helps you to remain calm in the car? Let us know in the comments or on our twitter page – twitter.com/Student_Wire

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Brittany Guymer

Editor of the Student Wire | Studying PR and Journalism at Leeds Beckett | Lover of good music and all things quirky | Easily bribed with mini eggs

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