Honestly, dating stresses me out. No matter how cool or confident I try to play it off on the outside, on the inside (and to those who know me best) I’m an anxious mess. But how can you not be? There’s so many things to think about when it comes to dating that it’s just hard not to worry. “The number one thing that seems to cause dating anxiety the most is the pressure of meeting expectations, whether it's theirs or their dates’,” Certified Matchmaker Marissa Ventura tells Bustle. “People think way too much into first dates as if it were a trip down the aisle!”
Here’s a list of anxiety-causing thoughts that tend to race though a lot of our minds during those first dates, according to Ventura:
Will they be attracted to me? Will I be attracted to them?What do I talk about?This has to work out, I'm at the age where I need to settle down and have kids.What happens if it doesn't work out? I'll never meet someone.What if I get so nervous and clam up? They'll never want to go out again.Is it too soon to ask if they wants kids and marriage?I hope that my parents would like them. My mom is begging for grandkids.Did I plan a good first date?Do I kiss? Make a move?The end of the night is always so awkward, how should I end it?
Seems somewhat familiar? In order to help ease anxiety it’s all about simplifying the process. “I tell all of my clients that a first date is not a trip down the aisle.” Ventura says. “It is simply one human being, getting to know another human being and figuring out if there is a connection or not. That's all.”
While dating should be fun, it can be a stressful process. So here's how you can get over dating anxiety:
1. Take A Deep Breath
“Deep breathing is a favorite among therapists (myself included) because it works!” mental health therapist, Mallory Grimste, LCSW tells Bustle. “It is the one physiological change that happens when we experience distress that we have control over.”
Our bodies still respond the same way they did when we were trying to survive as “cave-people": our pupils get wider so we can see more peripherally and our digestion slows down so we have more energy to out-run our "predators," says Grimste. So, when we slow down our breathing, we actually activate the calming system. Because of that, we're able to think and respond more clearly and rationally than if we were in a distressed state where we would need to react impulsively to survive.
2. Focus On All The Awesome Things That Make You A Great Date
“Everyone has something great about them — whether they are kind, funny, friendly, knowledgable about space, a huge animal-lover, and the list goes on and on,” Grimste says. So there’s really no reason to dwell on the things that you may not be so proud of.
In addition to that, it’s important to also focus on the positive aspects that can come from that particular dating experience. “If you both get along, this could be the start of a great relationship. If you don't, that's one less frog you have to kiss before you find your match,” Grimste says. If it's truly awful or awkward, that's a great story you can share on your next dating experience.”
3. Create Positive Experiences To Build On
If you can, try and remember a good dating experience and think about that as you try to move forward. If you don’t have a good or positive experience to build on, go in with no expectations.
“The biggest thing that I see causing dating anxiety in clients is expectation — expecting that someone will be like an ex, that great one that got away or in the alternative, that the new person that your are meeting will be like that one that you were glad to get away from,” Jeanie Winstrom, Couples Expert at Talkspace tells Bustle. “Look at the entire dating experience as a way to meet new people. Try to relax and enjoy the process and smile and have fun. When we feel that pressure to connect, anxiety is the unpleasant result.”
4. Be Present
“It is far less likely for a person to have anxiety when they are present," Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman, psychologist, dating expert and author of Dating from the Inside Out tells Bustle. Oftentimes singles will worry about the past like how dates have gone wrong or how they’ve been hurt, Sherman says. Other times, they’ll project their worries onto the future, i.e. What if I like them and they don’t like me? or What if the date feels awkward?
“The idea is to get calm in the present by feeding yourself positive thoughts about what is good about you and your life right now and to get in a happy mental state so that you are calm and present,” Sherman says. “It can also be good to practice visualizing your date going well and to do some deep breathing so that you go into your relaxed nervous system instead if your fight and flight one.”
5. Remember That You’re Beautiful
“I think dating anxiety is often related to fear of rejection, especially based on appearance,” clinical psychologist specializing in body image and relationship issues, Alexis Conason, Psy.D. tells Bustle. It’s really no secret that dating apps are very “image focused.” Because of that, Consason says many people are terrified of going on a date and being rejected by the potential partner because they aren’t “hot enough.”
“As a culture, women are conditioned to believe that if we don't meet an ideal body size (which 99 percent of us don't meet) we are not good enough. Men are often conditioned to believe the same. With dating apps, there is the illusion of countless mates which we can weed through until we find our ‘perfect’ partner,” Conason says. “All of this breeds a lot of anxiety around dating, rejection, and appearance-based evaluation. Comments like those that Trump has made in the media recently don't help the situation.”
6. Go On An Activity Date
One of the best ways to get over dating anxiety is to go on an activity date, Dao Nguyen, founder and CEO of HowAboutADate.com tells Bustle. In other words, do something fun together that's low pressure. With activity dates, you start with something you like in common such as biking, hiking, or exploring the city. Because of that, you have a distraction so you can be less nervous, more relaxed, and more yourself. “When you’re doing something you love, your personality shines," Nguyen says.
"Interview dates” such as going out for coffee or spending too much time chatting online before meeting someone can cause both parties to go into a first date with high expectations and high demands. That’s what leads to dating anxiety, says Nguyen. “You tend to overanalyze every single little thing and you easily dismiss the person before you really get to know them."
7. Sit Up Straight
Easing anxiety while on a date can be as simple as sitting up straight, according to board certified chiropractor, Dr. Rubina Tahir. “Your relationship with your body does impact the way people perceive you,” Tahir tells Bustle.
When you’re on a date slightly squeeze your shoulder blades together and drop your shoulder down. According to Tahir, it’s a subtle body movement that makes you feel good. “A study done by Health Psychology found that adopting an upright seated posture in the face of stress can maintain self-esteem, reduce negative mood, and increase positive mood compared to a slumped posture,” Tahir says. “Your body language can influence the success of your date nights.”
8. Forget About The “The One" Myth
Some people believe there’s only one true soulmate out there in the world for them. However, according to Dr. Michael Arn, Psy.D., when you believe you’re looking for “the one and only,” you put of lot of weight and intensity on each and every person you date. When that happens, you have a tendency to feel crazy amount of anxiety to not mess it up with the person.
“You'll have much less anxiety if you believe that there are a number of great matches for you out there in the world,” Arn says. “You have many people to choose from and you can't mess anything up that is mean to be.”
9. Remember That Patience Is A Virtue
Thanks to the world we live in, one factor causing dating anxiety is our inability to delay gratification. Technology today feeds into our need for instant gratification, says Dr. Arn. Meaning, you just need the person to text you back right away. You want them to call you back right away. You want them to ask you out right then and there.
“We want everything right now and anything that takes a little time produces anxiety and frustration,” Arn says. “The problem is that doing almost anything big (like finding the right person for you) usually takes a long time. You have to kiss a number of frogs on your journey. You have to get to know someone over a period of time. You have to have patience if you are going to succeed in this area of your life.”
10. Stick To Your Authentic Self
“Consider the idea that it is actually more efficient to put forth your authentic self sooner,” Cindy Pierce, author of Sex, College, and Social Media tells Bustle. It takes way too much energy pretending to be a person you’re not for the length of a date or even a hookup, Pierce says. Instead, dates tend to work out when things are at least moving toward a balanced and authentic connection.
“If you are obsessed and in awe of your date, your true feelings will ultimately be felt just as you will feel pressure from a date who is obsessed with you,” Pierce says. “These are red flags. Listen to them.”
11. Stop Overvaluing Your Date
According to dating expert and author of Don’t Settle: How to Marry the Man You Are Meant For , Scott Carroll, MD, the biggest cause of dating anxiety is overvaluing the other person that we’ve often times have never met yet or barely know. “The cure is to constantly bring yourself back to the reality that you don’t know them no matter how gorgeous they look or fabulous they seem and that being gorgeous or fabulous doesn’t automatically make them wonderful person to date or marry,” Caroll says.
It’s all about managing your expectations. After the first date, focus on the fact that you still don’t know them very well and that you need to go on a couple more dates to decide whether you really like them or not.
12. Stop Thinking You Need To Prove Yourself To Your Date
“Some people think dates are about proving themselves. They worry that they're not good enough, attractive enough, smart enough to deserve someone's interest,” licensed marriage and family therapist Jill Whitney of KeepTheTalkGoing.com tells Bustle. If you think this way, you’re not only being ridiculously hard on yourself, you’re probably also being self-sabotaging.
You probably know a ton of perfectly attractive people you probably wouldn’t date because their values or life goals just don’t fit with yours. So if someone thinks you aren’t a fit with them, that doesn’t mean you aren’t attractive or not worthy enough. It just means you aren’t a fit. “Keep some perspective,” Whitney says. “Each date is just one evening. If it goes well, that's wonderful. If it doesn't, that means you had one bad date. There will be other nights; there will be someone you really connect with.”
13. Remind Yourself That It’s JUST A Date
I know how hard this is, especially when you’re super interested in someone. But dating is a process and one particular date isn’t going to affect your life in a big way.
“People don’t decide to break up with someone over one date,” relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. “Breakups happen because of incompatibility, so relax into the knowledge that the more you disclose and the more you learn during dating, the more successful you will be.”
It's important to check in with yourself through the dating process and see how you're feeling, and if you're still frustrated and overwhelmed after trying some of these new strategies, know that it's totally OK to take a break from dating.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy