DATING

7 tips for taking care of your mental health while on the dating scene

By Elizabeth Bennett,
updated on May 11, 2024

7 tips for taking care of your mental health while on the dating scene

Approach dating from a mindful and intentional place with these steps

Dating is an opportunity to meet interesting people, enjoy new experiences, and understand yourself better, but it isn’t always an easy process. Dating can bring issues around self-confidence and rejection to the surface and, as a result, our mental health can easily be impacted, especially if we are prone to feelings of stress and anxiety. However, we can take steps to approach dating from a mindful and intentional place – and protect our mental health in the process.

Take the pressure off

Once you’ve decided you want to start dating, or perhaps set a goal to find a romantic partner, it can be hard to not put pressure on yourself to achieve this. After all, high expectations often breed stress or anxiety. Counsellor Georgina Sturmer suggests stepping back for a moment and thinking about what you can do to reduce any fears or worries.

“Figure out exactly what’s stressing you out – maybe it’s to do with you, or the other person, or the date itself – and then reflect on whether there’s anything that you can control or change in order to minimise your stress levels,” Georgina says. Prior to a date, she recommends doing a breathing exercise such as ‘five finger breathing’ (tracing your hand with a finger, inhaling slowly as you travel up, and exhaling as you move down) to calm any nerves.

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Avoid game play

In the early stages of a budding romance, we are often fed ideas about how to play the ‘game’ of dating. In popular culture, we see examples of techniques like ‘playing hard to get’, but in reality, approaching dating from this perspective leads us to doubt our instincts, and makes the process more draining on our energy and mental health. “You can make a choice to exit the playground, and communicate in an adult way,” Georgina says. “If you role model this behaviour, then your date is likely to follow suit.”

Reconsider rejection

Rejection is a natural part of the dating process, but one that most of us find difficult. It can be easy to take rejection personally, falling down a slippery slope of negative self-talk, and catastrophising about our future dating prospects. Instead, as Georgina points out, remember that “even though you’ve been rejected, it doesn’t mean that there is anything fundamentally wrong with you”.

To curb these thought patterns, try to catch yourself when you start going down a path of negativity, and maintain a sense of perspective. “Remember that we are not all going to be the perfect match for everyone that we date,” Georgina emphasises. Instead, see rejection as redirection on our journey to meeting a person that is right for us.

Accept that sometimes it is tough

Remembering and accepting that sometimes there will be challenges is crucial. Never beat yourself up for feeling this way, it is a totally understandable response. “You sometimes might feel sad, angry, frustrated, or embarrassed. Notice what’s going on, and accept that it’s happening,” Georgina says.

Curb your social media usage

We all know social media is not an accurate reflection of real life, but if we are feeling more low on confidence than usual, it can be hard to separate truth from reality. “Ask yourself what you think you might find, and whether it’s likely to make you feel better or worse at that moment,” Georgina advises. “If you can take a break from social media, it will give you the chance to reflect on what’s happened with some perspective and a clear head.”

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Look after your emotional wellbeing

Dating demands vulnerability and putting ourselves out there, which can be emotionally draining. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to incorporate routines that allow us to stay calm and grounded.

“This is different for all of us,” Georgina says. “Maybe it’s exercise, journaling, fresh air, or a walk in the park. If you need something to stay as part of your routine, then commit to spending time looking after yourself.”

Remember, you can’t do everything alone either; this is a time when you might need to lean on your support network more than before. “Seek out opportunities to connect with the people who value you, and make you feel good,” Georgina adds.

Find opportunities for distraction

It can be very easy to get stuck in our own heads, and laser focused on one area of our lives, especially when we are dating. Sometimes we need a break to gain a fresh perspective, and seeking out other ways to spend time is a great way to do this.

“This might involve a new hobby or distraction,” Georgina says. “Or perhaps a task that involves supporting other people, or volunteering, to activate that ‘helpers high’ and restore your confidence in yourself.”

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