How do you calm those nerves before your practical or theory test? Here are six ways which you can beat those anxious feelings and ace the test.
It is your natural reaction
First, it’s not abnormal or unusual for people to feel nervous. It’s our body’s way of preparing to deal with a situation that it is not comfortable with. In fact, when your body does this, it is working perfectly well. You need it because there will be times after you’ve passed your test when you have to react quickly because of yours or someone else’s action on the road and your entire nervous system will spring into action, your body will be flooded with chemicals (like adrenalin), and this is what gives you the tools to respond to the situation.
What can cause negative reactions is where you worry about this happening and cause yourself anxiety. Anxiety is not the first response, ever! Anxiety is what you develop by overthinking what can happen, and your reaction to the situation.
Therefore embrace the fact that your body might react in this way as it feels it need to in preparing you to deliver the best performance it can.
Affirmations and self-talk
No sprinters ever got to the finals of the Olympics by telling themselves they were slow. Your brain is the primary driver behind your performance, so feed it good messages. You can start early in the process of practicing for your theory test by using mantras such as ‘I have perfect memory and perfect recall’, and a few weeks before your practical test begin telling yourself ‘I am calm, collected and always do and say the right thing.’
Affirmations must always be positive because you are programming your subconscious mind and it doesn’t differentiate between positive and negative. You can learn more from my Amazon best-selling book on affirmations which you can download for less than the price of a couple of chocolate bars.
If you get a little tense while driving you might find you are holding your breath. In this case you need to undo the association of tenseness in the car and start training your body to breathe naturally. You will need the help of a friend who can drive with you. Find a place you can drive without too many distractions (i.e. better to do this on a free-flowing road rather than in the city) and have your passenger say ‘breathe in, breathe out’ and repeat it in time with normal breathing while you are driving. Breathe into your stomach using your diaphragm.
You will need to do this a while because breathing is a very subconscious act and it’s slightly more difficult to get beneath the tension that is causing you to hold your breath, or breathe in a shallow way.
This video covers off a quick 10-second technique for using breathing to alleviate anxiety. Continue reading the article below the video.
Simulate the environment
Simulate the test conditions as closely as you can before you take it. The closer you can practice to the actual test conditions the more comfortable you will feel in the test. For example, you won’t be listening to music in your theory or practical test, so if you listen to music in studying or everyday driving your brain will associate music with the actions it needs to perform. If the music is removed, it can cause your brain to work harder as the environment has changed.
For the same reason, you should practice as much as possible in the car that you will actually take your test in as you will be more familiar with every operation you have to perform in it, and you should use this website to practice your theory test because that test is computerised.
Natural relaxation remedies
There are natural relaxation remedies that are designed to help you relax without feeling drowsy. It’s very important that you don’t feel drowsy, and particularly important that you haven’t used drugs or alcohol. Talk to a naturopath or your doctor about which ones will be best for you.
Practice, practice, practice
The more practice you have, the more comfortable you will feel in the car. It’s said that you need 10,000 hours to become a master at something. This is rubbish – I have spent more than 10,000 hours playing the piano and I’m still not particularly brilliant. However, with driving, you will get better the more practice you have. Your personal abilities and skills will dictate how long you need to spend behind the wheel to become proficient enough to have a licence. For your theory test, practice the questions as much as you like for free for car, motorcycle, bus or lorry on Right Driver.
Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.