Driving is an exhilarating activity for car lovers. The feeling of getting behind the wheel, being in control of a powerful machine, covering long distances in a matter of minutes or hours, and getting thrills from the growing speed: all add massively to the experience of driving.
For some, driving is a therapeutic activity, as it takes your mind off from things that may be bothering you and puts you in a state of relaxation where all you do is focus on the road ahead. However, there are certain fears and anxieties that may accompany you on the road that might potentially put you in harm’s way. Your car breaking down on the road is one of those nerve-racking ordeals that might take away the fun of driving and put you in a state of stress.
Anxiety about your car breaking down or auto anxiety, as some like to call it, is fast becoming an epidemic. Most drivers panic at the first sight of a car problem no matter how trivial that problem may be. However, this state of panic is not just attributed to the anxiety you face about your car breaking down but rather it comes from a cumulation of previous bad road-related experiences that have settled these fears in your mind.
If your vehicle ever broke down in the middle of the road, and you had to wait for hours to get help, the predicament may have made you quite anxious and nervous and maybe even fearful. Being in a car accident because of car-related issues can also lead to a state of anxiety and a fear of driving.
In this article - Anxiety About Car Breaking Down: Background and How To Overcome It, we talk about everything related to anxiety caused by one's car breaking down. What are the symptoms and how can one overcome them for a safe and relaxed journey with friends and family?
Anxiety About Car Breaking Down: Background
Anything can happen on the road. Cars are not accident-proof nor do the manufacturers guarantee an absolute lack of malfunction. It’s a machine that operates on various mechanical parts and is autonomous in various ways. Like every machine, the odds of a car breaking down cannot be fully ignored when you are driving.
So naturally, every person who is driving a car knows in the back of their mind that they may face a car malfunction at any time while they are driving on the road. But this doesn’t grow into full-blown anxiety unless you actually face such a situation where your car has broken down and you find yourself stranded on the road. Once a vehicle breaks down one always had that paranoia that it will break down again and this is often what builds up anxiety while driving.
Like any other form of anxiety or phobia, car-related anxiety can make you really uncomfortable when you are driving. It can make you sweat a lot, and your heart may increase rapidly. All this can make you extremely vulnerable on the road and increase the chances of a road accident.
The Environment of the Car
Situation-based anxiety is triggered by events, actions, words or any other form of stimuli. But if the anxious person is offered a relaxed environment, the symptoms of anxiety usually ease a bit. When you are in your car, it’s important the environment of your car is conducive to your comfort.
You should feel relaxed just sitting in the car, whether or not it’s moving. Keep a car fragrance that generally soothes your nerves and calms you down. Play music that eases your mind and helps you overcome the sense of panic that may arise at the thought of your car breaking down.
Remember, your car is not actually breaking down, it’s the thought that it might break down that is putting you out of your relaxed state of mind. Make sure your car is clean and smelling nice.
How to Overcome Auto Anxiety
The best way to handle the anxiety about your car breaking down is knowing what really gave birth to this anxiety. Most importantly, it’s in knowing what really triggers your anxiety when you are thinking about your car breaking down. Is it the condition of your car? Is it the road you are driving through? Or is it something that you recall when you are driving? If you are able to figure out what affects your normal mood while you are behind the wheel, you can better prepare yourself for instances when anxiety does happen.
Like any other phobia, the ways to deal with this type of anxiety are also similar. The following are a few tips that can help you mentally prepare yourself in case your car breaks down and to help ease your nerves in the process. Weave them into your mental checklist and with practice, you will be ready when the time comes.
Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is the enemy of anxiety. It drives anxiety away and brings an immense amount of comfort to the person suffering from anxiety. If you feel the onset of a panic attack while you are driving and the thoughts of your car breaking down are storming your mind, squeeze your stomach and inhale deeply. Take in the air slowly through your nose with the sole focus of getting it to your lungs. Let your belly expand as it inflates with the air you drew in. Pause for a moment and then slowly exhale all the air out of your body through your mouth or nose. Let your body relax as you draw the air out. Repeat the process as many times as you can until you feel relaxed and your mind is cleared of all the unnecessary thoughts of a prospective breakdown.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
If deep breathing and a stressful car environment don’t seem to work on you, you can always try progressive muscle relaxation techniques. This method doesn’t require too much physical activity and can be easily done when you are driving. But ideally, you should perform it when you are not focused on the road. The best way to do it is by pulling over for a few minutes, perform the exercise and then continue driving.
This method requires you to tighten and relax your muscle groups in the body so that you create awareness of your hold and release tension in the body. You can do so by clenching your fist for 7 to 10 seconds and then releasing your fist for 15 to 20 seconds while you draw your attention on the tension that is being released from your clenched muscles. Repeat the same with other muscle groups in your body. Clench your arms then release. Perform this exercise with all your muscle groups until your entire focus is converged on your body and in the present moment.
This activity reduces the chances of a panic attack and eases your mind by cleansing it of all the negative storms. Negative thoughts come into your mind like a storm. Once your attention is diverted through this activity for a few minutes, the storm passes, leaving a sense of calm behind it.
Prevent Your Car From Breaking Down
There are many ways to overcome your anxiety of breaking down in the middle of the road, as discussed above. However, another way you can prevent that is by making sure that your car doesn’t break down at all. This can only be assured by taking all the appropriate steps that are needed to keep your car in the best state possible so it continues to function uninterruptedly on the road. Similar to any machinery, your car needs constant maintenance and it’s only prudent to address the maintenance needs of your car as and when they present themselves. The following are a few ways you can stop your car from breaking down and by the same token, stop yourself from worrying incessantly about the same.
Maintain Your Car on a Routine Basis
When you buy a car, it comes with a manual that specifies the details of the car. Usually, your car’s manual specifies the right maintenance schedule for your vehicle. However, you don’t have to strictly adhere to it, if you think that your car needs maintenance. It’s wise to head to the mechanic for a checkup if you see the first sign of something out of ordinary happening to or inside your car. Consult your mechanic for the right frequency of your car’s checkups to see if it’s performing at its optimum. By doing so, you can catch potential problems in your car before they grow into something bigger and more stressful. You will not just save yourself from incurring a big expenditure in the future if the problems get bigger, you will also drive your car without feeling any stress or anxiety.
Your Car’s Battery Needs Attention Too
Many people assume that it’s impossible to check the battery strength of your vehicle and it can only be done by a mechanic with special tools. While this may be partially true, there are a few ways you can check your battery level. You can check your car’s display for the battery strength. In some car models, there is an option to see if the battery level is high or low. You have to read through your car’s manual thoroughly to know where can you find this option and once you know, you can regularly check the levels as and when needed. The other way to check your battery strength is to put your car on idle and then switch on the headlights. Start the engine next and see if the headlights get brighter. If they do, your battery is running low on power.
Regularly Check Your Car’s Fluid Levels
One of the biggest mistakes many car owners do is fail to check the fluid levels of the car. Most break downs occur because the fluid levels of the car are running inadequately low. It takes a few minutes to check your car’s oil and coolant levels, but those few minutes can save you from the stress of waiting hours to get help if your car breaks down on a highway. There is nothing wrong with checking your car’s fluid levels once a week. But even if you are checking it at least once or twice a month, it’s enough to make sure your car doesn’t break down in the middle of the road.
Check the State of Fan Belt
The fan belts in any vehicle last about 60,000 to 90,000 miles on average. When they snap, your car stops moving and you get stuck where you are. Many mechanics and car experts recommend checking the fan belt of your vehicle every 6 months or as often as you can. It’s as important as getting the oil in your car changed. If you drive your vehicle a lot, the recommended frequency of a fan belt checkup automatically increases for you.
Pay Attention to the Sound of Your Car
The way your car engine sounds or the general sound of your car tells a lot about its health. If you drive your car a lot, you must be familiar with the normal engine sound of your car. Pay attention to these sounds and you will notice if it is producing any strange noise. Any odd sensation, heaviness in the pickup, or a general feeling that something is off should raise a red flag. Never ignore your gut in this matter. If you notice anything even slightly out of ordinary, take your car for a check-up first just to make sure everything is the way it should be.
Any sort of anxiety while you are behind the wheel is dangerous for you. It controls you and prevents you from driving with ease. When the discomfort amplifies, this anxiety may also impact your focus adversely and expose you to the risk of road accidents. The best way to handle anxiety, therefore, is to look it in the eyes and disarm it.
While the risk of your car breaking down in the middle of the road is real, it happens very rarely. The thing that you need to remember at all times is that this form of anxiety is related to negative thoughts in your head that have no grounding or basis at all. They well up at their own will, take your mind by storm, and incapacitate it from doing anything else. But as frightening as it sounds, anxiety is like a cloud of smoke. I f you blow at it strongly enough, it will clear up.
The key to handling anxiety is anchoring yourself in the present. And the best way to handle the anxiety related to car break downs is to make sure your car is well maintained, and then practicing mindfulness to defeat unwanted thoughts in your head. With a bit of effort and some practice, your anxiety will go away as if it was never there in the first place.