Anxiety disorders are the most common psychological disorder in the US, affecting 18% of the adult population; that’s approximately 40 million people, and social anxiety disorder is the third most common disorder, affecting 15 million. It’s hardly news, though, that the shy and/or social anxious among us tend to have a more strained experience, especially when meeting people for the very first time. 

It doesn’t help that when it comes to dating that even those of us who aren’t chronically anxious feel a bit scrutinized, or worry about doing something embarrassing. And let’s be real: at least to those of us who remember a time before meeting love interests on the internet was the main way to meet ‘em (let alone a way at all), the online aspect does not help to soothe matters, since it usually guarantees your first date will be with someone you have yet to meet. 


Before many of my first dates, I worry I won’t like the person, or won’t be attracted to him, or find him sketchy or boring and won’t know how to get out of it sooner than later without seeming like an asshole. And then once I’m on a date I want to be on, I worry about talking too much, oversharing, being too intense, too enthusiastic, or too anything else. That’s my shit, and I’m addressing it. Regardless of your own personal variety of dating anxieties, ruling out dating, as choices go, can make for some isolated/ing times. And while I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes being alone is exactly what’s called for, other times it can pour fuel on bad habits we still haven’t broken, most of which involve being afraid to open up.

Here are 4 self-reflexive habits you may or may not want to try integrating into your way of being, if transcending dating anxiety is on your list—no matter what kind of relationship it is you’re cultivating (even if you’d rather not call it “dating,” per se).

1. Just be real 

If you wanna meet for the first time over a drink somewhere cozy rather than your date’s suggestion of a ride in a hot air balloon, or a loud outdoor festival, you might wanna voice that, particularly if said date’s suggestions send a shiver of dread down your spine. Or better yet, if (first-time) dating is a source of anxiety for you, be the first to propose a time and place that puts you at ease. And also along the lines of being real, try not paying attention to the kind of “dating advice” that calls for games or strategies. Besides, connecting with someone in a way that makes hearts flutter or sparks fly (or both) tends to rely on being and sharing who you actually are.

Trying to hide your anxiety will only make you more anxious. If your date’s at all worth the effort, telling them you’re nervous will only better your rapport. After all, when you open up about yourself, it tends to inspire others to do the same. And if letting your guard down has been hard for a very long time, or even forever, start with an intention, and work outward from there.

2. Keep perspective 

I used to freak out a lot more than I do now when good things (read: romantic things) happened. Being too happy surely meant the universe would have to even the scales as soon as I got too excited. An anvil would crush the good stuff somehow, much like anvils have killed the roadrunner time and again, somehow outsmarting him each time. I used to jokingly tell my friends “it’ll probably end in disaster” to temper the good stuff I’d told them about whoever I happened to be dating, but what I’ve realized since is that even if I didn’t truly believe those words when I said them, their very utterance was sorta kinda damaging to my psyche and therefore also to my (romantic) connections with others. Conversing with yourself from a new perspective can do a world of good.

For example, every time I found myself saying or thinking a human connection would probably end in “disaster,” I would “correct” myself promptly, without self-judgment. The revision: “There’s no reason this [date] won’t go well.” Surprisingly effective, changing your thoughts. But the kicker? If it doesn’t actually go well, it’s really “not a big deal.” Chew on that.

3. Be right here, right now 

One of my humble yet favorite epiphanies thus far in my time on this planet is that we can’t be in the moment without being present in our bodies. And we can’t be present in our bodies without being in the moment. It checks out, I swear to you. Numerous past health issues along with numerous past bouts with anxiety (some of them overlapping) have taught me this. Focusing on the future and the past at the expense of the present feeds your anxiety beasties. Worry doesn’t fare as well when you’re fully invested in the right here, right now, and how that all feels. Making a conscious effort to focus on the present moment can put you intimately in touch with your body and mind in a way that does wonders for your ability to connect with others. And observing how you think and how it affects your physical, mental, and emotional health (and vice versa), better equips you to get in touch with how others think and feel.

4. Play it safe 

On a purely logistical level, if you’re anxious about a date, maybe wait on trying painful high heels on for size or getting a new haircut right beforehand. Give yourself a break, I say, and keep it simple. Choose something that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Also, for many (read: women), straight-up safety is also a concern, particularly when it comes to meeting up with a guy one has never met. If going too far from where you live makes you nervous, don’t dismiss that as silly or paranoid. Instead, be kind to yourself, listen to your gut regardless of what’s making it talk, and suggest having a date more nearby. If you're nervous about having your date pick you up and leaving your own car behind, suggest taking separate cars. Even suggesting a double date with another couple you know may not be the worst idea in the general sanity handbook we could all so sorely use some days.

Bottom line: if you choose to date, why not give it your all? Wishing y’all a hot and lovely, anxiety-free love life, for real.

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