Do you get really nervous talking to someone new, exchanging numbers, or calling someone? Do you sweat at just the thought of asking someone out? You’re not alone. Dating anxiety is a common occurrence, even if you don’t have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Most daters fear rejection or that they won’t have any chemistry with someone, but these are things that are part of the process of finding the right person.
Here are 10 tips to help you get through your dating anxiety.
1. Challenge anxious thoughts.
Identify what anxious thoughts you’re having before the date, suggests Amanda Petrik-Gardner, a licensed clinical professional counselor who specializes in anxiety disorders. “Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected so if you think anxious thoughts, you feel anxious.” When you start to think of what ifs like What if he doesn’t like me? What if she hates teh restaurant, Petrik has some simple advice. “Begin by identifying the validity of these statements,” she says, “What proof do you have, and how often do they really happen.”
2. Do something nice for yourself before the date.
Jennifer Seip, a couples and sex therapist suggests purchasing a new outfit or getting your hair done before a date. “Anything that will make you feel more confident can help.”
3. Schedule something casual for the first date.
Instead of scheduling a dinner for the first date, try getting coffee or drinks, says Seip. “Limit your time to two hours. That way, there’s no pressure to be on for longer than that.”
4. Realize that dating can be a numbers game.
If you approach dating with the mindset that every interaction has to go exactly how you want it to, you’re going to be very anxious. “The reality is that you’ll have to meet a lot of people before you find someone you really click with. If you approach dating thinking that the interaction you are about to have is just one of many you’ll be more relaxed and less invested in the outcome, which will allow you to relax,” suggests dating expert, James Anderson.
5. Utilize your relaxation strategies.
“This might be diaphragmatic breathing, taking a walk, talking to a friend, or engaging in a mindful activity. Reduce the physical arousal your body gets from anxiety (i.e. racing heart, shaking, sweating) and you’ll be able to conquer that situation even easier,” says Petrik.
6. Focus on having fun.
If you’re not having fun you’re doing it wrong. “When you approach dating as an opportunity to have fun with someone new, instead of a big event, your anxiety will go down and your dates will go much better,” says Anderson. “Take some pressure off yourself and make sure to setup early dates at interesting places where you know you will have a good time.”
7. Take it one date at a time.
Many people get dating anxiety because they try to size up everyone they meet as a potential soulmate, explains Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship coach. “When your entire future happiness is riding on a date, the pressure is enormous and anxiety naturally follows. Instead of mapping your entire future in your head when you go on a date, view it instead as a chance to meet someone, have fun, and see where it goes.”
8. Don’t think of it as a date.
Going on a date brings a lot of pressure. Even the thought of dating can cause a borderline panic attack in otherwise confident people. “Instead of thinking in the language of dating, look at your experiences as hanging out or getting to know someone. This way, you can be yourself and stay relaxed,” suggests Bennett.
9. Know that rejection doesn’t matter that much.
Many people get dating anxiety because they fear rejection and the pain and alleged shame it brings. However, rejection isn’t really that big of a deal in the long run. “If you don’t click on a date and that person rejects you, don’t see it as a colossal failure. Most people get rejected countless times on their way to finding love. If you’re rejected a lot, you’re not worthy of shame… you’re normal,” says Bennett.
10. Go on more dates.
The best treatment for anxiety is exposure to the feared situation or object, explains Petrik. “In this situation, your fear is meeting someone new or going on a date. In order to desensitize to that fear, which basically means ‘getting used to it’ confront that fear head on. If possible, meet more new people, introduce yourself to others, or go on more dates. Eventually you won’t get the same anxious response because you will have done it before and you recognize that you can do it again.”
What people often forget is that dating takes bravery—you’re putting yourself out there and that can make you nervous. But it also isn’t as big a deal as you may think. Chances are you will be rejected and you will reject others. You’ll may even have your heart broken and break some hearts. All of these experiences are what help you grow as a person and grow in your relationships. And they’ll eventually lead you to the person who’s right for you.