Freeing Your Heart from Anxiety: How to Not Bring Worry on Your Next Date

photo credit: eHarmony

Dating and Anxiety: a not so perfect match. Here’s an interview I did with with lots of ideas for overcoming the fears, doubts and worries that are part and parcel of the wonderful adventure of looking for companionship in your life.

eH: First dates can rattle anyones nerves, but if one suffers from anxiety it is something they might want to avoid. How does a person like this even get into the mindset of going on a date?

Dr. Chansky: Tame the narrative. It’s normal to feel anxious in new situations like dating, the important thing is to not interpret that nervous feeling as a sign of trouble: with you, your date, or your potential together; it’s just human nature. We are wired to proceed with caution in situations where we can’t predict the outcome — and especially in those situations where we think we might get hurt. People who suffer from anxiety may have more frequent anxious thoughts, or more extreme catastrophic outcomes in mind, but the solution is the same either way and it’s all about what expectations you have for dating. This is what will turn the pressure up or down.

Give yourself a gift. Rather than going into each date with the mindset that you have to find that one true love tonight, do an expectation makeover: imagine if you saw this date as an isolated event without consequences. Let the date just be a date. Not the be all and end all, not the test of whether it’s worth it, not the test of whether you are lovable. It’s a single data point, that’s all. While the big picture is that you want to find love and companionship, the immediate purpose in the moment is to connect. It won’t jinx you if you let go of the big goal, quite the opposite: it will free you up to be present, pay attention and enjoy. Rather than be dragged around by your imagination which is moving fast and furious, racing ahead, analyzing this and that, be in the moment. Use your true curiosity to find out about the person across from you. They have a life story; you have a life story. Share yours; listen to theirs without worrying about what you’re going to do with it or where it’s going.

eH: How does one manage all the fears and worries?

Dr. Chansky: Anxiety’s way of preparing ourselves for the unknown is to supply us with rapid fire “what if’s.” The problem is, the “what if’s” are more a reflection of the universal reaction to the unknown than to the specifics of your life. So when you start to think –“What if I make a total fool out of myself? What if he doesn’t like me?, What if she finds me boring?” Don’t take it personally. It’s not really about you; it’s about how everyone’s anxious wiring responds to uncertainty.

Rather than doing your pre-game huddle with the worst-case scenarios; do a reality check. Change the question from “What if?” to “What is?” Write lists side by side on a piece of paper. In the first column, write down your fears, in the second column, write down the facts. For instance, your fear may say: What if she doesn’t like me? What if we have nothing in common? What if I never meet anyone? What if I end up alone? Whereas the facts sound like this: I have interests, I have things to talk about that I care about. Even if she’s not interested in everything I say, we are likely to find some things in common, and if we don’t, that’s a no fault thing. It’s not a sign of trouble. It happens.  Think of it as the New York Times covering your date rather than The National Enquirer.

Read the full interview and share with anyone who might benefit from reading it!

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tamar chansky phd

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