How to Lessen Dating Anxietyby Jerry Kennard, Ph.D. Medical Reviewer
It’s only a date, so why are you feeling so nervous?
Even for confident people, the prospect of a first date can be daunting, but if you’re anxious, self-conscious, or shy, you’re in a different league altogether. The good news is, reducing your dating anxiety is possible.
Dating appsDating apps are really popular. According to bustle.com, millions of us use them. A dating app not only puts you in contact with potential dates, but it also helps to screen them before you even meet. Rachel, who has social anxiety, calls this a “ pre-date.” She writes:
“I feel more confident and reassured just knowing that I can talk to a member of the opposite sex without blushing or feeling sick. Getting to know someone ahead of a date really helps to assuage any fears I have about first encounters. Knowing that we’ve already established some mutual interests and common ground means I won’t fret over the possibility of awkward silences. I call this the ‘pre-date’; it’s like lowering yourself into the shallow end of a swimming pool, rather than jumping in at the deep end.”
Plan aheadIf you want to ask someone on a date, now is the time to plan. A movie date might seem a good idea, but think about it first: You’ll be sitting in the dark, staring up at the screen for most of the time. What you really need is some activity where you can talk and get to know each other.
If you’re uncertain about how to pitch things and you’re worried about coming on too strong, then opt for an activity during the day. Coffee, lunch, even a walk is fine. If you tend to get nervous and tongue-tied, then think of something you can both look at and comment on. A gallery, a zoo, a museum are ideas.
If you’re very nervous, then do things that are proven to help reduce anxiety. Rachel, whom I mentioned earlier, says practicing yoga and meditation helps reduce anxiety symptoms, as does going for a brisk run. What you really should avoid is alcohol. The idea of pre-loading before a date is a bad idea. Alcohol may reduce anxiety, but it comes at the cost of disinhibiting you, and it can be obvious: You’ll smell of it, or your behavior will send unintended messages.
Give and takeAre you a nervous talker? If you are, then this is something you’ll need to focus on. Any relationship, whether it’s with a work colleague or a friend, works best if there is give and take. If you listen and show interest in your date, it will make it easier to feed off what they are saying, and to communicate your intended message.
Keep it light
Dates, especially first dates, are about fun and enjoyment. It doesn’t mean you have to be fluffy, but you should probably refrain from too much personal disclosure. Don’t wallow in your past relationships or other traumatic issues that may have affected you. If things come out naturally, well okay, maybe touch on the topic, but monitor what you say to this person who is probably still a total stranger.
Don’t be too keen to impress by agreeing with everything your date says or suggests. They may have views that are completely opposed to your own. It’s good to hold onto what you are passionate about. Your anxiety to not fail could lead you to say or do things way outside your comfort zone. There’s something to be said for taking small risks, but if you feel very uncomfortable, then say so.
On being yourself
A first date is about getting to know someone and is a way for you to showcase your character. Lots of people say, “Just be yourself,” but which self are they talking about? Is it the self we only like others to see? Is it our private self? It's about balance.
In the end, your date will make their own mind up**. So don’t be dishonest, and don’t make yourself into something you aren’t. There’s a natural tendency to want to impress your date, but lying because you’re anxious only leads to trouble down the line.If it goes well, there might be an opportunity for another date, but if not, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Try not to worry. With practice comes confidence, so keep dating
Dr. Jerry Kennard is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry's clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.