Psychotherapist Mark Pfeffer's 30-something clients share a common source for much of their anxiety: marriage. They fret about finding the perfect person, losing their independence, being the last of their friends to be paired off. They want kids, yet look at the 50 percent chance of misery and don't like the odds.
As people wait longer to marry, set higher standards for a spouse and become increasingly comfortable with the idea of staying unhitched, they also suffer more anxiety around the marriage decision, said Pfeffer, who runs a group at his Panic/Anxiety/Recovery Center (beyondanxiety.com) for people with what he calls "unwed anxiety."
Pfeffer, who appears occasionally as an expert on the A&E show "Hoarders," offers some tips for coping.
--Accept yourself. If you believe it's OK not to be married, for now or forever, others will too.
--Define the core values and beliefs that drive you in life and figure out what you need to do to achieve your vision.
--Accept invitations. Going to events solo can build self-confidence. Invite others to your home to build a network.
--Surrender control, and let your life unfold at its own pace.
--Begin checking off items on your bucket list. Don't wait to find a soul mate to have adventures.
--Laugh, sing and dance whenever possible. It changes your body chemistry to feeling-good mode.
--Do something scary every day to prove to yourself that you can do it. Let yourself feel your fears about marriage (or not being married), and then let them pass.
--Keep a schedule to keep yourself busy, because that's something you can control. But don't overschedule to distract yourself from dealing with hard life decisions.
--Declutter your environment and mind of unwanted, unneeded stuff and people.