When Anxiety Strikes During Your Date: Six Ways to Manage It

By Guest Contributor Rachel Dack, MS, LCPC, NCC

panic attacks and dating

Getting through a first date is a common source of anxiety and worry for many. There may be urges to avoid dating altogether or settle for someone who you don’t ultimately see a future with. There is really good news though. If you are willing to learn from each dating experience, manage expectations and recover from some bad dates to meet your Mr. or Ms. Right, you are bound to become a more confident and less anxious dater.

In my last eHarmony post, I discussed how anxiety is a natural part of dating and building a relationship with someone new. I examined common sources of anxiety around dating, as well as offered ten healthy tips to tame first date anxiety. The article was geared toward alleviating anxious thoughts and feelings pre-date and preparing you for a fun and manageable date ahead. My hope is that you got through the pre-date jitters, pumped yourself up and proceeded with confidence to your date.

Congrats! A second piece of good news: The highest level of anxiety about a first date is normally right before meeting your date. During this time, you are more likely to feel overwhelmed by worry or panic, but meeting your date face-to-face helps these feelings dissipate. For a more positive outlook on dating, add this news to your knowledge that the more you date, the lesser degree of anxiety you will experience. Worry will also subside as you tune into your excitement about finding love and view each date as an opportunity to become more comfortable with dating.

Below are six healthy ways to manage anxiety during a first date (or a second, third or so on) and establish a genuine connection regardless of an anxious mind:

1. Remind yourself that you are conquering your fears and anxieties while on your date. Despite pre-date urges to avoid dating altogether or cancel, you went on the date anyways. View this as an accomplishment and another example of how you refuse to let anxiety get in the way of what you want.

2. Maintain an attitude of curiosity and openness about your date and the dating experience in general. Focus on learning about your date by listening attentively and asking questions. Being curious makes new experiences more exciting and rewarding while liberating you from anxious thoughts.

3. Make humor your friend. It can easily cut through an anxious moment or an awkward silence. Laughter is an instant mood booster, which is especially helpful if your date is anxious too.

4. Stay in the moment and tune out the “what if’s.” Let assumptions, judgments and worries pass by, really engaging in what is happening then and there. Focus on what your date is saying and how you feel about it versus what is going on in your mind.

5. When you notice an anxious thought, bring yourself back to the date by taking a few deep breaths (at least three) and reciting a positive statement to yourself. Try, “I can handle this and get through my date” or “I am conquering anxiety in this moment.”

6. Let go of any needs to be perfect.  Striving for perfection is commonly linked with anxiety. Perfection is an impossible task. Bring yourself back to reality and set yourself up for success by aiming to be your best self despite any self-defeating thoughts.

As you continue to expose yourself to dating, your anxiety will have less and less power over you and you will have a better chance of finding your ideal partner. Although dating consists of many unknowns, actively dating keeps you on track with what you want and leads to increased self confidence.

Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and relationship coach, specializing in psychotherapy for individuals and couples via her private practice in Bethesda, Maryland.

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