Joline Saunders hypnotherapist

Tips for Driving Test Nerves

I remember my driving test like it was yesterday - it was possibly the most nerve-racking experience of my life. I wanted to pass so badly. I wanted the freedom it would give me. I am completely amazed that I did pass as I literally was on the verge of a panic attack throughout what felt like hours. When you are that nervous, making mistakes is so much easier to do as the reasoning, logical part of your brain is taken over by the emotional part. You mind switches to 'fight or flight' mode where you instinctively look for dangers and are on high alert - hence increased breathing and heart rate as your body prepares you to run or fight the foreseen danger. It's very difficult to be calm and methodical when you mind switches to this high-intensity state. Everything you've learned and practised seems to temporarily vanish from your mind and it's easy to become absorbed in thoughts about what might go wrong instead of focusing on what you want to happen.

Here are a few tips that can help you feel much calmer about your upcoming driving test:

Breathing One of the first things that changes when we are anxious about something is our breathing. When we are nervous, we naturally begin to breathe more rapidly and usually, those breaths are shallow, chest breaths with the emphasis on breathing in. This is the body preparing you to fight or flight by increasing oxygen delivery to your muscles. However, the good news is you can help relax your mind and body very quickly by consciously breathing in the opposite way with the 7-11 breathing technique. If you were to practice for five minutes, maybe twice a day, consciously breathing in for the count of 7, then out for the count of 11, you will notice how quickly you calm down. You don't have to count but the important thing is that your out-breaths are longer than your in-breaths. Extending the exhale mimics the breathing of a relaxed, calm person and by doing this we are sending the message to our unconscious mind that all is well and to be calm. If you were to practice this a few times a day for a week, you find yourself naturally applying it when you feel yourself tensing up and quickly calming down. It's simple. no one needs to know you are doing it, yet it's very effective. You can even do it while you are driving to stay calm.

Self TalkThat internal chatter that we all have narrates how we feel. If we are telling ourselves, 'I'm going to fail', 'I'm going to make a mistake' etc, it activates anxious feelings. Instead get into the habit of telling yourself positive statements, such as 'I will pass easily', 'I've practised and I am a competent driver', 'I can do this'. Whatever feels right for you. Positive self-talk really can change how you feel, and the better you feel, the calmer and more confident you are, which means you are more likely to find the driving test easy to pass. Practise Ensure you've had plenty of practice and feel confident in your driving abilities as much as possible. The more you practise doing things correctly, the more your mind begins to absorb your learnings as an automatic behaviour and everything feels easy and natural. Remember when you were younger and you were learning to tie your shoelaces? It seemed really difficult at first but you practised and now you do it without thinking.

Mental Rehearsal As well as doing physical practice, mentally rehearsing your driving test is a very powerful thing to do. Your brain reacts to your imagination as if it were real, so the more you imagine your driving test going exactly as you want it, the more likely that is going to happen in reality. Just take a few minutes each day to close your eyes and relax then imagine watching a movie of yourself during your test, with everything happening perfectly. Then imagine stepping into that movie, and being there, seeing out of your own eyes and imagine the whole process while associated, going perfectly well. The hypnosis audio included in this programme is designed to help you install a positive outcome into your unconscious minds - so that you will automatically and naturally feel calm and confident in your driving test. If you can do, listen to it often.

Joline Saunders has written this guest blog and is the creator of the two hypnotherapy audios for driving confidence and driving test nerves which are included in the membership area of the website.  Joline works from a clinic Moreton-in-Marsh in the beautiful Cotswolds and also online by Skype or Zoom to work with her on a one-to-one basis visit her website.


driving nerves

Are your driving nerves caused by your thoughts?

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.  

Mindful while driving

How can mindfulness help your driving nerves and confidence?

You are probably already being mindful while driving without even realising it!

Mindfulness is simply noticing what is happening around you, right now, on purpose and with curiosity

While driving you will be giving your full attention to what you are doing in order to drive the car, paying close attention to other road users and if you are learning you will also be listening to your driving instructor. By being more aware of the theory of mindfulness and consciously adding mindfulness exercises to your driving you could develop and strengthen your attention skills while driving, which in turn will help you feel more confident in your driving ability.  Mindfulness can help you notice and manage any unhelpful thinking habits that you have and be more aware of how your mood and emotions might impact your driving lessons and your future driving.

Self Confidence

How does stress affect self-confidence?

One of the key theories cited in psychology for improving self-confidence and performance is Bandura’s (1977, 1986, 1997) self-efficacy theory.  I know it sounds a bit of a mouthful but its good to know there is some scientific basis behind why we are recommending certain techniques on the website!  Self-efficacy is simply self-confidence in a specific situation and whether you have belief in your own capability to do something.

roundabouts and nerves

How does stress affect performance, learning and driving behaviour?

Over the last two weeks blogs, we have covered the three emotional systems and learning zones.  So how does all this theory about stress, emotions and learning apply to our learner drivers in real life?  We can take a learner driver at a roundabout as an example.    

driving test nerves

Are you too calm or too fearful to learn?

Are you in the best state of mind to learn how to drive?  Do you love your driving lessons or does just the thought of them make you feel nervous?  Your emotions have a big role to play in how well you are able to learn during your lessons.  We have different zones that we move between when are learning something new. 

three emotional systems while driving

How do you feel when driving?

When you are driving or are on a driving lesson how do you feel?  What emotions do you experience?  Do they stay the same or do they change?

We have three emotional systems that govern our actions and how we feel. We should experience all three systems throughout the day, with different systems being more prominent depending on the situations that we find ourselves in.  Understanding more about how we all experience these emotional systems can help you learn how to manage them and use them to your advantage.

limiting beliefs about driving

Are your Limiting Beliefs affecting your driving?

 According to Jack Handey "A belief is just a thought that you think over and over again"

Have you ever stopped to take notice of what your beliefs about your driving or passing your driving test are?  

Are your beliefs holding you back and stopping you from achieving your goal of being a safe, calm and confident driver?  If so then you may be experiencing what is known as limiting beliefs.

driving lesson engagement

Do you get the most out of your driving lessons?

 Have you ever been in a lesson at school, college or university or a work training course, fitness class, driving lesson or even accessing this website and secretly decided you can not be bothered?  You go through the motions, do just enough - or maybe you don't, and as a result, you don't achieve anything and feel that you've wasted your time.

This action of being consciously aware and in control of how much you are going to actively participate with something is called reflexivity.  We've all been there, some days you just do not feel like it, however when you go through the motions anyway you just end up feeling more fed up and negative.  Unsurprisingly research has found that those individuals who consciously decide to take part or engage in a situation are much more likely to have a positive experience and achieve more as a result.

mind the driving confidence gap

What is stress?

The word stress has become part of our everyday language with people using it to describe themselves, work or modern life. We often see different reports telling us stress is bad for us or that some stress is good for us. Different people seem to experience varying levels of stress in the same situations, making it confusing to work out what triggers a stress response and what feeling stressed means for different people.

Stress is experienced when a person perceives that they are not able to cope with the demands of a situation or task that is important to them and has four different stages.  

positive thinking while driving

Negative Thinking is a habit

Habits are developed over weeks, months and years and are a great time-saving solution. Once we have learnt and mastered an action we can daisy chain it with others until we have our daily routines organised on autopilot.

This daisy-chaining of actions and developing habits is the same process we undergo when learning to drive both that is a subject for a future blog!

How about thinking? Do you have any thinking styles, patterns or thoughts that have become a habit? Negative thinking can become a habit that is so automatic that it can be hard to break - or more concerning you may not even have realised that you are doing it!

calming out breath while driving

Why is the Out Breath calming?

 Several breathing exercises ask you to focus on the out breath which may seem counter-intuitive but there is a reason.

When we breathe out unconsciously this is actually a letting go rather than an action.  Breathing in is an action which is why when we choose to breathe consciously we instinctively start with the in breath.  Breathing out is actually a release of air, when we breathe out we let go a little, releasing the air in our lungs and at the same time, our muscles let go a little, relaxing and softening.  Try it now and notice how your muscles respond to the in breath and out breath, notice what your shoulders do.  

stressed or relaxed while driving

How do relaxation techniques help reduce driving stress, nerves and anxiety?

 Every time we find ourselves in a stressful situation and we feel under threat we tense our muscles ready to fight, run, freeze or hide.  Even when the stressful situation is resolved and the time for action has passed our muscles will often remain tense for a long period of time. 

Repeated long-term stress whether generated by everyday life or by driving can lead to long-term muscle tension and muscle tension can lead to pain, headaches, poor sleep patterns and irritability which of course can make us more stressed!  These habits are repeated and developed over years until the feelings of being stressed with our shoulders being up by our ears, aching necks and shoulders and sudden flares of anger in response to situations become a normal part of our lives.