Rachel Goldsmith, MA, MSMFT

Many people say that dating is difficult and unpleasant. Rarely do you hear someone express unbridled excitement about going on yet another date, and that is because for a lot of people, dating is hard work! It requires one to be vulnerable yet energetic and engaging yet quiet enough to listen to your date. Even the most confident people can feel overwhelmed and self-conscious given all the elements one has to balance in order to ensure the date goes smoothly.

What if, on top of the normal and expected jitters most experience with dating, you also suffer from social anxiety? Typically, dating is one of those activities that people who are socially anxious tend to avoid completely. Concerns about whether or not the other person likes you, what to say, how to even ask the person out on a date… all of these elements of dating feel impossibly worrisome to someone who is socially anxious.

Unfortunately, dating is one great way to begin a romantic relationship, and you do not want to miss out on this opportunity if you are socially anxious. Here are 3 tips for tackling the challenge of dating even if the thought of it overwhelms you right now.

  1. Get some exercise. While this one might seem obvious, it is worth emphasizing. Exercise releases chemicals into your body that can increase your mood, energy level, and motivation. Anxiety is also often stored within our bodies, so moving and working your muscles can release that built-up tension. Furthermore, most people feel more confident about themselves after exercising. These are all reasons to hit the gym before a date to help reduce your anxiety.
  2. Increase your chances of being successful. Big parties, concerts, or clubs can be incredibly overwhelming if you are socially anxious. Most likely, you will not want to find a date or take a date to a place like this. Instead, find a context that will increase the chances that you will feel comfortable enough to ask someone out on a date. Smaller groups, like a reading club or a sports team, might work better for you. Also, you can practice introducing yourself to others and getting to know people in these settings, which may help you feel more comfortable doing some of the tasks associated with dating.
  3. Be honest. If you happen to clam up or start feeling anxious while on a date, go ahead and say so. You might be very surprised at how well your date will respond if you simply say, “I’m a pretty anxious person, and so I’m actually getting kind of nervous right now.” Most likely, your date will be encouraging and probably even open up about his or her own vulnerabilities, too. You might also feel a release of stress just by naming what you are experiencing.