I was chatting with a client the other day, and she was describing the all-too-familiar anxiety that hits her like a hammer in the moments leading up to a date. She told me, “It’s like I just freeze. My heart starts racing and I can’t get a full breath. It’s exactly the opposite of how I want to feel walking in to meet someone new – and I kick myself every time!”
I understand 100% where she’s coming from – when I’m trying to get grounded, my high sensitivity can feel like a real curse. It’s like every worst case scenario goes flying through my head all at once, no matter how irrational those ideas might be. I know in my logical mind that this random internet stranger is very likely NOT a serial killer (though I certainly strongly recommend dating wisely and with your safety in mind!), but the anxiety is telling me he’s got several human heads in his trunk.
While dating provides ample opportunities for nervousness to take over, it’s not the only realm where ambiguity can overwhelm us. Highly Sensitive People, in my experience and in the research on the trait, are exquisitely attuned to transitions and changes – life’s doorways or thresholds. I love the term “liminal spaces” to describe these in-betweens – it’s got a beautiful ring to it. It’s like, because we don’t yet know the boundaries or the facts of what’s going to happen, we project all of our insecurities and fears into that space. And of course that creates anxiety!
The good news is, with time and practice (and the guidance of an HSP coach like me!), you don’t have to feel like you’re stuck in limbo. We can train our brains so that those moments of anticipation feel exciting, not overpowering.
The strategies are simple, but elegant.
One of my favorites (to draw upon my client’s situation above) is to create a “pre-date ritual”. Toss a few small items into a bag and keep it in your car, or wherever you’ll likely be just before a date. These items are customizable to you, but should include something you can smell (essential oil roll-ons in scents like eucalyptus or peppermint are popular), something you can touch (in a texture that you enjoy – soft, crunchable, etc), and something you can taste (mints or small chocolates would work well). What’s important is that you choose sensory experiences that you find soothing and calming.
In the moments before you meet a potential paramour, take some space to indulge your senses by using the items in your bag. This serves to ground you, and involving your senses also distracts from the noise and worry thoughts in your brain. Some HSPs enjoy talking back to their anxious thoughts while doing this, saying encouraging things like, “I’ve got this – this is a fun opportunity to chat with someone new”.
No, your nerves might not go from completely jangled to a Zen state, but you’ll feel far more prepared to step through that doorway with calm and confidence.
Interested in more skills for addressing ambiguity and tackling transitions head-on?
Schedule your free mini-session and I’ll show you how.