Anxiety and Stress Management Strategies While Driving for Teenagers 

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Getting behind the wheel for the first time is a big deal for teenagers, but it’s not so for all.

That’s why it’s key to have good anxiety and stress management strategies for teenage drivers.

It can bring up feelings of worry and nervousness. With a quarter of teens facing anxiety issues, driving can really turn up the pressure.

Table of Contents

    Signs of Teen Driver Anxiety and Stress

    Teen driver stress can show up as increased irritability or worries. Some adolescents will seem wound up before or while driving. This may be a result of unresolved anxiety and stress.

    Certain teenage drivers may experience difficulty concentrating. This can be a big problem while behind the wheel. As the mind floods with worry, focusing on the task at hand becomes much more difficult.

    Other signs can reach beyond the mind. It may cause muscle tension, stomachaches, or sleep problems. Stress and anxiety can show up in many parts of the body.

    Some Tips for Teens With Driving Anxiety and Stress

    Use these anxiety and stress management techniques while driving for teenagers.

    Coping With Driving Anxiety or Stress

    An important starting point is to understand anxiety and its triggers. Then you can deal with it as needed.

    According to Krystal Lewis, Ph.D., stress is the body’s normal and healthy reaction to danger. But anxiety is different. It is a response to stress without a stressor. Many times, anxiety comes from fear of uncertain future events. This turns a stress response into a poor use of mental resources.

    Look for times when stress shifts to unhelpful anxiety. By being able to see this change, you can start to tackle the problem.

    Driving comes with many natural concerns. But there’s a reasonable limit for the worries floating around in a driver’s mind. When at an acceptable level, the driver remains focused. They can drive as needed to avoid problems.

    If the worries about what may happen overwhelm the driver, that’s an issue. The mind fills with what-if scenarios. They lose focus on driving. Instead, they’ll think about stressful situations that don’t even exist.

    Adjusting Driving Environment

    Any driver, including teenagers, should change their driving environment to match their needs. Before hitting the road, take a moment to position the seat. You should be able to reach the steering wheel, pedals, and necessary controls. Adjust the mirrors as well.

    Also, try rolling down your window. Flowing air on your face can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, bringing in a calm feeling.

    Taking the time to create a comfortable driving situation is well worth it. You can focus on driving rather than feeling stressed about not being able to reach or see something.

    Mindful Driving Practices

    According to Harvard experts, deep breathing can slow your heartbeat. It also stabilizes blood pressure.

    To manage stress for teenage drivers, try to:

    • Breathe in slowly through your nose
    • Allow your belly to expand as air rushes in
    • Exhale through your mouth

    Adding relaxing music can help create a great environment for mindful driving. Some people also find calming scents beneficial. Think about what brings you to a peaceful state and use that in your car.

    Time Management and Consideration

    Research shows that poor scheduling can increase stress. To decrease driving risk and anxiety, remove these concerns. Instead of trying to arrive on time, aim to arrive a little early. 

    By creating this buffer of extra time, you will reduce some stress while behind the wheel.

    Even if the traffic is worse than expected, you won’t feel stressed out. You don’t need to think about the problems that may happen from showing up late. You’ll remain focused on driving because you have time to spare.

    You can also avoid driving altogether when it is unnecessary. No matter how calm we are, driving involves some level of stress.

    If you have a bad commute filled with traffic-filled roads, consider taking a train or bus. For short trips, it may be better to keep your car parked and go for a walk. You’ll get some exercise and breathe fresh air instead of worrying about parking.

    Safety Measures

    Driving a vehicle is a serious action. You can’t depend on your car’s safety devices alone to protect you. Instead, use safety measures of your own to avoid extra risk.

    The NHTSA says that over 3,500 people lose their lives due to distracted driving, including phone use. One text message can take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. This is the same as driving the length of a football field with a blindfold on.

    Before putting the car in park, remove this distraction by switching your phone off. Give your full attention to the road.

    If you need to use it, pull over in a safe place. Your focus can shift from the road to your phone, while parked. Then when ready to put your phone down, shift back into drive and continue on your journey. There’s nothing on your phone that worth risking your life while driving.

    Drowsy driving is another dangerous situation. The CDC says that over 90,000 crashes involve a drowsy driver. Teen and young adult drivers are one of the highest risk categories.

    Developing good sleep habits is a necessary part of safe driving. Experts estimate that most teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. It’s also crucial to avoid driving while on medications that make you sleepy or impaired. And of course, driving while under the influence is a terrible idea.

    Positive Self-Talk for Emotional Regulation

    One of the best ways to regulate your emotions is the feedback loop within your mind. Negative thoughts can cause extra stress. Turn this around with positivity.

    Walden University lays out this method for using positive self-talk:

    • Define self-talk: An inner chatter that combines thoughts with other beliefs. It can increase confidence. Many humans are prone to harmful negative self-talk.
    • Reverse negative trends: Pay attention to your self-talk. Reverse negativity. Every small change in the right direction helps. 
    • Adjust perspective: Refer to yourself in the second or third person, such as you, he, or she. This can help to change your thoughts and treat yourself better. It can even reduce shame and stop you from thinking back on past mistakes too much.
    • Enjoy the benefits: Use positive self-talk to lower stress. It can cause a serious improvement in mental health. And it may allow you to handle stress better, such as while driving a car.

    It may seem small, but the way that you speak to yourself is crucial. Not only will it impact your anxiety while driving, it can change your health.

    It’s normal for new drivers to make mistakes and face stressful situations. When that happens, it’s important to avoid a negative reaction. Learning is important. Having too many concerns over a past event is not helpful.

    Instead, learning how to avoid repeating problems through positive self-talk. Saying things like, “I can brake earlier next time”, instead of, “I am a bad driver for slamming on the brakes so hard”.

    Seeking Professional Help

    Professionals can unlock ways to manage stress and anxiety caused by driving. Trained people can help you understand conditions and identify triggers. And they can provide you with ways to get over any problems.

    You can always start by talking about it with your primary care physician. But bringing in a specialist usually has the best results.

    There are programs dedicated to adolescent mood disorders, including anxiety-related ones. Finding local organizations or professionals is key to managing anxiety in teenagers. This allows them to gain the confidence needed to drive.

    For example, the Child and Adolescent Mood Program treats anxiety disorders. The Huntsman Mental Health Institute offers child and teen services. The programs and many others can help resolve anxiety caused by driving.


    Sometimes technology can provide many benefits. Tesla’s Autopilot is a big step forward that takes a lot of pressure off any driver. In the same way seatbelts and airbags add confidence, autopilot does the same. Its ability to assist in certain driving situations removes stress from your mind.

    Although the driver still needs to be alert, the car can take over and drive itself in many situations.

    These features use many sensors and cameras to see the road. This allows the vehicle to take over the controls and provide many helpful actions. These include everything from emergency braking to smart parking capabilities. 

    By incorporating these features, teenage drivers have fewer things to worry about. They’ll have more confidence behind the wheel and can avoid anxiety.

    Our Verdict

    In the early years of driving, teenagers may feel a high level of anxiety caused by driving. These stress management strategies can help overcome new challenges. They’ll provide the foundation for anxiety-free driving.

    You can also keep stress down by avoiding bad traffic and congested routes. Read more about how Tesla Premium Connectivity makes your day easier.

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