Would you describe yourself as jaded and cynical about online dating? Reactive? Constantly a little annoyed or triggered? Do you write people off because they put one too many happy faces or winked at you too early on? You're probably burned out.
Dating burn out can creep up silently and stealthily like a panther, and before we know it, we're melting down after being ghosted by someone we barely knew or text-splaining to a stranger why they are insensitive. Dating burnout can feel unsolvable until we name it ("You gotta name it to tame it" as they say in the therapy world.)
Helpguide.org defines burnout as "a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands." Sound familiar?
If so, read on...
Signs of Online Burnout
Although some of these signs could also be attributed to simply not caring about others, if you experience many of these symptoms and do genuinely care about others, there's a good chance you're experiencing some burnout.
Resistance is not something to be taken lightly. It can tell us a lot about ourselves and our situation if we are willing to "work through" it rather than "push through" it. Resistance often points to a silenced voice inside of us wanting to be heard, and beckons us to look more deeply at our unmet needs. Resistance is RARELY about the outside circumstance we are resisting, and more often about listening to our inner conflict, resolving it inwardly and expressing ourselves. So, what do we do when we feel online burnout?
As is the American way, online daters often feel they have to "push through" this ball of stressful feelings, but I think there's an easier, gentler way. Here are some tips to start dealing with it more kindly, compassionately, and effectively. I'm excited to note that these four steps naturally fell into an acronym: SIFT
1. STOP what you are doing. Notice and be with the resistance.
First step: Pause. Stop pushing through. Notice what's happening inside you. Notice how you feel it in your body. Where is it? What does it feel like? How does it feel to keep pushing? To stop pushing? What discomfort do you feel? Discomfort is inevitable, so just sit with it. This is a core mindfulness skill, and a core therapy skill so GO YOU if you're successfully practicing it!
2. IDENTIFY what the resistance is telling you. What is it your needing?
Maybe you need a vacation, something to let you feel like your relaxed self again. Maybe you need to enjoy your work life more. Maybe you just need more ease and joy in your dating life. Take some time to self-reflect here. If you feel totally lost, here's a needs inventory you can use to think about what your core needs may be. From the core needs you discover, you can brainstorm different ways to meet those core needs.
3. Fill your own cup! Redirect your energy away from what you've been doing and towards your deep actual need.
If you're needing a vacation, schedule it. If you're dehydrated, get a water purifier in your room (no need is to basic to attend to here. Maybe you're not really lonely, just thirsty ;). If you're needing intimacy or connection, cultivate that with yourself and your current community. If you're needing to meet people IRL to see if there's chemistry and don't like text-chatting, look up ways to do that - speed dating, live shows, parties, clubs.
4. Take a Self-Compassion Break.
When it comes to our emotional and dating health, interval training works. Give yourself time to repair your dating muscles. Take a week, a month, a year, or just a full Sunday, but make sure you give yourself as long as you need to feel rejuvenated. It doesn't have to be a break from dating in general, but perhaps a digital detox, or simply a dating app detox.
A Self-Compassion Break is different than simply a break because it means you are actively acknowledging your own burn out and actively giving yourself kindness. I recommend daily self-compassion meditations during this time, and lots of the three key ingredients of self-compassion: Soothing self-talk, warmth (sunshine, tea, warm blankets, fireplaces, warm hugs), and gentle touch (massages, self-massage, a hand over your heart).
The key to beating burn out is to recognize that it's happening, and to attend to yourself. The key to dating (and relationships) is to be know yourself. Let burnout be a reminder to reset.