While learning to drive can be a fun and rewarding experience, it's not all rainbows and puppies. When the day of your practical test rolls around, the nerves are probably going to kick in. Be they mild, moderate, or severe (oh honey!), there are things you can do to relax before THE MOST IMPORTANT DRIVE OF YOUR LIFE. Just kidding! It's really not that big of a deal. And, regardless, thinking of it like that will not help you to feel any better.
As one of the leading providers of intensive driving courses in the UK [pause for hair flick], PassMeFast has learnt a thing or two about overcoming test day nerves. We also know that sharing is caring, so we've compiled a list of our top 10 tips to help you relax before your driving test.
Read them, try them and feel your nerves melt away. Shalom.
Food glorious fooood! We don't know about you, but one of the first things we address when thinking about any kind of vaguely stressful situation is where the food and drink comes into play. In terms of the driving test, it's certainly important that you're fed and watered before you set off.
You might even want to consider taking a small snack and bottle of water with you to the test centre. That way, you can ensure that you have energy for the test and your blood sugar won't take a dip at an unfortunate moment. Don't just grab whatever's available, though. You see, certain food and drink can actually make your nerves worse. The big one to avoid is caffeine. Sorry, coffee lovers, but this stuff will just make you jittery and possibly upset your stomach. Instead, we suggest reaching for some squash or plain old water.
As for food? Slow releasing energy and relatively low sugar is what you're aiming for. We're talking wholemeal toast, bananas, nuts… etc.
Put a little bit of thought into what you're going to wear on the big day. It's not about dressing to impress, but rather, finding what you feel comfortable and relaxed in.
Now, we're not saying you should show up to the test centre in your PJs, but do avoid wearing anything too restrictive or inappropriate for driving. Those skinny jeans may make you feel a million bucks, but when you're trying to pull off the perfect parallel park and your waistband is digging into your stomach, they'll lose their appeal.
As far as we're concerned, elasticated waist bands are up there with sliced bread—inventions that have truly enriched our lives. Selecting the right footwear is also very important. Pick comfortable, suitable shoes that you have worn before when driving. The day of your test is not the time to break in a new purchase or experiment with something different, so keep a lid on that inner fashionista. And don't even think about wearing flip flops!
One of the best ways to overcome negative thoughts is to combat them with some positive ones. That can often be easier said than done, but with driving, there are some obvious facts that should make you feel better. If test day has arrived it means you have lots of driving experience under your belt. All those hours spent behind the wheel have paid off. Think about how little you knew about driving when you started, and where you are now—that's progress that you just can't ignore!
Plus, if you're taking the practical test, it means you've already completed the theory test. You probably had to deal with some nerves before taking that and you managed to persevere and pass anyway. Now it's simply time for round 2!
Continuing our detour into hippy-dippy territory, you might find that positive words are even more effective than positive thoughts. Try out a few mantras, either under your breath or in front of the mirror. If you feel a bit silly, it's fine to laugh at yourself, too! Laughing is a great way to release some nervous energy, making this scenario a win-win.
Not sure what exactly to say to yourself? Try something like, 'You got this!', or 'I can do this'. Say it with conviction, repeat a few times and get ready to slay the day.
For obvious reasons, you should be very careful about any kind of substances you consume before sitting the driving test. That being said, some people find it useful to use essential oils or natural products like Rescue Remedy (other brands are available) to reduce nerves. Adding a few drops of lavender oil, for example, to your wrist or clothes can encourage deep breaths and help you to calm down.
Don't go for anything too whackadoodle—certain herbs can actually have mind-altering effects that would make it very dangerous for you to be in control of a vehicle. Stick to remedies you know and always read the label first.
One of the best ways to lift your mood and silence those stress-inducing thoughts is to listen to some of your favourite music. Before you set off for the test, take 20 minutes or so to enjoy some upbeat, motivational songs. Sing along, have a bit of a boogie and you'll find it's very hard not to smile.
Didn't factor enough time into your day to take a music break? Listen while you complete other tasks, like brushing your teeth or getting dressed. Seriously, a great soundtrack can prepare you for anything—so turn up that volume!
OK, as a self-confessed worrier, I'll be frank: the worst that can happen on the driving test is that you could cause a huge car accident in which many innocent people die. As a person who also lives in the real world, though, I can tell you that this will not happen. Think about it—even if you make a dangerous mistake, the examiner will be ready to take over and put things right. A much more realistic worst case scenario is that you will fail the test.
Then what? You dust yourself off and try again. That's it! No death, no humiliation, no court proceedings. Failing the test is not the end of the world—far from it. Should it happen, you definitely won't be the first or last person to do so and, anyway, you get to have many more attempts. So, when you consider all of that, there's nothing much to worry about anyway!
You might notice that when you feel nervous, your breath gets short and shallow. This is no good when you're trying to achieve a relaxed state. Thankfully, you have the ability to control your own breathing, which will encourage your entire system to ease up. When your nerves start to creep in, take a big inhale, hold for a couple of seconds, and exhale for at least 3 seconds.
If possible, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat this a good few times and you should feel a difference almost immediately. The great thing about breathing exercises is that you don't need any equipment and you can do them anywhere! Try this method at home, on the way to your test and even at the test centre itself.
While there are plenty of things you can do on your own to relax (heads out of the gutter people!), don't be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. In fact, having a supportive chat with a loved one can do wonders for calming your nerves. Depending on your living situation, you could talk to a family member, roommate or give a friend a call. A few kind words from someone you trust can make all the difference.
If it helps, talk your nerves through with your instructor too. Experienced ADIs are used to dealing with nervous learners and will no doubt have plenty of useful advice. Plus, if they're taking you to your test, they obviously believe in your driving abilities! As we're on the subject of other people, a lot of learners find that test day is a lot less stressful if they keep their test date under wraps. You might want to consider leaving most of your nearest and dearest in the dark until you've passed—it should lessen the pressure you feel on the big day itself.
Once the build up is over and it's time for the main event, some people find that their nerves reach a crescendo. Hopefully this won't be the case, as we've already provided you with numerous tips that can keep the nerves at bay.
If you do find yourself shaking in your boots, the good news is that this feeling shouldn't last very long. As soon as you're behind the wheel, try to focus on the driving, rather than the examiner sitting next to you. Again, this is easier said than done, but you'd be amazed what you can achieve when you put your mind to it.
A great way to help yourself relax during the test itself is to treat it like any other drive. Obviously it needs to be a careful, smooth(ish) drive, but it doesn't have to differ that much from those you take with your instructor. You've already mastered the skills, it's just time to put them into practice. And, if the nerves start creeping back in, take a deep breath and carry on.
With these 10 tips in your arsenal, you should be able to transform from a ball of nerves to a totem of tranquility. Don't worry about trying to implement all of them. Treat this like a pick'n'mix of tips. Select the ones that suit you and tailor them to your needs.
Then all that's left to do is show off your driving skills, and as far as we're concerned, you got this!