Dating Can Be Crazy-Making!
I recently had a client who was struggling with the all too familiar experience of dating anxiety or what we often call attachment anxiety. We had had a fairly productive session helping her re-regulate her nervous system, but I knew she was still leaving with some angst and discomfort given the unpredictable nature of dating.
I wanted to be helpful outside of the session by sending her some tools and tips for dealing with anxiety and insecurity. I was looking for a quick blog with some tips that I could send her that could help her in between our sessions, but didn't find something that I liked so I decided to write my own, both for her and for you.
Attachment anxiety throws our nervous systesms out of whack!
Attachment anxiety shows up in the dating world when someone we have started to date and get to know, and consequently started getting even a little bit attached to, suddenly does or says something that makes us feel like they aren't as interested as we thought they were.
We can feel left hung out to dry, unimportant, un-liked, and unwanted. It can even touch off deeper experiences of shame and hopelessness (I’m not lovable, I’m never going to find someone that wants me).
When someone we have started seeing unexpectedly pivots, perhaps for reasons that have little or nothing to do with us personally, it can feel like WE are being rejected and left and we can feel abandonment. The internal psychological experience is somehow, “I'm not okay.” We need to re-establish contact with ourselves and our sense of goodness and we need our nervous systems to settle in order to do that.
5 tools to get your system back on track.
Here are some tips that should help you manage some of the anxiousness, self-soothe and re-regulate when you're feeling rejected, left or not liked or loved anymore.
Get physical. – Take a good 20 minute walk or do a full exercise/work-out routine that includes cardio. Getting the cardiovascular system revved up changes brain and body chemistry. Yoga is also a great physical practice to soothe anxiety.
Crank up the volume! – Listen to some up-tempo/Dance Music. It gets you moving physically and can uplift your spirit and mood, and interrupt and re-route unhelpful/obsessive thoughts and can get you back in touch with your inner strength, core energy and center. My favorite is House music.
Make Contact: Emotional and Physical – Get in touch and connect with a friend or someone who will listen and empathize. If you have a close enough friend or family member who can put a hand on your back, give you a long hug or even hold you and let their regulated nervous system co-regulate your anxious nervous system. In lieu of an available friend/family, getting a massage can be a good way to soothe.
Visualize a better reality. – John Welwood, in his book Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, has an exercise that I have found to be quite powerful for a number of situations:
Get comfortable. Close your eyes and go inside. Ask yourself: How do you most want to be loved right now? Answer that question to yourself out-loud or inside. It could be anything (I want a hug./I want my mom to tell me how great I am./I wish an angel would come down and wrap her/his arms around me. Or anything simpler or more elaborate.)
Notice the answer and feel it as if it was happening, imagine it in your mind’s eye. Let the question help you get in touch with a longing for something soothing and then let that lead you into imagining it and experiencing it in the moment as if it were happening. Our brains/nervous systems respond as if it were actually happening.
Relax the body. – Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Sometimes we have to activate something to relax it. Start by lying down on the floor. You will go through the body one muscle group at a time slowly first tensing and then relaxing each muscle group.
Start with feet, then calves, thighs, and on up through the neck and facial muscles. There’s no right/wrong, just start with one muscle group at a time.
Breathe in as you tense or contract and hold for 5-ish to 10-ish seconds, then slowly exhale and relax the muscles. Then just notice how it feels, rest and take in that relaxation. Then do the next area.
At the end you can try tensing/relaxing the whole body. Notice and take in whatever positive sensations or experience arises. Notice the good sensations IN YOU. You ARE OK. There are many different guided practices on YouTube that might help you, here is just one.
You could take 10 minutes or more doing this. It should help your muscular, nervous, cardiopulmonary and other systems to shift and begin to re-regulate and reconnect you with the goodness that is in you and IS YOU.
I appreciate hearing how these ideas are helping OR where you get stuck! Feel free to leave a comment below, drop me an email, or if you want to some help changing how you feel, how you date and creating the love you want in your life - feel free to call me for a free 15 minute phone consultation at (415) 797-8297. I am San Francisco’s resident dating therapist helping successful singles create the love and life that they want!