Every person in the country has been impacted by the pandemic in myriad hard ways. One group who saw a vital element of life change dramatically when the world shut down in March 2020 are single people. A walk in the cold at two metres distance isn't exactly the most fertile ground for a first date, and the UK, unlike other European counties, made zero provision for sex, if you don't live with a partner.
While the rules around sex haven't changed, yet (these restrictions will remain in place until people are allowed to meet indoors again, which will happen, at the earliest, on May 10), the end of lockdown 3.0 is now in sight, with outdoors hospitality set to open from 12 April. So it figures that you might be starting to think about dating again.
Of course, this might be a sigh of relief for those excited to meet new people. But, after such a stretch out of the game, it might also bring out feelings of nerves and anxiety for many.
If that's you, WH spoke to psychologist and psychotherapist Francesca Moresi, for her advice on handling these feelings, when it comes to dating and sex, post-lockdown.
8 tips to restore your sex and dating confidence, after lockdown
1. Remember that dating is supposed to be fun
'Many single people haven't had the opportunity to date in a very long time and so I'm seeing a lot of my clients starting to have some anxiety around dating again, because they feel a certain pressure that they need to go out and date,' says Moresi.
'But then as soon as they perceive a "need" to date, they're automatically put into stress mode, and that triggers the anxiety.
'It's important to remember that dating is something pleasurable, and you should only be doing it if you actually want to, not because you feel that you have "wasted time" during the pandemic.'
Try and enjoy the process rather than stressing about it.
2. Regain your independence
'Feelings of anxiety around dating can often decrease when you start to feel more independent. It's so much easier to date when we don't feel needy,' says Moresi.
'Again remember, you may have just gone a whole year without a date or having sex, and you functioned perfectly fine. The aim is to be able to get to a place mentally where you feel like you don't need to date — but in fact, you want to date again.'
3. Invest in self-care
'During lockdown, many of us have really stripped back on our personal routines. While wearing pyjamas all the time and no make-up can feel liberating, on the other hand it can leave some people with lower self-confidence. So if you don't feel your best at the moment, take some extra time for self-care.
'This can be anything from exercise, to doing a face mask or having a long bath. Anything that allows you to feel good will, in turn, boost your self-esteem and help you regain a sense of confidence.'
4. Stop focussing on whether they like you
'"Is he going to like me?" is a question I hear a lot when working with women,' reveals Moresi. 'People almost forget that they have a choice, too. When we put the emphasis solely on the impression we're making and what the other person will think, ("What will he say? Will he call me back?"), it often creates uneasy thoughts around how the other person might perceive us.
Keep reminding yourself that it's just as important whether you like them, as it is to whether they like you.'
5. Compliment yourself
'I work mainly with women and I often find that we can be very critical and judgmental about ourselves, when we wouldn't be towards a friend or partner,' says Moresi. 'There's a negativity bias towards ourselves where we focus on failures and never actually acknowledge our achievements.'
'If you want to increase your confidence, it's so important to connect with yourself on a deeper level and focus on what you want. Try to stop the negative thoughts and change them into positives. Focus on love and gratitude and remember to appreciate yourself, as you may tend to do with other people.
'On a very practical level, it can be really helpful to start paying yourself compliments in the mirror. It's so important that we look at ourselves positively and we start noticing beautiful things — whether that's about achievements, personality traits or your physical appearance — it doesn't matter, but try bringing the attention to the positive side rather than always focusing on the negative.'
6. Ask yourself: 'What if everything went right?'
'Thinking positively is so important. I often see many clients who focus so much energy into the serious side of dating, that they consume themselves with doubt and worry.
'Instead of worrying what might go wrong — what if they don't like you, what if there's no spark, what if they don't call you — start asking yourself this: what if everything was to go right?'
7. Try some breathing exercises
'If you're feeling nervous before a date then try spending just 10-minutes beforehand focussing on your breathing. Breathwork can be really relaxing and centering, helping to calm feelings of anxiety.
'Similarly, if you're having sex for the first time in a while, then focussing on your breath is another good tip.
'Of course, the first thing to say is that you should never push yourself, ever. But if you are choosing to have sex again after a long break then breathing can really help you relax and help you connect. When we have sex, we tend to withhold the breath. When actually, the opposite is really what we need to do if we want to feel the most pleasure. Focussing on long, deep, calming breaths will help to calm the body and support us in feeling more pleasure.'
8. Make sure you feel comfortable and safe
'For both dating and sex, it's important that you create a comfortable environment in which you feel safe. This is such an important detail that can change the experience, especially after such a long break. Of course, it doesn't have to be perfect, but you want to feel comfortable enough for you to really enjoy yourself. After all, it's all about having fun.'
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