Tips for Dealing With COVID-Induced Dating Anxiety

From Bumble’s Dating 101 in 2021 guide.

Though dating can always elicit occasional moments of anxiety, in the past, those worries mostly focused on concerns like whether you and a match would have chemistry in person or if someone was going to message back. During the pandemic, however, daters are experiencing very different anxieties, like about COVID in general, about being single during this strange time, and about lacking confidence while dating these days.

If you’re looking to meet someone right now, the good news is that there are some ways to deal with anxiety, whether it’s tied to dating or otherwise. According to Dr. Marianne Stout, psychologist at the Anxiety Treatment Center of Austin, one way is to pay attention to the present instead of getting in the weeds worrying about the future. “It can be helpful to focus on the here and now, instead of engaging so much with hypothetical situations,” notes Stout.

“Pay attention to your present life instead of getting in the weeds worrying about the future.”

Instead of panicking about whether you’ll lose out on meeting someone if there’s another lockdown, anchor yourself in the current moment. Go for walks outside, talk to a supportive friend or family member, limit your social media use (maybe give a phone-free Sunday a try), and work on the things in your life that you can control, like “sleep, exercise, eating habits, reaching out to friends, and engaging in enjoyable activities in a safe way,” says Dr. Stout.

Dr. Stout also stressed that finding social connection is essential for anyone struggling with anxiety right now, especially single people. This means everything from making more time to talk with friends or neighbors, to adopting a pet, to having what she calls “social snacks”—moments of quick but genuine human connection, even if it’s just chatting with the person checking out your groceries or talking to your barista about how they’re coping. These moments will “help us feel more connected, and calm our central nervous system,” says Stout. “Humans are social beings and we need our experiences to be validated and normalized.”

If you’re struggling with a lot of specific dating anxiety—say, you’re worried about feeling lonely and unlovable if you have to spend the next few months alone—Dr. Stout recommends really zeroing in on whatever you’re worried about. “If you can identify, and even write down, your anxious thought, it can take some power away from it,” she says. The more explicit and specific you can get about your worry, the better. Writing down your worries or saying them out loud might feel weird; you might even think that your anxious thought “may sound silly, or over the top,” says Dr. Stout. That’s actually the point—saying your worry out loud could help you realize that the thought is not realistic or likely to occur.

“Finding social connection is essential for anyone struggling with anxiety right now, especially single people.”

“Anxiety isn’t logical,” explains Dr. Stout. “Just identifying the anxious thought externalizes it and helps to reduce its power.” For a particularly intense worry, Dr. Stout recommends “saying your feared thought out loud 40 times” in a row, to help fully face it. 

And above all, be kind to yourself as you continue to navigate dating during the pandemic. You—and everyone else—are trying to figure out something none of us has ever done before, and we’re bound to stumble sometimes. “Have compassion for yourself and for others as you’re trying to navigate dating in the age of COVID-19,” Dr. Stout says. “Everyone is trying their best!”