driving nerves

Are your driving nerves caused by your thoughts?

The way you think makes driving test nerves worse. If our last few social media posts have resonated with you then it's possible that your driving stress, nerves and anxiety is made worse by unhelpful thinking styles.

If that’s the case don’t worry!  Being aware that the way you are thinking is half of the way to solving the problem, you can then begin to learn ways of developing more helpful thinking styles which will help you reduce the signs and symptoms of your nerves and begin to feel more confident.  

Thinking styles are often well-rehearsed habits that have an impact on how we feel and how we behave. The way you think makes driving test nerves worse, or with some changes your thinking can reduce them to make your feel a calm, confident driver.  The bonus to spending time working on the way you think is that it is likely to have a beneficial effect on other areas of your life too. 

Let's start by reminding ourselves of some of the unhelpful ways of thinking that may be making you feel more stressed and nervous while driving:


I always make mistakes at roundabouts!

I never pass anything!

If you have a tendency to think that if something happens once it will always happen, you use phrases like I always or I never and see outcomes as being inevitably the same as previous experiences then you may be overgeneralising.

Black and White 

I've made a mistake so I’ve failed!

If I can't get it right it's not worth bothering!

Are you an all or nothing sort of person? Do you think in terms of black and white? If you tend to think that one mistake means you’ve failed or only perfect is good enough you may be impacting the way you feel with unrealistic expectations. Learning how to balance the words and phrases that you say and think to yourself will be helpful.⠀⠀⠀


I'm completely useless!

Oh no, that's the moody examiner!

Do you mistakenly give yourself and others labels that then affect your behaviour? If this is a habit you might notice that the labels are generally negative rather than positive! Take another look at situations when you have labelled yourself or others in this way to see if that label is really deserved.⠀⠀⠀

 Jumping to Conclusions or Mind Reading

I just know I'm going to fail my test!

The examiner will think I’m rubbish!

 Do you often jump to negative conclusions? Making negative predictions about the future or assuming that someone else is thinking negatively about you? Jumping to conclusions and mind reading can be distressing and lead to you giving up before you even try! Practice challenging whether there are any facts or evidence to support your conclusions.⠀⠀⠀


Oh no! I feel stress, I'm going to faint!

What if I forget to brake and crash?

Do you often imagine the worst case scenario? Do you start thoughts or phrases with Oh No! Or What if?  Do you always think things are terrible, awful, disastrous rather than difficult or uncomfortable?  If you find yourself catastrophising you may find it useful to check in with your thoughts, acknowledge that imagining the worst case scenario isn’t helpful and ask yourself what is most likely to happen.⠀⠀

 Filtering / Disqualifying the positive

That doesn’t count!

They only said that to be kind

Ignoring positive feedback

Do you only hear and notice the negative and filter out any positive feedback or comments from your driving instructor?  Do you discount when you do something well as a fluke or one-off?⠀It might feel strange but try to focus on the positive things that someone has said, or the things that have gone well - even if it was really small!

How do you manage your thoughts to reduce your driving stress?

If you recognise any of these unhelpful thinking habits they may be affecting your mood, emotions and behaviour while driving, causing you to feel more stressed or nervous than you need to be.  If you feel that the way you think is making driving test nerves worse,  noticing is the first step to making a change.

 Just knowing that you have a thinking habit or tendency will help you start to notice and be aware when you think that way.  As soon as you notice, pause, and ask yourself whether what you are thinking (or saying) is true or helpful.  If it isn’t then you can choose to interrupt this thinking style and choose to focus on something that you are doing right now instead.

Keep a note if you can of your thinking habits, practise some new phrases to help balance out the unhelpful thought.  Often simply adding the word yet to the end can transform the meaning of a thought. e.g. I can’t do this!  Pause. YET, because I'm still learning.⠀

The Coaching, Mindfulness and Positive Self-Talk section of our website all offer ideas, tips, techniques and examples to help you identify and manage unhelpful thinking styles that might be causing your driving stress and nerves.  You can also download more information about unhelpful thinking styles from psychologytools.com

Now that you know more about how the way you think makes driving test nerves worse you may be interested to find out more about subscription packages for independent drivers and group subscriptions for ADIs.

Choose one or both of our FREE tools to help you become a more confident driver

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