7 Ways to Squash Your Dating AnxietyIf you’re terrified of another failed talking stage, hi!
If the idea of meeting up with someone new for dinner or drinks makes you feel panicked, welcome to the dating anxiety club.
Finding a romantic connection can be anxiety-provoking for a million reasons. Let me just count a few: dating app bios, giving a hottie your number IRL, overanalyzing every single text you send and receive (too many emojis? Not enough emojis? Why did they just LIKE the message without responding!?) Even after you’ve scheduled a rendezvous, anticipatory anxiety for the actual date ensues, and you may even feel anxious about how it went.
If your friends don’t seem to struggle as much as you with this stuff, it can be disheartening. But dating anxiety is actually a super normal thing because, uh, dating is awkward. Getting vulnerable, eating while keeping the convo flowing, and not wanting to blow it in front of a person that you’d like to be physically/emotionally/intellectually into you, it’s no wonder dating triggers your anxiety, says clinical psychologist Miriam Kirmayer, PhD.
All that weirdness can make you avoid dating altogether, even if finding a romantic connection is important to you, says clinical psychologist Jessica Stern, PhD. But guess what? You don’t have to settle for a crappy romantic life. You deserve to find love, companionship, and all the other fun things that go along with having a partner.
If you want to gain confidence in the dating pool, it’s time to take a deep breath, delete that cancellation text drafted in your Notes app, and read on for psychologist-backed tips to cope with dating anxiety.
1. Design a pre- and post-date chill routine.
It’s no secret that routines can be helpful for those experiencing anxiety. So Dr. Kirmayer suggests using this craving for predictability to your advantage by creating a pre-date warmup and post-date wind down. “The ritualistic aspect of having some type of routine gives us a sense of certainty. We might not know how the date goes, but we know what we'll be doing before and after—and we can look forward to that, she adds.
This regimen is completely up to you. Dr. Kirmayer says you could create a playlist that helps you harness a certain type of energy—like fun, energizing music to dance out those nerves and jitters. (Dua Lipa's "Houdini" channels that I-take-no-shit vibes as you gear up to meet someone new.) Or you could munch on your favorite snack or take a calming bath to relax. It’s all about creating predictability, which can bring comfort, she says.
For the post-date wind down, journaling, having a debrief with a friend, or watching your go-to comfort show are good options, Dr. Kirmayer says. It should be something that feels good and you can look forward to. Use it as a reminder that, even if the date sucks, you have better times ahead.
2. Pay attention to your thoughts.
You’re probably familiar with catastrophic-thinking rabbit holes that have you dreaming up worst-case scenarios and jumping to conclusions, Dr. Stern says. Looking for love can definitely prompt these thinking traps, making you feel some type of way.
So think about when this happens the most. Is it before the date while you’re getting ready? While you’re checking your texts or their IG? When you take notice of these patterns, you’ll be better prepared to identify catastrophizing as it’s happening and keep it in check. When it bubbles up, think, Really, truly, how likely is it that the worst-case scenario I’ve imagined will play out? “More often than not, nothing bad happens,” says Dr. Stern. If you’re having trouble not catastrophizing, try to switch gears and do something active, like cooking or tidying your room to take your mind off of it.
3. Aim for realistic expectations.
Social media’s favorite pastime, romanticizing, can contribute to your dating jitters too. “We anticipate who that other person might be, what the conversation might be like, and from there, we can project well into the future what might happen.” Dr. Kirmayer says. Here’s the problem: “While that can be fun, it also creates anticipatory anxiety and maybe even unrealistic expectations, making the date feel quite high stakes,” she adds.
While it’s easier said than done, try to avoid getting swept up in someone’s potential before you even really know them. You can practice focusing on the present moment by asking yourself, “What do I know now?” and stick to the facts you’ve already learned, Dr. Kirmayer says. Say you matched with someone in med school. You might start romanticizing your Married to Medicine life and fear losing your future yacht if you’re not perfect at dinner. But are they even fun to be around? Do they even like boats? Something to think about.
Next, plan for future interactions and stay grounded by asking yourself, “What do I want to know?” and “What do I need to know?” Dr. Kirmayer adds. Like, what do they like to do with their time off? What are they looking for in a partner? You get the idea. Focusing on the smaller details can help you avoid romanticizing (and the anxiety that can come along with it) and remember that you still want to find out if you’re even compatible with this person.
4. Shift your perspective around meetups.
Actively searching for your person(s) and going on dates can be daunting, and it’s easy to assume that failed connections mean you’ll end up forever alone. But set the romantic or sexual aspects of this date aside and frame it as a chance to meet someone new, Dr. Stern says. That trick will take the pressure off.
On top of that, you can use your date as an opportunity to explore venues you’ve been wanting to check out. “Keep a list of coffee shops, restaurants, or bars that you want to go to,” says Dr. Stern. “That way, even if you hate the date, at least you tried something new anyway.” Of course, you don’t want to totally diminish the potential of these meetups or waste peoples’ time—at some point, you need to understand what your end game is—but this can help your initial nerves.
Another pressure release: Remember you literally never have to see this person afterward. Whether you just aren’t feeling it or you thought the outing was awkward AF, there’s no obligation to do that again.
5. Stop thinking you’re one swipe away from missing the love of your life.
The stakes of dating can seem extra high if you have a scarcity mindset, Dr. Kirmayer says. Basically, that’s when you feel like there’s only a certain number of people who could be your ~perfect match~ and time is running out to find them. Then, if the date sucks, you're back at square one and the potential to find your ideal mate seemingly dwindles.
This way of thinking tends to pop up when you use dating apps, since relying on them puts too much pressure on one method, especially when you’ve seemingly swiped through everyone in the tri-state area, Dr. Stern says. To shift your perspective, “find ways to meet people in person too,” Dr. Stern says. “Maybe that means going to events, picking up a pottery class, or joining a pickleball league.
Once you’re out and about, Stern suggests asking for recommendations—like what someone’s favorite local restaurant or coffee shop is—as an easy conversation starter. If you feel a vibe, ask to exchange socials. If you’re extra brave, ask if they’d like to go to that spot they suggested some time—together.
If you want to speak to someone you’ve seen around, Dr. Kirmayer recommends saying, “Hey, I don’t think we’ve had the chance to meet yet. My name’s _____.” From there, you can ask how they heard about the event, how long they’ve been doing X hobby, and so on. When you approach it this way, you can sus out if you’re getting friend-zoned.
The more situations you put yourself into, the greater your chances of meeting new people who could be a romantic match.
6. Let others know what’s up.
Ahead of any date, having a safety plan can help ease your nerves, Dr. Kirmayer says. “Message a friend and let them know where you're going and how long you anticipate being there, especially if this is a first or second meetup,” she suggests. If you want, send over the person’s name and a photo. You can also keep it vague by just sharing the details of where you’re going and when.
Making a plan to shoot them a quick text or call at some point during the hang and when you get home is a good move too. Another option: Share your location on Find My Friends or something similar for an extra security blanket.
7. Don’t take it personally.
Dating anxiety often stems from a fear of rejection, says Dr. Stern. But here’s the thing: Rejections aren’t always about you. There are plenty of reasons why someone might not be giving you the response you want or why they’re ending it, Dr. Stern says, so there’s no need to shoulder the “blame” here. “A really important thing to remember, especially when it's someone new, is that you don't know them well,” Dr. Stern says. “You don't know what's going on in their life, if other things are happening with their family or at work, or if their own anxiety is getting in the way.”
To internalize this message, Dr. Stern suggests reflecting on past connections or situationships where you didn’t end up pursuing them. Oftentimes, you cut things off because you don’t feel a spark or compatibility, but it’s not really their fault.
Even if someone does give you some, um, feedback, who you are or what you look like are not a problem. It just wasn’t a vibe. TBH, you’re probably better off knowing that, so you can focus on spending time with people you actually click with.
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.