Confession: I’m kind of a nervous person. I worry about stuff. I think a lot. And I also tend to internalize my thoughts and worries. This results in uncomfortable physical manifestations of worrying, which sounds like the subtitle to a new Woody Allen movie, but it could also pass for my own personal summary statement. Add this feeling to a high-pressure date with emotions fueled by either alcohol or too much caffeine – and you’ve got all the ingredients for a stomachache or panic attack!
I think we’ve all been nervous before or during a date – it’s a pretty common occurrence. I know one friend who can’t eat on dates because she feels nervous; another occasionally gets sick right before due to nerves! And I’m sure we can all relate to that sinking feeling in your stomach when you find out an ex got engaged, or you catch someone cheating, or in some cases, just see an old crush. Or what if your skipped lunch in an effort to squeeze into your dress, followed by the two glasses of wine you downed while waiting to meet your date, produces gastrointestinal distress requiring a quick trip to the bathroom in the middle of shared appetizers? What if the girl you’re meeting doesn’t like you? Or worse – what if she DOES and becomes a crazy clinger? What if he looks nothing like his picture? What if she is 20 years older than she said? This shirt is uncomfortable – what if I have a wardrobe malfunction over dinner? Did I remember my wallet? Aackk, it’s no wonder the stress of dating can make even a normally calm person feel nervous. I love being part of the chosen people, but sometimes I wonder if we were also chosen for specializing in anxious neuroticism!
Unfortunately, for lots of people, nerves are just part of the territory when it comes to dating. But, they don’t have to be. Allow me to suggest breathing techniques to help you achieve total zen, or at least make it through your next date without sweating through your shirt.
Seriously, practice breathing. Make it a part of your routine each day to take 10 long, slow breaths. Inhale through your nose and out through your mouth. And try to inhale from your belly more so than your chest. Keep your eyes open or closed – you can even do this at work or on the train – and just let thoughts pass in and out of your awareness. Practicing this on a regular basis will help you more easily be able to achieve the same calm when you need it. That’s kind of how meditation works – you learn to train your mind to achieve a relaxed state. But you can always use your breath as an extra boost of peace right before a date. Remember that your body can’t panic if you are slowing down your breath. If you wish to practice a longer relaxation session, try progressive muscle relaxation where you continue to breathe deeply while tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups. Or add yoga moves or mindfulness techniques to your breathing to optimize your relaxation. This isn’t some new-agey weirdness – in fact, it’s a very old, tried and true method, and it works! I’ve been practicing while I’m typing this, and wow, does it work – I’m starting to experience a relaxed state so powerful that at any moment now I could just drift int…