How To Protect Yourself If Dating Is Affecting Your Mental Health

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Though meeting a could-be-someone-special for another round of happy hour drinks can be fun and engaging, helping you to learn something new from a stranger, the whole process of dating can be frustrating. Especially if you’ve been looking for something meaningful for years without much luck, you might start to doubt your self-worth and worry that you’re never going to find the long lasting love that you crave. While dating is part of the process of getting to a long-term relationship or marriage, it’s important to take stock on your emotional state of being and check-in to gauge how you’re feeling.

“Some people gauge their sense of self, or more specifically self-esteem, on whether or not they are involved with someone, or that others are expressing interest in them," psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC tells Bustle. "They take a bad date that does not go further as personal faults that exist within themselves, instead of considering the fact that the two of you may simply not have been a good match. What we feel, we attract. If we are feeling low and negative about ourselves, we invariably meet people who feed that. If we radiate self confidence and a strong sense of self, we attract people of a like mind, and who will treat us with the respect we deserve."

Here, experts help you understand how dating impacts your mental health and how to protect yourself:

1If Someone Isn’t Interested, It Doesn’t Mean You’re Unloveable

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You might have thought that non-stop conversation back and forth and bottle of wine meant that your date wanted to see you again, but it’s been a week and you haven’t heard a peep. Martinez says this ghosting rejection can make you feel undervalued. “A person who takes a lack of interest of connection as a sign that they are not likable or lovable. They need to stop relating a lack of fit to internal factors about themselves, and look at things realistically, realizing that sometimes people are just not a good fit,” Martinez says. Easier said than done, sure, but instead of looking at it as a slight against you, consider that you wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who wasn’t barking down your door to see you again.

2If You’re A Serial Dater, You Need to Consider Your Motivation

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Though it’s rather impressive to rack up several dates in one week, if you are dating out of anxiety and putting unneeded pressure on yourself, Martinez says taking a ‘pause’ and reexamining your dating motivation is necessary before you burn out. “People who are 'serial daters' have often not taken a much needed dating break to get to know themselves, and to get to understand and appreciate who they are as a person. Taking this time is essential, and it makes them a better individual and partner in the long run,” she explains.  

3If You Think More About Their Opinion Than Your Own, Turn the Tables

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There’s no way around the fact that dating is all about being vulnerable. And when you open yourself up to love, you also allow negativity to happen, too. Though it’s all a natural, normal part of the process, it can be difficult to consider how you’re really feeling instead of wondering what your date thinks about you. “Being exposed to others in a vulnerable position can make you start to doubt yourself, become overly critical on yourself, or beat yourself up for little things," Kali Rogers, CEO and Founder of Blush Online Life Coaching tells Bustle. "Instead, take the pressure off by not focusing on whether they like you, but on whether you like them. The less you put pressure on yourself to perform, the more relaxed and confident you will feel."

4If You Feel Frustrated, Remember To Be Realistic

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“When dating, it's easy to become exhausted and pessimistic if you are dating a lot and finding little to no results," Rogers says. "So remind yourself that above all, dating is just a numbers game. The more exposure you get, the more likely you are to find someone you really click with. It's unfortunate but potential dates won't show up at your door on a Friday night if you haven't met them before (I wish!). So if you ever get down about your odds, understand that this isn't about you - it's about numbers.” This is why when you have a date that goes sour, instead of getting into your head, get into the moment - and realize that while that person was a dud for you, when you go on another date sometime soon, it likely won’t be the case.

5If You Don’t Feel Healthy, Put Yourself First

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Though there are plenty of ways to go on dates without booze, most first encounters involve a cocktail. And if you’re having plenty of initial dates each week, then you might be consuming more booze and getting less sleep than your body needs to remain healthy. “Dating can impact our physical health as well as our mental health, and the two are inextricably linked. Increasing our weekly intake of alcohol or unhealthy foods from restaurants can absolutely affect our mood and perspective,” Rogers says. “It's good to stick to your typical routine and implement that into your date. Obviously you don't have to be a stickler, but make sure you are listening to your body. You don't have to go all out just because you are on a date — just be you.”

As you continue to date, remember how important it is to check in with how you're feeling, take care of yourself when you're frustrated, and never let your relationship status define who you are.