Two nights ago, I was binge watching a new series when I got a phone call. It was my dad. Quietly he said, “Your mom and I are at the hospital. We were in an accident, but we are OK.”
My heart dropped. Luckily they were alright even though their car flipped. They were T-boned while driving 55mph by a young driver who didn’t stop in the median. The car is totaled.
Over the last couple of days, I found myself having to research car insurance and a host of other things.
One of my biggest concerns was how they would be confident to drive again after such a serious car accident. I did some research and this is what I found out.
So how do you regain confidence after a car accident? The best way to regain confidence after a car accident is to start small and work your way up to the same level of driving you are used to. Gradually increase your driving. If you are dealing with psychological issues as a result of
It is normal to be apprehensive about getting behind the wheel again, it is important to share your experience with others.
Fear is a survival mechanism. It is designed to keep you safe, but sometimes the fear that designed innately to keep us safe can be so debilitating that it prevents you from taking the appropriate actions.
Here are some solid steps you can take to recover after a mishap behind the wheel.
How to feel better after a car accident
First, you need to discover what you made it mean about yourself, your life and your driving habits.
For instance, if the accident is your fault, you may blame yourself and question your abilities as a safe driver. If the accident wasn’t your fault, you may feel unsafe.
You may feel like you have lost control of your life and experiencing such a traumatic accident may have you looking over your shoulder wondering if you might be hurt again.
The inability to control your environment can really take a whack at your self-esteem and the ease at which you do life.
The best way to discover this that I have found is to sit down in a quiet place and take out a sheet of paper.
Give yourself 3 minutes on a clock or timer and simply be with the accident. Begin to jot down everything that comes to mind.
I did this recently. I felt like my relationship wasn’t going the way I wanted so I sat down and wrote, “I’m sad. I feel like I’m always left having to choose. I don’t feel free to love the way I want…
It was liberating. You have to let the emotions out. Chances are when you do, you will (like I did) start feeling better and more connected to how you are feeling.
The reason I like to give myself and just write, write, write is that I know that if I do that, I won’t deliberate and spend half the day writing a book about something I most likely will never read.
It’s really about letting the emotions out. You’d be surprised what it does to us all when we keep how we are feeling a secret.
Second, you need to begin small when it comes to getting back behind the wheel. Depending on how deeply the accident has affected you, you may want to schedule a short drive (down a dirt road) or somewhere close where you know that the demand isn’t taxing.
Run to the store to pick up milk or to a local coffee spot to grab that irresistible brew of you choosing. The point is: it’s important to be OK with a short jaunt at first. Then you can build up.
The important part is not to judge yourself for how the accident has impacted your life. Chances are what you are experiencing is completely normal.
One of the most common things for people to do is to avoid the crash site. Don’t avoid it. It’s important to go back to it. It’s important to get closure with the place where you experienced a life changing accident.
Give yourself a lot of space emotionally to deal with this.
It’s Ok. I’d work on trying to let yourself experience gratitude that you are still alive and that you have been given a second chance at life. When you consider all of the what if’s of the accident, you may find that you have a real opportunity at life.
Next, if you are still finding yourself reeling from the accident, look for an opportunity to learn more defensive driving skills. Most of us overestimate how good of a driver we really are.
It’s OK to realize that there is an area for improvement. You’d be surprised that though you might consider it silly to get a lesson on driving after you may have been driving for decades there are important things that you can learn.
If you have ever ridden with a professional driver, you’ll notice that their relationship to a vehicle is different than ours. They seem to wear the car.
Finally, if you still can’t quite shake the feeling that your car accident has gotten a hold of you emotionally, I recommend you consider counseling.
You can talk to a professional counselor about how to work through your trauma. A licensed mental health therapist is trained to help you navigate the dark times and dark emotions that can come with this type of difficulty.
You may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Although you may think that this type of situation is reserved for soldiers coming back from war and individuals who have deep scars of trauma from their past to resolve, it can impact ordinary people who have found themselves involved in situations with extraordinary amplitude and discomfort.
If you want to take a whack at the problem before seeing a counselor, you can also try the following to help resolve the PTSD. These are things that counselors are trained to help you with.
Anxiety Attacks After a Car Accident
You may experience shaking or depression after a car accident. What can you do about it?
Here they are:
- Mindfulness Meditation (relaxation techniques)
- Physical Activity (running, sports)
- Art Therapy (Ted talks – watch Melissa Walker’s Healing Invisible
- Pets for PTSD
It’s important to learn to relax. The best way that meditation has been described to me is the ability to go deep. I know that might sound strange, but if you consider a submarine, it goes deep below the surface of the waters above. Once it dives deeper, it isn’t influenced by what is going on the surface. Learn to go deep into relaxation, recognizing that something that has happened in the past isn’t happening now.
Learn breathing techniques that promote better oxygenation and a healthy mindset. Our body is a machine and just like an engine without the proper fuel begins to sputter and not run efficiently when deprived, so is your mind. Make sure that you are breathing well.
I like to pay attention to myself at work or in an activity. Often times, I find myself holding my breath. When I discover that I’m holding my breath. I stop and take a deep breath and consider all of the things that bring me joy and a sense of gratitude.
Physical Activity: Physical Activity
I recently began taking my training seriously. I joined a CrossFit gym. I’m not saying that is right for you especially if you are still recovering from injuries, but I will say that finding a way to spend at least half an hour engaged in a physically demanding activity is super helpful in recovering a healthy mindset.
If you are looking for a zen-like experience, here is how I’d recommend involving aromatherapy in your trauma recovery. I would recommend keeping a bottle of an aromathepeutic oil that you like with you. When you find yourself in a relaxed state or having fun, take out the bottle of oil and smell it. The goal here is to get you to connect good feelings with the aroma you have chosen.
I personally like a smell that reminds me of progress I’ve made at work or in an area in life I enjoy. I keep some peppermint recovery gel in the center console of my car. It reminds me of the physical activities and massages I’ve gotten, so any time I smell it, it brings a smile to my face.
Art Therapy: Art Therapy
This was a bit new to me, but I get how it works. The reality is that whatever you complain about, whatever your automatic response is to a situation reveals (or gives us a clue) about what is going on for you.
For instance, my husband told me that he was recently hit on by a famous athlete. I noticed my automatic response was a feeling of jealousy. In this case, the clue is that I care deeply for my husband and our marriage’s well being as well as a not so good feeling about my athletic behavior. This says a lot about what I’m dealing with and what is true for me or bubbling just beneath the surface of my conscious mind.
It’s important to accept what comes up. It really says nothing about you other than indicating what you might be wrestling with. Art therapy has given patients the ability to express things that are simply difficult to put into words. Let it be what it will be and I think you will be amazed at what you uncover and what you can deal with once it’s “out there.”
Pets for PTSD: Pets for PTSD
Great idea. Get a pet that is suitable for you. I remember speaking with a gentleman who had 10 dogs. He told me that there was so much love in his household. My husband and I were so inspired by the man’s enthusiasm, we bought a dog. He has become such a critical element to our home that we don’t know what we would do without him.
Our pets bring us joy and get us to focus on the lighter side of life. Recovery is about making sure that you can let go of the significance of your accident and begin moving to new memories and experiences.
What can I do about nightmares after a car accident?
It is normal to experience nightmares after experiencing a car accident. My mom had them. She dreamed that she needed to slam on her brakes and woke up sitting fully upright in bed. Although this is disturbing it will subside over time. I recommend that you consider counseling and following the steps listed above to begin to cope with these types of nightmares. Clearly, the accident has created an emotional impact on your subconscious mind. It’s time to take action. Write it out and begin looking at ways to deal with the post-trauma stress you are dealing with.
What if you don’t want to drive after a car accident?
I recommend that you enlist the help of friend or family member that cares about you. Don’t keep this to yourself. It is perfectly normal.
Tell your friend that you’d like them to ride along with you until you are comfortable again. While certainly if you have access to public transportation, you can choose this alternative for a while, but eventually you will want to get behind the wheel again.
Even if it is your own peace of mind after adequate time, force yourself to take action.