Don’t panic: you don’t forget how to drive even after a long break!

got your driver’s license at 18, cruised around with daddy’s car and then no car available during your studies – that’s how it is for many students. While some simply get back behind the wheel after a long break from driving, others have bigger problems with it. UNICUM gives tips for returning drivers.

sweat and co.where the fear comes from

Whether one has real panic before the first car journey after longer time or only a slightly queasy feeling, is surely a type question. "In the end, it is the fantasies that we make, because the psyche produces the feelings that match them. When I get into thoughts like ‘oh god, i hope nothing happens to me’, the excitement has to increase, then i can’t stay neutral", explains graduate psychologist holger walther.

However, according to him, a little excitement is certainly allowed. Real fear is defined as soon as physical symptoms accompany it: sweating, hectic breathing, feeling the pulse on the neck. and also, if you keep putting off driving: "at the moment when it takes me a lot longer without a car and i can’t really explain it with environmental awareness, then i’ve probably thought of a strategy to get around the whole thing", says the psychotherapist.

Breathing and PME: two popular relaxation techniques

If you are sitting in a car and notice the physical symptoms of anxiety, you cannot and should not simply drive off. The expert recommends in this case relaxation exercises, which may not take away the fear completely, but can certainly calm it down. the following two (and three other) techniques are described in detail by holger walther in his guide "ohne angst am steuer" (without fear at the wheel) (UVK verlag) in detail before.

  • Breath-counting exercise: inhale and exhale consciously, counting the breaths to a pre-determined number in your mind. two to three minutes already provide for a clear relaxation. That’s about 40 breaths, and they should get longer and longer towards the back.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation (PME): one concentrates on different muscle groups one after the other, whereby the exercise always consists of the three phases attention, tension and release. For example, you tense your calves by pressing your toes towards the ground, your forearms and fingers by clenching your hands into fists.

Tips for a pleasant first drive

whether you are affected by real fear or not, from a psychological point of view you should play it safe on your first drive, recommends holger walther: "you have to be able to store it away, so to speak: ‘oh, that went off quite well! Let’s do it again tomorrow.’ a negative experience, on the other hand, quickly creates a blockade." he therefore advises you to choose the situation yourself:

  • The car: don’t set off with a huge battle grind right away, but rather with something smaller.
  • The passengers: if you want to have someone nice on the passenger seat or if you prefer to do it alone, you should decide for yourself.
  • Time and place: better not to drive at rush hour and avoid the highway for now. Especially in big cities, it makes sense to test ride your future commute, maybe on the weekend.

Dry runs in the car

Professional athletes are used to mental training and are good at simply playing things out in their heads. This is much more difficult for the layman. Therefore, according to holger walther, it makes sense to first "dry" the driving to practice: sit in the car, turn everything on once, look where the switches are. Or just use the clutch and shift gears, which also works when the engine is not running.

If you don’t know something anymore, you can look it up in the manual. Reading this in advance is less productive: "the sheer flood of information tends to confuse you!" by the way, the same applies to theory knowledge: "instead of diving into it all over again, it is better to just brush up on what has changed in the meantime in terms of traffic regulations. if you are honest, you don’t need most of it – like braking distance calculations – in practice anyway."

When driving lessons make sense

"If I am completely insecure and no longer actively participate in traffic – for example, as a bicyclist or regular passenger, two or three driving lessons make perfect sense", recommends holger walther. Driving schools would know about this and even offer it, with your own vehicle to drive. If you have a driver’s license, it doesn’t have to be a special driving school car with pedals anymore.

And now the best news at the end: "you don’t forget how to drive so quickly", says the psychology graduate, comparing it to skiing: "you haven’t been on the slopes all year, but if you just do it again, the routine comes naturally. Our brains are sharp."

Our expert

Holger Walther

Graduate psychologist holger walther works as a psychotherapist in his own practice and also offers psychological counseling at the humboldt university of berlin.

According to his guidebook "studying without exam nerves (utb) in october 2016 he published the book "without fear at the wheel" (UVK) published.

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