Psychological Effects of a Long Drive

Driving can be therapeutic for a number of reasons. For one, it can be a relaxing “me-time” to drive down the streets alone, especially on a rather stressful day. A change in scenery can also separate you from the stress and anxiety you’ve been dealing with. All in all, you become mindful of your situation and can see it from a clearer perspective. 

However, a long drive can also cause negative effects on your body, especially if the long hours behind the wheel isn’t a one-time thing. A research study recently concluded that longer driving time can lead to lifestyle risk factors such as increased use of vices, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. 

Aside from its physical manifestations, a long drive can also cause psychological and emotional disturbances that may be difficult to deal with. Some of these include depression, anger management issues, and high psychological distress. 


Longer Driving Time

As a driver, it’s very important to remain concentrated and focused on the road in order to prevent accidents from happening. Usually, no problems are encountered when driving a few miles for an hour. But when it takes more than 3 hours combined with traffic and stressful interactions with other drivers, it can really take a toll on the person behind the wheel. 

Longer driving time means less time for other health-related activities. This includes sleeping. Sleep deprivation not only affects your level of focus but also has negative effects on your mental health. Sleep is important because it helps alleviate feelings of tension, irritability, and fatigue. That being said, lack of sleep can inadvertently cause disruptions in a driver’s thinking capacity and emotional regulation. Not only will the driver have difficulty in focusing on the road, but he may also experience psychological distress.

Stressful Occurrences

Anyone that has experienced either public or private transportation knows that stressful events can happen anywhere, any time, and to anyone. Be it car crashes, traffic, or other unreasonable drivers, it’s safe to say that driving can definitely test your patience. 

If continuously subjected to this stressful and anxiety-inducing environment, paired with long hours behind the wheel, a driver is susceptible to developing anger management issues. Not to mention, the driver may also start smoking as a means of coping mechanism. Traffic can also be a reason for smoking, since they may have “time to kill” as they wait for the right time to step on the accelerator. The driver may incessantly feel physiological or sensory cues that prompt them to feel the sudden urge to smoke when inside their cars. Of course, smoking will then cause subsequent adverse side effects on the body.

Limited Social Interaction

Due to the longer driving time combined with stressful events, more effort is needed to stay focused on the road to avoid any accidents from happening. If the driver has passengers with him, there’s a high chance that tension may be evident in the air. Since the driver feels stressed and irritated, he may project his negative feelings towards his companion that may limit interaction that can otherwise diffuse the situation. This is also true if the driver is alone in the car.

What Should I Do?

Given the negative psychological effects of a long drive stated above, what should you do in order to prevent depression, anxiety, and psychological distress?

A good habit to reduce these negative feelings is to have someone to switch with while on the road. Perhaps a friend or family member can switch with you every few hours or so. This can help refresh your mind as it can give you the chance to eat, stretch a bit, sleep, and even talk with other people in the car. In doing so, you won’t feel too stressed and fatigue won’t kick in too quickly. If the drive is too long, it would also be a good idea to have planned stop-overs for eating and resting. It’s also important to note that if either one of you feels drowsy, it would be better to pull over and find a quick place to rest up before driving down the streets again. 

This may seem simple and far too easy, but these tips can go a long way. Instead of feeling burdened by a long drive, return the therapeutic feeling of a change in scenery back in your life. 

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