Driving Test Nerves - How To Cope
If you are affected by driving test nerves then the first thing to remember is that you are not alone. Driving test nerves affect the majority of learner drivers, the overwhelming majority of whom will eventually go on to pass their driving test.
The second point to remember is that you shouldn't be taking your practical driving test unless your Instructor thinks you are capable of passing. The expert thinks you're ready. The expert thinks you're capable. Already you have a vote of confidence from someone who matters.
Why do you feel nervous? What consequences do you fear? Is it for your safety on the road? If it is then don't worry, you're in a dual controlled car with a professional Driving Test Examiner. They know how to deal with you and any mistakes you may make.
Maybe your nerves stem from the fear that if you fail your test you'll let your friends and family down. If so then sod them. Don't tell them.
Fear of Failure - Leads to Failure
In some people exams of any sort can cause nerves and anxiety to rise. If this is you then put your driving test in context. It's a lot easier to retake a driving test than it is your GCSE's or A-Levels. The main loss of a failed driving test is financial, several more lessons and the cost of a second test.
- Take your nerves on by accepting them. Nerves can be positive. They tell the body to release adrenaline which helps keep you alert and focused. Use nerves to your advantage and they will increase your performance.
- Turn the day to your advantage. When are you at your best? If you're a morning person then make sure you book your driving test for a morning start. If it takes you until noon to "wake-up" then make sure you book an afternoon test.
- Never book a driving test during a time when you know other stressful events will be happening.
- Arrive at the driving test centre unhurried and at least 15 minutes before your test is due to start.
- Believe in the positive. Focus on your successes in life, not your failures.
As the test day approaches ask yourself the following questions.
- Do I feel nervous?
- Do I experience self-doubt?
- Do I get butterflies in my stomach?
- Do I fear underperformance?
- Does my body tense up?
- Do I feel prepared?
- Do I feel relaxed in mind and body?
- Do I feel up for it?
- Do I need the toilet?
- Do I enjoy the challenge?
When you answer these questions, ask yourself why you have answered it in that way and why you fell that way. If the answer is a negative, think about how you can change it, what you can do to prevent it in the future. Write out a list of positive and negative thought about your driving, as this will help you recognise areas of perceived personal weakness that need working on.
Don't Take a 'Test', Go For A Drive
As soon as the word test or exam is mentioned it can ignite all sorts of negative thoughts and associations. You can start to feel pressured and stressed. So don;t take a test, go for a drive. You already have the ability to drive to test standard, otherwise your instructor wouldn't have told you to book the test, so all you have to do is drive naturally, to the standard you are capable of.
Don't Let A Previous Fail Influence You
Don't dwell on a previous fail. You failed, so what? Move on. You're better this time, more experienced, and, statistically, you have a much higher chance of passing this time.
There are many techniques/remedies that claim to ease nerves and anxiety. From herbal remedies such as Kalms tablets to psychological techniques such as visualization and even hypnosis. Does any of this work? Well maybe. I myself have no first hand or even second hand experience that any of them do work so I won't be recommending any.
One technique I can recommend however is 4-7-8 breathing. Breathing correctly can have a profound effect on the way you feel. It is widely considered to be the most effective and time efficient relaxation method that exists.
The standard breathing relaxation method recommended for your natural breathing pattern is
- breathe into your diaphragm, (the bottom of your stomach), not shallow chest breathing
- inhale through the nose
- exhale through the mouth
- take longer to exhale than to inhale
- slow your breathing down (less breaths-per-minute)
4-7-8 breathing simply adds
- begin by slowly breathing in through your nose for a count of 4.
- Hold the breath for a count of 7.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. When you exhale, try to make a soft whoosh sound by holding the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth (or lightly clench your teeth) as you exhale slowly.
- Repeat this process for three more times (for a total of four breaths.) Do not do more than four breaths at first - with practice, you can work your way up to eight breaths. Do this twice each day.
4-7-8 breathing shouldn't be your naturally breathing pattern but should be used to calm nerves and find a more relaxed state of mind at or before times of increased anxiety.
The Power of Sleep
For anyone taking their driving test, nervous or not, a good nights sleep is essential. It has been estimated that up to 36 percent of all vehicle accidents were sleep (lack of) related. Research shows that sleep patterns play a huge part in driver awareness, performance and road safety, and a poor nights sleep will have a negative effect on your driving. Tiredness will also heighten feelings of anxiety and nervousness.
If you do feel tired prior to taking the test you should avoid taking caffeine. As a stimulant it can heighten feelings of anxiety plus research has shown that it does not increase alertness or concentration unless taken alongside a short power nap of around twenty minutes. Additional research has shown that a high sugar content in a drink that contains caffeine can actually make the sleepiness worse, although a glucose or energy drink can temporarily help alertness.
So, take sleep seriously. Try and get several good nights sleep in the run up to your driving test. If you do, you will be physically and mentally at your best and much more able to deal with any negative feelings or anxiety you may have.
Good luck. YOU KNOW YOU CAN DO IT!