Got date-night burnout? Fight relationship fatigue with our antidote – a night devoted to self care
Feeling emotionally and physically burned out from a bruising spell on the UK dating scene? You’re not alone. More than 15 million of us are looking for love online, heading out on an average of 24 dates. “It’s like having a second job,” says Emma, a legal secretary from London who reckons she’s been on around 30 dates in the last six months. “You spend time on a profile you think will attract the right sort of bloke, then there’s the messaging, meeting up, more messaging, a fair bit of agonising and then finally back to the beginning. And of course, there’s all the stuff you have to keep on top of to make a good first impression each time – bleaching your hair, going to the gym, waxing, exfoliating, flossing. It’s exhausting.”
In fact, research by Relate suggests many of us feel overwhelmed by our search for a life partner, with one in ten single people admitting to feeling burned out. The modern etiquette of courting online is particularly brutal, with one in seven singles having been ‘ghosted’ (suddenly blanked after a long exchange of messages) and ‘breadcrumbed’ (strung along by a contact with no intention of committing to a relationship). One in ten daters even report getting ‘benched’ – treated with only enough interest to keep them in the picture as a back-up option. So far, so toxic. So how can you heal yourself from this particular form of harm? How about an anti-date: a nourishing evening of self-care to recharge and reconnect with your inner self?
Excess screen time is one unhelpful side effect of the 21st century search for love, blamed variously by researchers for cognitive atrophy, increased sensitivity to rewards (all those dopamine-boosting message alerts), reduced physical activity and increased insomnia. “Technology can make the world a lonely place,” says a report by Mintel. “Consumers increasingly live their lives through smartphone screens and, although connected electronically, they are becoming isolated from each other both physically and emotionally.” On an intuitive level, you’ll recognise the jolt of adrenalin you get from a lighting screen or message ping, right? So switch off your phone, laptop, tablet and wearable tech – any electronic device that you’ve been giving precedence over your own train of thought – and settle in for an evening’s uninterrupted alone time.
A clutter-free room, vase of fragrant flowers, a chilled soundtrack and soft, warm lighting make the perfect mise en scene for an evening of connectivity with your inner self. Treating yourself to the kind of hospitality you might extend to a new lover is about more than indulgence, it’s good science. Oxytocin – the ‘love hormone’ boosted in relaxed, sensual environments and through touch – has been linked with increased optimism, self esteem and ‘mastery’ over one’s own circumstances. What’s more, these psychological assets have been proven to contribute to coping with stress and depression. Totting up the cash you might invest in a date – bus fair, drinks, dinner, taxi home – is a good way to justify a gorgeous new massage oil or bath soak.
The perfect self-date may mirror your ideal evening with a partner – there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a favourite meal in front of an engrossing box set. Just don’t forget to draw your focus within. “Spending time connecting on a soul-level is important when taking some time out for self-love,” says spiritual teacher Jen McCarthy. “It’s like a date with your higher self – holding a beautiful ritual using your favourite flowers, candles and oils to ignite all senses. Moving into a meditative state, you can converse with yourself – thanking her, telling her how grateful you are for being there, truly loving yourself, then listening to guidance she has.”
The art of recuperating from being ‘switched on’ in performance mode is well known to professional dancers, who have secrets to share with anyone run down by the physical demands of exercising hard. “On recovery days, ballet dancers will always spend time working on fascial release and deep, restorative stretches,” says Vickey Anstey, founder of BarreWorks (BarreWorks.co.uk). “You can do these simple exercises at home with a foam roller or massage ball. It brings a lot of benefits – stress relief, relaxation, lower blood pressure and a body that moves better, not to mention the positive effects on your central nervous system.”
Statistics about the proportion of us who masturbate regularly differ wildly – the outmoded taboo around women’s sexual pleasure is grimly hanging in there – but the benefits are unambiguous. There’s a lot to be said for this ultimate expression of ‘pleasing oneself’ – orgasms release feelgood dopamine and oxytocin, improve blood flow to your genitalia, and build elasticity of vaginal tissues. According to Relate’s research, just four percent of single women enjoy the freedom to have sex with whoever they like (compared with 16 percent of men), so enjoying solo sex is an important way to satisfy your libido.
“Self-love is the best love,” says modern witch Semra Haksever, author of Love Spells: Rituals, Spells and Potions To Spark Your Romantic Life (£10, Hardie Grant). “If you are practising self-love, and behaving in a kind and respectful way to yourself, you are winning at life. You are honouring yourself and your vibrational frequency will be working as a magnet, calling in all the good stuff. Make it your priority to give yourself the compassion that you deserve.” Try this technique:
1. Step 1
Gently close your eyes and take in a few breaths. As you do, count in five on the in-breaths and eight on the outbreaths. Repeat several times, feeling the muscles in your face and body relaxing. As you continue, be aware of all the organs in your body doing their job, working away so that you can live your amazing life.
2. Step 2
Focus on how everything is working and not asking you for any thanks, not judging you, and how happy your body is to be doing its job to keep you alive, so that you can keep continuing to be a living miracle. Now, focus on your heart and give it a little smile, visualise it and see it smile back at you.
3. Step 3
Take this time to remind yourself to have compassion and love for yourself. Recognise that you are doing this because you love yourself and are taking this time to honour yourself. Place your arms around your body and give yourself a cuddle. Feel the love and thank yourself for being here.
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