The calmer you feel when you get behind the wheel, the easier it will be to manage your fear of driving.
Obviously, it’s not a good idea to eat a sugary snack or drink a large cup of coffee before driving if driving makes you nervous.
Caffeine is a stimulant and refined sugars will send your blood sugar soaring and then crashing down.
Consider also that you should not eat foods that may be difficult to digest just before you are going to drive if your anxiety about driving tends to give you stomach trouble.
You Are What You Eat
So what should you eat or drink?
There are actually a number of foods that have a calming effect on the nervous system.
Some components of foods that are known for their calming effects are complex carbohydrates, the minerals potassium and magnesium, and vitamin B6.
Keep Your Blood Sugar Levels Steady
Carbohydrates keep blood sugar levels up, but unlike simple sugars, complex carbohydrates maintain a steady blood sugar level for a longer period of time.
In contrast, simple sugars (sweets, sugary drinks and products made with white flour) raise blood sugar sharply only to have it crash shortly after.
That’s why simple carbohydrates will give you a jittery feeling while complex carbohydrates will keep you feeling calm.
Complex carbohydrates are found mainly in whole grains and vegetables. If you have stomach issues, you will probably want to cook vegetables before you eat them.
Vitamins and Minerals That Keep You Calm
Potassium and magnesium are minerals that relax muscles. They counteract the effects of calcium and sodium, which cause muscle to contract.
When your muscles are relaxed, your body and mind will be more relaxed as well, and you will feel less anxious.
Potassium is found in grains and cereals as well as potatoes and certain fruits. Magnesium is found in leafy greens, nuts, beans and whole grains.
Your body uses vitamin B6 to make serotonin, an important chemical in your brain that regulates your mood. People with more serotonin tend to be less anxious.
For this reason, people who suffer from anxiety sometimes find vitamin B6 supplements to helpful. You can also get vitamin B6 from foods, including wheat germ, seeds, leafy green vegetables, egg yolks, beans, meat and fish.
If you need more help deciding what to eat before you drive, read on.
There are some suggestions below that include good sources of potassium, magnesium, B6 and complex carbohydrates, as well calming herbal teas and some foods that can help the digestive system.
Bananas are an excellent source of potassium and they also contain vitamin B6.
Spinach is a complex carbohydrate, and it is also a good source of magnesium.
Nuts are another excellent source of magnesium. The nuts that are highest in magnesium are almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews and pine nuts.
If you like fish, choose halibut or tuna, which are both good sources of magnesium as well.
Brown rice, whole grain breads and whole grain cereals are good choices because they are primarily complex carbohydrates.
Be sure that cereals do not have added sugar though. You can check the label to see how much of the overall carbohydrate count comes from simple sugars. If it’s more than 4 or 5 grams, you might want to avoid that product.
Herbs and Digestive Aids
There are several herbs that can be used to make calming teas.
Chamomile tea is widely used for its calming properties. You can also make relaxing teas from passion flower, jasmine or valerian.
You can also look for blends of herbs that are combined to create calming or “stress relief” teas.
Plain yogurt is another good thing to eat before you are going to drive. It contains “good” bacteria for the digestive tract as well as the amino acid tryptophan, which has relaxing properties.
Avoid yogurts with added sugar. If you want to flavor plain yogurt, try adding unsweetened applesauce and cinnamon or a mashed banana.
Other foods that have can help the digestive system are papaya, ginger and peppermint. Ginger and peppermint can be used as ingredients in cooking or to make tea.
As you experiment with these foods and others, you will find the ones that are the most calming for you as well as the ones that upset your stomach or cause you to feel anxious.
Be sure that you regularly stock your pantry or refrigerator with calming foods so that you will have something to eat whenever you do need to get behind the wheel.
The more you can do to calm your body, the easier it will be to work on the mental and emotional issues that surround your fear of driving.