Rule of three

DIA Insurance ADI News

Identifying whether a student’s nerves are created by either fear of the unknown, a gap in their driving skills ability or by their past experience will help you recommend the most suitable stress management technique.

Starting with a fear of the unknown, this might be before a first lesson or learning something new. Look out for questions beginning with ”What if…..?” and those that involve scenario making. This suggests students are focusing on the future and what might happen instead of concentrating on what is happening. Keeping the student focused on the present and making the unknown known can help. 

Strategies could include preparing and planning with the use of diagrams, apps, and the variety of driving lesson aids available. 

Mindfulness is a useful technique for interrupting future worrying and thinking. Bring students back to the present moment by asking them to do a quick check-in practice (while stationary) to what they can see, hear, smell, and feel. 

You could also encourage students to use imagery by mentally rehearsing what they will be learning in advance as part of their lesson preparation. 

As human beings we experience stress when we need or want to do something important to us but feel that we do not have the ability to do it. Luckily ADIs are trained to help people fill any gaps in driving ability, which in turn helps reduce stress levels and nerves. 

In addition to everything you are already doing in your lessons, asking students coaching questions will help them engage more in lessons, create their own driving goals and have a plan in place to improve their driving ability. You can download a free copy of our driving test coaching wheel on our website to help you with this. 

Other strategies include positive self-talk, ensuring that what you say and what your students say to themselves is supportive rather than critical. Encourage students to use imagery to replay and remember what went well in lessons to consolidate the positive and build confidence.

We all have a vast database of information about everything we know stored in our brain. This information might come from our own or others’ past experiences as well as by what we read, see and hear. These are called schemas. 

Sometimes our schemas are incorrect, outdated or no longer useful, and this can often be the case with learners who experience stress, nerves or anxiety. They may have negative schemas about driving, learning new things, about themselves and their ability or have experienced past trauma. If negative schemas are not challenged, updated or retrained, they stay with us. 

Coaching, hypnotherapy, imagery, mindfulness and positive self-talk can all be used to identify, challenge and update unhelpful and incorrect information stored in our mental database. 

However, self-study options are not always enough, and a referral to an expert may sometimes be advisable. Learners who have experienced trauma or difficult life experiences can seek advice from their GP for a referral to counselling, CBT therapist or therapist trained in PTSD treatments.

To help identify which of the areas your student’s nerves might be coming from, it may help to ask them: 

When do you experience feelings of stress, nerves and anxiety?

If it is not clear from their answer, clarify if they experience the feelings:

at other times in their life,

only to do with driving, 

only specific elements of driving?

If your student experiences similar feelings in other areas of their life, be aware this may be due to current and previous life experiences affecting personal confidence (rather than only driving). Developing their driving confidence may be slow progress; however, learning to drive could be the first area of their life where they build self-confidence skills. Ask them what habits or strategies they have found useful previously and consider whether you can employ these in lessons. 

If your student’s nerves are driving specific, ask when did they first experience negative feelings about driving to gain further insight about if they are related to a fear of the unknown, a skills gap or past experience.

If your student’s nerves are due to a specific element of driving, i.e. roundabouts then great, you’ve identified a skills gap, break it down into smaller parts. You know how to help them with this! 

For further information about helping students prepare for their driving test go to

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Source: ADI News

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