If you find yourself drained, burnt out, or overwhelmed by the normal nerves associated with online dating, it’s time to develop a proactive plan to manage your stress. While it’s very common to experience jitters, worry about first impressions, have a desire for things to go well, and question if you can handle online dating, feeling overly stressed can lead to negative outcomes. These may include mental health issues, such as feeling constant anxiety or panic, creating a pattern of unsuccessful dates.
Dating jitters can increase your stress hormones, resulting in a fight-or-flight response and a rise in heart rate, as well as other physical and mood symptoms. Even though you may logically understand you have to engage in the dating process to achieve your goal of a relationship, it may be difficult for your body to handle the accompanied stress reaction and distinguish between healthy, natural stress and imminent danger. This is where stress management can ensure you can handle your nerves, follow through on your goals, and succeed.
Utilizing strategies to calm nerves and participate in self-care naturally increases the odds of a date going better, especially if dating tends to feel anxiety-provoking or be something you dread. Below are 15 activities, rituals, self-care strategies, and stress management tools to bring calm and comfort to this area of your life both before and after dates:
1. Listen to your favorite tunes. Music is therapeutic for the mind, body, and soul and can be used to elevate your mood and ease anxiety. In fact, research proves that listening to music can slow your heart rate, which tends to increase with anxiety. Singing along can also help to further reduce stress and tension.
2. Exercise. Sweating it out helps release endorphins and calm the brain, so it’s an essential self-care practice to add to your life. Participating in physical activity (no judgment around the type of activity) on a regular and consistent basis will help dating stress dissipate and leave you feeling more confident and healthy.
3. Visualize the date going well. Your attitude goes a long way, so it’s important to engage in positive thinking. It’s a common tendency to hold onto the negative memories (maybe some bad date experiences!), but it’s imperative that you maintain a hopeful and optimistic stance while viewing the past as learning and growth opportunities. Pre-date, imagine the date going well, open up your mind and heart, and let go of any fears holding you back.
4. Laugh. As the saying goes (“Laughter is the best medicine.”), laughter releases feel-good chemicals that can protect you from the stress of dating and leave you feeling more relaxed and light. Listen to or watch your favorite comedian, laugh with your friends, or watch a funny YouTube video as part of your pre-date getting ready ritual.
5. Meditate or try a mindfulness exercise. The benefits of mindfulness and meditation are powerful and extend across mental and physical health. Meditation is about turning inward, cultivating stillness, tuning into your breath, and attending to thoughts and feelings in non-judgmental, non-reactive, open, and calm ways. If you don’t know where to start, google search “simple mindfulness exercises” for endless options to try. Then see what speaks to you and incorporate mindfulness exercises into your dating routine.
6. Take deep breaths. Give yourself a boost in oxygen and help yourself calm down through slowing down and deepening your breathing. Ground yourself through your breathing pre-date, post-date, as well as during dates. In particularly stressful moments, use your breath as an anchor to ground yourself.
7. Do something creative. Turn your stress into art and let your creative juices flow! This is not about needing to be artistic or judging yourself for your abilities (or lack of). It’s about accessing your creative side and reframing stress into something positive. Try coloring, scrapbooking, watercolor painting, or sketching. Let go of any judgment and focus on being present and creating something meaningful or stress-relieving. It’s not about the final product — it’s about enjoying the process and connecting with yourself.
8. Spend time with your support system. Having supportive social outlets is an important aspect to living a well-rounded, satisfying life and feeling a sense of belonging. Feeling good about your social life will lead to more confidence while dating. Also, healthy friendships naturally provide support through the ups and downs of going on dates. Make sure you are carving in time for dating, as well as meeting your social needs and spending time with those who are special to you.
9. Be in nature. Slow down your fast-paced, busy life by spending time outside and reconnecting with nature. Whether you decide to walk on a trail, take a hike, eat lunch outside, take a jog, or soak in some vitamin D on a park bench, make a point to enjoy some sunshine, unplug, and leave technology behind.
10. Eat healthy meals. Starving yourself isn’t good for your nerves and can leave you feeling moody, irritable, fatigued, and nervous. Be sure to take care of hunger and eat regular meals, especially if you are going on a date that involves alcohol. Blood sugar swings can trigger symptoms of stress, weakness, and mood instability, which can all negatively impact a date, so don’t be afraid to have a small snack beforehand even if the date involves a meal.
11. Recite an empowering mantra. Replacing negative thoughts with more empowering or neutral thoughts will help rewire your brain and lead to important mind shifts. Although dating difficulties can brew self-defeating, frustrating, lonely, and hopeless feelings and thoughts, reciting empowering mantras can help you feel more confident and approach dating with more positive energy, courage, and hope. Try “I am open and connected to love,” “I can handle my life,” “I choose to be happy,” or “I deserve love and happiness.” It’s okay if these statements feel forced or fake at first. It takes time for your mind to get the hang of a new way of thinking, so be patient and stay open.
12. Journal. Journaling is a healthy outlet for releasing stress and unpleasant emotions. By expressing yourself on paper, you can release heavy emotions in a therapeutic way, further understand how you feel, validate your experience, decrease your stress level, as well as gain clarity. You can also use journaling as the means to processing your dating and relationship experiences and looking for patterns (in the partners you pick, reasons why relationships have ended, feedback others have given you, etc.). Get started by picking out a notebook or journal and letting yourself write without any censoring, agenda, or judgment. There is no right or wrong way to journal.
13. Set a worry timer. If you find yourself obsessing, constantly worrying or over-analyzing dating, this strategy is a must try. Anxiety can creep up and spill out, taking up the majority of your time before you know it. This strategy gives you specific time designated to worry, which helps contain your worry and give it the attention it needs without controlling your life. Set a timer for ten minutes twice a day and allow yourself to worry freely. During this time, accept your worries and don’t try to get rid of them. Simply be present to how you feel. When the timer goes off, worry time is over, so focus on taking some deep breaths and getting back into your life (and out of your head).
14. Practice gratitude. Approaching life with gratitude opens you up to numerous psychological and physical health benefits, as well as greater self-esteem and reduced stress. Add gratitude to your dating life by starting a gratitude jar in which you write down something you are grateful for each day on a small piece of paper and collect the paper in a jar. Or make a list of what you are grateful for in your journal or in your mind before bed (added bonus: gratitude is linked to improved sleep). Also, make an effort to walk away from bad dates with the ability to see the silver lining.
15. Set an intention. While you can’t control how each date goes, you can attract more positive dating outcomes by being mindful and intentional. When you are feeling anxious or stressed pre-date, set an intention for meeting your date with an open mind and heart, doing your best to have an enjoyable time and being committed to learning and growing from each date regardless of it leading to a relationship. By setting intentions, you can focus on your dating goals, attract the positive, and show up as your best self.
Dating may never be a completely anxiety-free or relaxing process and that’s okay, but by incorporating the above activities and strategies into your life, dating is bound to feel more manageable, fun, and carefree.
About the Author:
Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Nationally Certified Counselor and relationship coach, specializing in psychotherapy for individuals and couples via her private practice in Bethesda, Maryland. Rachel’s areas of expertise include relationships, self-esteem, dating, mindfulness, anxiety, depression and stress management. Rachel is a co-author to Sexy Secrets to a Juicy Love Life, an International Bestseller, written to support single women in decreasing frustration about single-hood, leaving the past behind, cultivating self-love and forming and maintaining loving relationships. Rachel also serves as a Relationship Expert for http://www.datingadvice.com/ and other dating and relationship advice websites. Follow her on Twitter for more daily wisdom!