By Ladan Nikravan Hayes, Contributor
Dating is anxiety-provoking regardless of whether you have an anxiety disorder or not. You’re starting a new relationship, spending time with a stranger, opening yourself up to someone new — it can be frightening for even the most secure of people.
But, if you have an anxiety disorder, the anxiety that comes with dating and going on dates can be overwhelming. On a day-to-day basis you’re plagued with fears you’ll make a fool of yourself in front of someone, and now you’re at risk of being in an uncomfortable position in front of someone you want to like you. It’s something out of a nightmare.
Here are some ways to address your anxiety before you embark on the rollercoaster of dating and potentially meeting a new romantic partner.
Oftentimes, sharing your anxiety with those you are with can be a good coping mechanism. That way, you’re not carrying the burden all on your own. But, if on a date with a new beau, is it too soon to share?
Rachel O’Neill, an Ohio licensed professional clinical counselor and Talkspace provider, says it depends on how comfortable you feel. She suggests asking yourself these questions:
“It really depends on the person and how comfortable you are disclosing it,” O’Neill says. “I certainly think it could be helpful to share if it’s something you’re comfortable talking about.”
So what if you’re not comfortable talking about it? What if having that conversation would increase your anxiety – what can you do instead?
O’Neill recommends starting before the date with mindfulness activities. “The more you can make mindfulness a part of your life, the more likely it is to be effective in situations in which anxiety is high,” she said.
The reason that mindfulness works is that it helps you let go of that forward-facing fear. So, instead of being anxious and worrying about what could happen, it allows you to be aware of the present moment and simply enjoy things as they happen, which can be a great strategy to use on a date.
For those who don’t practice mindfulness or don’t feel comfortable using it right away, O’Neill says you can try to use some grounding techniques.
“Grounding techniques are basically the opposite of mindfulness, but they can be really helpful when the anxiety is already there and threatening to overtake you,” she said.
Grounding techniques including distraction-based activities like saying the ABCs backwards, counting to 10, or thinking about something enjoyable.
In my past, my most anxious dating moments came from jumping in too early. Eager to leave a past relationship behind, I’d want to quickly move on, leading to extra anxiety when going on those new dates. With the gift of hindsight it seems clear that I was adding to my anxiety by moving too fast, but all I wanted then was to push forward, even if my brain wouldn’t let me.
“If the relationship just recently ended, it could be hard to start a fresh relationship without the baggage of the past relationship still hanging on,” O’Neill confirmed. “For those who feel like they’ve had enough time to grieve a past relationship and are ready to move on, I suggest working on being present-oriented. It’s okay to notice feelings of stress or anxiety about past relationships but, instead of giving them space, focus on allowing yourself to simply notice the thoughts and feelings without trying to push them away.”
These tips are handy, but they can be tough to process alone. My advice is to speak to someone while on your dating journey: a friend, a family member, or a therapist. You don’t have to divulge all of the details, but spending time with someone new, getting to know them and yourself in the process, can be a lot to process.
You don’t have to do it alone, and that’s important to remember. If sifting through your messy brain is too much for a potential or new partner, outsource it until you’re comfortable bringing them into that mix.
Originally published on Talkspace.
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