If you have bridge phobia (a.k.a. gephyrophobia), you suffer from a persistent fear of driving over bridges. Bridges are often the only passages across rivers and other waterways. Sometimes they’re the main traffic arteries of coastal cities. Fear of bridges can make your world feel smaller, imprisoning you within your neighbourhood or town.
Your bridge phobia may take different forms. Perhaps you’re afraid of the height of a particular bridge in your area. Or you may have problems with the openness, of not being able to see the other side. Maybe the fast moving traffic is hard for you. You may even fear you’ll panic, pass out, and drive off the edge of a bridge.
But you can learn to soothe your bridge phobia. Just use the tips below. It’s easier than you think!
Here are 9 tips to help you calm your fear of driving over bridges
Plan your route well in advance: This eliminates the unpleasant surprise of coming upon a bridge unexpectedly. Know where any bridges on your route are BEFORE you drive, and know when you’ll be coming up to one.
Have some “me” time before you go: Take time out for yourself before your journey. Spend it doing anything you find pleasurable and relaxing. You can listen to music, take a bath, have your favorite snack, a refreshing walk – anything that soothes and nourishes your soul. You’re about to do something hard. Give yourself something nice beforehand.
Visualize being successful: One of the ways athletes train for success is by visualizing the perfect pass, or shot, or golf swing before they take it.Studies have shown that imagining yourself accomplishing a task successfully greatly increases the likelihood you will be successful. See yourself crossing the bridge and getting safely to the other side. This will make it easier to actually do it.
Ask a friend to accompany you: Driving over bridges may be easier if you don’t do it alone. Ask someone you trust to come with you, or at least talk with you on speakerphone when you’re on a bridge. This helps keep your mind off your fear and on the present moment.
Pull over right before crossing: If possible, pull over before driving over bridges. Take a few deep breaths and once again visualize driving across successfully.Millions of people do it every day. You can too.
Focus on what’s right in front of you: While on the bridge, try narrowing your field of visual focus. Don’t look up or off to the sides. Keep your eyes right on the licence plate of the vehicle in front of you or fixed on a stationary object such as a street sign.
Note the halfway mark: Mentally divide the bridge up into at least 2 sections. Notice when you reach one of the section marks, especially the halfway point. It’s easier to tackle a bridge in portions instead of all at once. When you reach the halfway point, say out loud, “I’m at the halfway point.”
Put on your favorite music: Playing music while driving is very helpful. It helps distract your mind from fear. If possible, roll down your car windows to help you feel even more relaxed.
Congratulate yourself on the other side: Yeah, you did it! You crossed the bridge! Take note of your success and that you arrived safely and unharmed. Now would be another great time to give yourself something nice as a reward.
You CAN learn how to calm your fear of driving over bridges. It takes practice, but it’s very doable. Use the tips above every time you experience bridge phobia. It gets easier the more you do it. I promise!
We’ve all experienced being mindless, but what does it mean to be mindful? Mindfulness simply means you’re paying attention to the present moment. The Now. Chronic anxiety is always about what might happen. Anxiety is about the possible future, not the actual present.
Mindfulness exercises bring you back to the here and now. They click you out of your mind and into the present moment. This is the flow of your immediate physical experience.
Use one of these easy mindfulness exercises twice a day for 30 seconds. Up the frequency and/or duration as your tolerance for the present moment increases.
How do you feel? Notice how you feel, then name the emotion out loud. “I’m feeling _____.”
Sound check. Notice the noise level of your present environment. Is it low or high? Why is it quiet or loud where you are? “It’s very loud because I’m in a nightclub.”
What’s it look like? Describe the shape and color of whatever’s in front of you. Say the name of what you’re looking at: “That’s a chair.” Then give a description: “That chair is tall and dark red.” Actually do this out loud.
Focus on them. Notice someone else’s breathing then notice your own. This is great if you need anxiety attack relief when you’re around other people. Just notice how they’re breathing, then notice your own breathing. This works great for phone anxiety too.
Crack a smile. Put a half-smile on your face, even if you don’t feel like it. Turn up the corners of your mouth anyway. Notice how smiling makes you feel. Do you feel afraid or angry? Does smiling make you happy? Is it easy to smile or does it take conscious effort? Do you feel stupid? Smile like this for 30 seconds and notice your emotions.
A mindfulness practice does not have to take a lot of time. It’s really just checking in with yourself regularly. The exercises above can be used to do that anytime and in any situation. It’s amazing what sixty seconds a day of present moment living can do to help your anxiety.
Distorted thinking. We all suffer from it to varying degrees. It’s part of human nature. As creative, thinking animals, it’s inevitable that sometimes our perceptions of reality will not match actual reality.
Having distorted thoughts is not really the issue though. What matters is how how we react to them when they occur. Accepting distorted thoughts as reality often causes undue suffering to the person having them.
One of the most common forms of distorted thinking is when we accept our thoughts as facts. This means that we mistake what’s going on in our heads as objective reality. This tends to be particularly true of people with anxiety disorders, because when we’re anxious, we are more likely to mistake our fear-based thoughts as facts. But they’re not.
Let’s say that highway driving makes you very nervous. It’s a common problem for people with driving anxiety. As a result, you might think something like, “If I drive on the highway, I will have an accident. It’s much safer if I avoid highways.”
While it’s true that highway driving does carry some risk, it’s also true that millions of people do it everyday without incident. The thought, “I WILL have an accident if I drive on the highway” is simply not a factual statement. It’s an example of how we take thoughts, particularly fear-based ones, and react towards them as if they are real.
Do this long enough and you may stop driving on highways altogether, in which case you’ve gone from having driving anxiety to full-fledged driving phobia. That’s why it’s important that we learn how to challenge this type of thought distortion.
While it’s true that we all have distorted thinking in some ways, we can train ourselves to stop accepting anxious thoughts as facts. Just because we believe some of our thoughts are true doesn’t make them real. Our thoughts are nothing more than what they are: just thoughts.