How Do I Date if the Pandemic Gave Me Social Anxiety?

hands together in a dance

It’s no surprise that this past year has been a weird one, especially for our love and sex lives. Those in relationships may have felt the strain of being quarantined with a partner, while single folks have missed out on some of the best parts of being single—like making out with strangers on the dance floor.

That said, the pandemic hasn’t necessarily changed our dating lives for the worse. If anything, we’re seeing a resurgence of traditional “courtship,” as people date and build relationships with more intention. Some folks who may have previously relished in their single lives are now experiencing “isolation fatigue” and reconsidering the benefits of being in a relationship. Because of this, and the increasing number of vaccinations, I’m predicting we’ll see an increase in IRL dating post-pandemic.

That said, dating is a muscle, and many of us haven’t “worked out” in a few months. If you’re experiencing anxiety about dating (or simply going out)—don’t panic. You’re definitely not alone and there are plenty of ways to reacquaint yourself with the dating game. Let’s discuss! 

Go out with your friends.

If you’re nervous about dating post-pandemic, start by taking baby steps in socialization by going out with people you already love and trust. If you’re safe to do so, spend more time getting dinner or drinks with friends. Have an outdoor picnic or set up weekly walking dates. This way, you’ll start to get into a cadence of socializing, making you all the more prepared when you start dating for real. 

Another great benefit to going out with your friends is that you can meet other people without having to fully commit to hanging out with them. If you happen to be out with friends and meet some new people, try to engage in casual conversation, knowing that you can step away and return to your squad if it starts to feel like too much. 

Get back in your body.

If the pandemic forced you into a sexual dry spell, you’re not the only one or at a loss. When we go a long time without having sex, it can be difficult to rekindle that sense of “bedroom confidence.” 

One of the best ways you can start to reclaim your sexual energy is by getting back into your body. This might mean taking a dance class, treating yourself to some new lingerie, or regularly practicing yoga. Whatever it is, strive to implement some empowering, physical activity into your daily routine. Getting back into your body not only increases confidence, but it can also help foster a sense of mindfulness—which is definitely useful for when you start to date again. 

Practice flirting.

Like dating, flirting is a muscle, and it’s totally okay if you’re feeling a little “weak” in this department. The good news is that you can always build that muscle back up again; it just takes a teensy bit of practice. 

The next time you’re around someone you’re into, start by revisiting flirting basics: make eye contact, smile, and ask questions. If it feels right, maybe even make the slightest bit of physical contact, like a hand on someone’s wrist, or lightly grazing their thigh. Remember the importance of body language—if you’re interested in a person, show them by keeping your body open and receptive. 

Be gentle with yourself.

If you’re still feeling intimidated to date again, remind yourself that everyone is dealing with this. We all just spent a year having most of our socialization via Zoom calls, and you’re definitely not the only one struggling with social anxiety right now. 

When IRL dating post-pandemic starts to feel overwhelming, take a step back and return to yourself. Read some books about sex and dating or take yourself on a date. Dating, flirting, and, yes, sex will all start to come naturally to you once you get back into a rhythm. It might take a bit of time, but you might find that the pandemic even made you a stronger dater than you were before. 

Doctor of Human Sexuality and founder of Sex With Emily, Emily Morse, is on a mission to liberate the conversation about sex and pleasure. Over the last 15 years, Morse’s work has made her the best-selling author of Hot Sex: Over 200 Things You Can Try Tonight, a pioneering MasterClass instructor on Sex and Communication, live SiriusXM radio host and executive producer and host of the #1 Sexuality podcast on iTunes, Sex With Emily.