Having anxiety is nothing to be ashamed about, but it can affect your life in some pretty serious ways depending on how much you suffer with it. Regardless of your day-to-day symptoms, dealing with anxiety in general can make meeting new people really difficult. Here are some ways to cope while you’re putting yourself out there in the dating world.
Don’t push yourself before you’re ready.
Wait until it feels right. It can be very stressful when it feels like everyone around you is falling in love and you’re the only single one and those types of comparisons can actually heighten your anxiety! As hard as it may be, you can’t force yourself to start dating until you feel completely okay and ready for it. You won’t be successful in your romantic endeavors no matter who you meet if you’re not in a place to receive it. Take your time. It’s not a race and there’s no age limit on finding love.
Look for certain qualities in a person that put you at ease.
A big reason dating can induce anxiety is that you might be afraid that the person you’re meeting won’t have anything in common with you. This is a typical fear and while you won’t know everything until you get to know someone, there are ways you can combat this early on. If you’re using a dating app, search for potential partners that list things that you like and know about in their bios. Look for common hobbies, career fields, or even future aspirations. Strike up conversations via the app with people who look like you’d be able to hold a decent conversation with. Having a lot to talk about will definitely make you feel more at ease on a first date and will eliminate the dreaded awkward small talk.
Take deep breaths and perform your coping strategies.
Many of us with anxiety have developed coping strategies or ways that help to relax our anxiousness in a given situation. Before you go on a date with someone, make sure you take the time to prepare yourself mentally. Take deep breaths, meditate, listen to music, or pray. Whatever it is that puts your mind and soul at ease, do that and get yourself to a place where you feel good.
Meet at a public place and drive or walk yourself.
Anxiety or no anxiety, this is just a general safety tip, but if you have anxiety about being in an unsafe situation with a stranger, this is totally a must. Never let someone you’ve never met meet you at your house or theirs. If they offer to pick you up, thank them but say that you’d rather drive yourself or just meet them there. Also, always meet up and stay in a public place where there are other people around. As I said, this is for safety purposes but it will also make you feel like you can relax and aren’t ever in a vulnerable situation with someone you don’t know.
Choose a date venue where you’ll feel comfortable.
It’s always nice when your date has a great idea planned for your first hangout. However, if they suggest something you’re not too sure about, feel free to speak up and suggest something else. If they ask you if you want to go play mini-golf but you’re bad at it and feel like you might be uncoordinated and embarrass yourself, don’t stress about it! Just ask to do something else. Tell them you’re not really a fan of mini-golf but you’re pretty good at bowling and suggest that instead. Trust me, your date won’t mind. They just want to have fun and hang out with you, so it shouldn’t matter what you’re doing.
Wear something that you feel totally yourself in.
Your choice of outfit on a first date is important, but really the most important thing to do is to wear something that feels like you, that you’re comfortable in. You might think that you need to wear a fancy dress and high heels to impress your date but, if you never wear heels in your everyday life, why bother? Wear something that makes you feel beautiful and confident because the more comfortable you feel, the more at ease you’ll feel on your date.
Keep private what you don’t want to share upfront.
Some first dates can get really in-depth right off the bat and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Your date might tell you all about their family and childhood but if those aren’t things about yourself that you like to share with people you’ve just met, don’t feel obligated to just because they did! Simply change the subject or give them an abbreviated answer that doesn’t give away too much information. You can share more later on if the relationship continues and the right person won’t press you for details you’re not ready to give. A little mystery is always sexy too.
Have a friend be your backup decoy.
We’ve all done it at least once or at least have heard of it. Tell a good friend of yours when your date is and decide on a “check-in time”. This is a designated time during your date where your friend will call you. If you’re having a terrible time and want to make a quick getaway, all you have to do is pretend that your friend is dealing with an emergency and needs you to go to them immediately. If you’re having a great time and don’t need the backup, simply ignore the call or send your friend an emoji code that you’ve both decided on that lets them know you’re safe and all good. This will help you feel like someone has your back if you need an escape and are too anxious to leave a date on your own.
Avoid drinking too much alcohol or caffeine.
Alcohol can impair anyone’s judgment but if you have anxiety, it can exasperate all of your struggles and make them even more difficult. Avoid drinking to a point where you know you’ll start to feel foggy. This will not only keep you safer in a situation with a person you don’t know very well yet, but it will also help you feel more in control of your words and actions. Anxiety can often stem from feeling like you’re losing your grip on yourself, so sobriety is key to maintaining that. In addition to alcohol, excessive caffeine can cause you to feel jittery or overly anxious, so maybe stick with drinking water or caffeine-free soda until you know the person a little better.
Don’t be afraid to say no.
Making sure that you feel comfortable throughout the entire date is crucial. If your date asks if you want to go back to their place and you don’t feel ready to be in that setting with them yet, don’t be afraid to decline their offer. If you’re worried that they will get upset and not want to see you again, then they aren’t worth your time. The right person who truly cares won’t mind if you want to take things slow. Don’t feel pressured into anything.
Give yourself time to decide how you feel and if you’re interested in more.
You might have had a decent time on your date but if you’re not completely sure if you want to see that person again, it’s okay to take your time and think about how you feel before agreeing to a second date. Don’t feel obligated to continue the relationship simply because you’ve been single for a while or you feel like it would be rude to decline a second meeting. Just take some time and figure out how you truly feel. There’s no time table on love. You’ve got nothing but time and if the person really likes you, they won’t mind waiting a few days to see you again.
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