I usually get pretty nervous attending an event like speed dating. I was uneasy at first when I found out about the Smitten Singles speed dating. For me, it was mostly fear of the unknown, wondering what it’d be like to talk to multiple people throughout the night, and wondering what they’d think of me. It ended up being much better than I thought once I stepped out of my comfort zone. I am happy I decided to go because I had a wonderful time, gained experience, and met some surprisingly amazing people. We chatted about ourselves and learned more about one another. It was interesting finding out others’ life goals, and what was important to them in a relationship, family, etc. While we were talking to each other we played board games to break the ice. It was refreshing to have something to concentrate on besides the nerves and it made it not seem like a dreaded job interview. It went so well the first time that I decided to go back for the second speed dating event, and it was even more fun. I faced my fears and had an even better time, and met a wonderful guy in the process!

I would recommend speed dating to anyone wanting to have a change of pace from the dating app world. You may be signed up for every dating app you can find, and you are texting up a storm with several dead-end “matches.” One day, you finally join a Smitten Singles event to meet people in the real world. But there is this problem looming over your head — you are anxious, and may struggle with social or general anxiety.

Note: I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I speak from real-life experience. I do have anxiety though, along with a large percentage of people on this planet. You are not alone.  According to Scientific America, anxiety disorders are the most common psychological disorder in the US, affecting 18 percent of the adult population. Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is the third-most-common psychological disorder, affecting 15 million men and women in the US. Social anxiety symptoms can include, rapid heartbeat, shaking, sweating, nervousness to the point of nausea, lightheadedness, or difficulty catching your breath. 

Here are some tips I have learned from past professional therapy sessions that have helped me. I was planning on attending a singles event where I did not know anyone and I was internally freaking out. My therapist shared with me some of the tips listed below. There is hope!

Tools to help calm anxiety at a social event: 

1. Decide what you are going to wear at least a day in advance. Otherwise, you will most likely be even more anxious if you are running late, and trying to figure out what to wear.

2. Be in the present, focus on your surroundings and others. Try concentrating on making them comfortable instead of solely focusing on your nerves. 

3. Be honest. Letting someone know that you are nervous, or have social anxiety can breaks the ice and make it easier to connect with people. You will seem relatable and open. Remember most people are probably just as nervous as you are.

4. Medical News Today suggests making a list of the negative thoughts that might be cycling as a result of anxiety and writing down another list next to it containing positive, believable thoughts to replace the negative. Creating a mental image of successfully facing and conquering a specific fear can also provide benefits if anxiety symptoms relate to a specific cause. Visualize yourself talking and having fun with others without the unwelcome face of anxiety

5. Cut yourself some slack and be gentle. Recognize your bravery and accomplishment of just showing up. Usually, anxiety is the strongest in the first few minutes of arriving at an event. If you can get through that hurdle, the rest of the night will not be so daunting. You have to start somewhere. 

6. Come with an open mind because singles events are not just about finding the love of your life, but making friends, too. Try going to an event with only the intention of making friends rather than concentrating on finding a soul mate. Even if you do not find a romantic spark right away, it is always rewarding and worth the effort to make more friends! Have fun and enjoy yourself. Expanding your social circle is never a bad thing. 

 7. Invite a friend to go with you. Having someone to navigate you through your nerves will help make you more comfortable. What event is not more friend with a buddy to tag along? Or if you can’t take a friend, Sue, Shannon, or Lisa from the Smitten Singles crew: will be there to greet you and make you feel comfortable. 

Even if speed dating isn’t your thing, consider coming out for any of the upcoming events like volunteering to give back to the community during the holidays, a cooking class, wine and painting, and a holiday party. Read more details on our website.