Venturing through life on your own feels really great — right up until it doesn’t. The anxiety around being single might kick in as you stick another Save-the-Date to your fridge, whilst scrolling through a dating app, or when you finally get sick of sprawling out in the middle of your bed. (Just kidding, that never gets old.)
When you’re single and frustrated with dating, it’s only natural to wonder “what will happen to me?” But if you’re experiencing actual mental and physical symptoms of anxiety, it could be stemming from a sense of rejection. “When we have experienced continuous failed relationships or difficulty establishing a relationship, it triggers this primal fear we have of being alone and unwanted,” Sasha Jackson, MSW, LCSW, a licensed therapist, tells Bustle.
Your biology — and the world around you — typically favors pairing up. It’s why, even if you enjoy single life, it’s often tough to shake the feeling that something’s missing. “Society has ingrained this belief that being in a relationship that will eventually lead to marriage is the ultimate goal,” Jackson says. “[If we] go against the flow of the majority we can feel anxious due to the fear of judgment from others.”
If that sounds relatable, here are ways to change up your thinking, and better cope with anxiety about being single.
Question Your Thoughts About Being Single
You don’t have to love being single. But if you’re experiencing anxiety, it can help to challenge the messages you receive — from friends, family, and even yourself — that tell you it’s somehow sad, bad, or that it’s gone on too long. By letting go of the idea that “being single is failing” and “being coupled up is winning,” it might provide some relief.
If that’s too tough, try examining the reason why you’re single and see if it’s actually kind of necessary right now. Are you processing a toxic relationship? Are you choosing to focus on something else? Are you simply stuck at home due to the pandemic? “If you can find and own your reason for being single,” Jackson says, it’ll help reduce the nerve-racking pressure to find love immediately.
Resist The Urge To Compare Yourself To Others
Anxiety can also kick in whenever it feels like you aren’t meeting your goals. As Alexandra Emery, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist, tells Bustle, “many people treat getting married as a major life milestone, and when you haven't hit that milestone, it can feel like you're being left behind.”
And yet, despite what everyone thinks about timelines and milestones, “there is no one right way to do life,” Emery says. The moment you feel yourself spiraling down a comparison vortex, refocus your thoughts and come back to the present. “Take some deep breaths, reach out to a trusted person to talk,” Emery says, “and remember that you are good enough, with or without a partner.”
Focus On The Things That Make You Happy
If it feels like you’re placing too much emphasis and importance on romantic love, direct some of that energy back towards your friends, family, and yourself. It’s possible, Jackson says, to fight the anxiety of being single by focusing on these other types of relationships.
You might also want to try turning your attention towards things that make you happy, whatever that may be. Think finding a hobby, volunteering, looking forward to travel.
The more often you step away from the idea that you’re just a half waiting to become whole — or just someone who puts other people’s wedding invitations on their fridge — the less anxious you’ll feel about being single.
Sasha Jackson, MSW, LCSW, licensed therapist
Alexandra Emery, PhD, licensed psychotherapist