Going on a first date can be a nerve-wracking experience. You may have butterflies because you met the person of your dreams and you are just about to see them again. You might also experience nervousness due to natural introversion or social anxiety.
Whatever your reason for feeling anxious before a date, there are ways that you can calm yourself down and get ready for the experience. Find out how to relax before a date so you can enjoy your time with the other person rather than feeling anxious or awkward.
Why Do You Feel Nervous Before a Date?
Nervousness before a date can come in many forms, from mild butterflies in your stomach to paralyzing social anxiety.
For most people, pre-date nervousness lies closer to the butterflies' feeling but it can still be hard to shake and cause an unpleasant anxiousness about meeting with your potential partner.
Nervousness before a first date is normal. The “butterflies in your stomach” kind of nervousness that you get before you meet up with your date is related to your body’s gut-brain axis.
The gut-brain axis is a complex interaction between your digestive system and your brain in which your thoughts influence physical sensations in your body and vice versa.
Before a date, especially if it’s with someone you are attracted to and see as a potential partner, your mind goes through hundreds of scenarios. You question if they will like you, how the night will go, whether you can keep up with the conversation, and so on.
All of these thoughts drive feelings of anxiousness and uncertainty that translate through the gut-brain axis and give you butterflies.
You may also experience butterflies due to attraction. When you experience attraction to someone your body instinctively goes through a number of chemical and physiological responses.
Your heart beats faster and your skin may begin to perspire. These almost imperceptible changes in the body’s functioning can cause you to feel nervous and flighty before a date.
If you feel more than just gentle butterflies, you may be experiencing actual anxiety. This is also fairly normal before a first date.
A 2014 article found that this type of anxiety comes out of uncertainty about the future. The article explains that the job of the human mind is to anticipate and plan for the future; in other words, the mind is an “anticipation machine”.
When your mind cannot plan due to uncertainty, it causes you to experience uncomfortable sensations such as fear and anxiety.
Taking this into account, a partial reason you may feel anxious before a big date is simply that your mind is trying to anticipate what’s to come.
Unlike many situations, however, your brain can’t predict what will occur during your date. It cannot predict what the other person will think of you. This uncertainty causes you to feel a bit of anxiety about the date because you can’t truly know what will happen, and therefore, your brain cannot prepare.
How to Relax Before a Date
Knowing what causes you to feel anxious before your date can help you distance yourself from the uncomfortable feelings.
There are also several techniques you can use to calm yourself down before your date. These include relaxation breathing, planning ahead, changing your perception, and going into the date with no expectations.
1. Relaxation Breathing
If you are feeling stressed just before your first date, just stop and take a deep breath. Breathing techniques have been used for thousands of years as a way to calm the body’s central and parasympathetic nervous system and provide clarity of thought.
Scientific research, such as this 2017 randomized controlled trial, shows that deep breathing lowers stress.
This particular trial found that students who engaged in deep breathing exercises improved their mood, reduced stress, and lowered their heart rate and cortisol levels.
There are numerous breathing techniques you can try before your date to calm your nerves and put you in a confident state of mind. These include:
- Box breathing
- Breath counting
- Morning breathing
- Deep breathing
- 4-8-9 breathing
Take a quiet minute or two to practice breathing techniques to help yourself relax and prepare while waiting for your date to pick you up or before walking into the meeting venue.
2. Dance Away the Jitters
If you are feeling nervous before your date, turn on your favorite song and dance away the jitters. Aim for an upbeat song that you can bounce around to and sing out loud as you move your body.
Dancing helps you relax before a date for two reasons. First, it takes your mind off any anxious thoughts you are experiencing. Second, dancing exerts physical energy which helps rid you of jitteriness in your body.
Dancing is a well-known stress-relieving activity and has been found to promote positive emotions, self-esteem, and self-confidence. Dance can even help you with self-expression, which may prepare you to be yourself and embrace your uniqueness on your first date.
3. Pick the Place
One great way to manage pre-date anxiety is for you to pick the meeting spot. By taking the lead you can choose a location where you feel comfortable and knowledgeable.
Taking your date to your favorite restaurant or an art gallery you frequent allows you to feel more in control because you are in a familiar setting.
This makes complete sense considering the brain’s tendency to try and anticipate situations. By picking the location for your date, your brain can latch onto what it knows, allowing you to relax and have an enjoyable time with your date.
4. Change Your Perspective
Changing your mental perception can help you relax on a first date. Dating someone who you find extremely attractive or already have feelings for can feel intimidating. You may start to feel nervous and think that they are “too good” for you or that you won't live up to their expectations.
The best thing to do in this situation is to change your perspective. Force yourself to think about the date from their point of view. Remember that they accepted or asked you out, so they are already showing interest in you.
Also, try and embrace the idea that they are probably just as nervous as you are. Instead of placing high stakes on the date, try to think of it as just two people hanging out, having an experience together.
5. Wear Something Comfortable
Choosing your first-date outfit is fun and exciting, but it can also lead to nervousness. If you wear clothes that don’t fit your true personality or that literally don’t fit, you aren’t going to feel as confident as possible.
To help yourself relax for your date, choose an outfit that looks nice, that also makes you feel comfortable.
For Example, don’t go for a skin-tight dress with stilettos if you are more of a flats and flowing skirt kind of person. If you typically wear sporty clothes, try and find a sporty, yet dressy look for your date so that your clothes fit comfortably and help your personality shine.
6. Use Aromatherapy
While getting ready for your date, use aromatherapy to de-stress and get in a happy and relaxed mindset. Aromatherapy uses a variety of scents to boost your mood. Most commonly, aromatherapy scents come from essential oils derived from plants and herbs.
Before your date, turn on an essential oil diffuser and drop in your favorite calming essential oil, such as lavender, cedarwood, or ylang-ylang. You could also use uplifting and energizing scents like lemon, lime, orange, or eucalyptus to boost your mood and get hyped up before your date.
7. Be Ready to Talk About Yourself
One of the things that cause many people to feel nervous on a date is talking about themselves.
If you are one of these people, you may clam up when your date asks you about your job, your classes, or what you like and dislike. Alternatively, you may end up giving awkward, one-word answers that stifle the conversation. If you’ve done this in the past on other dates, consider preparing yourself about…yourself.
Before your date, make a list of several aspects about yourself that you enjoy talking about.
Perhaps it’s your unique interest in 18th-century french literature or your passion for helping shelter animals find their forever home. Or maybe, you have a great story about that trip you took overseas when you were in high school.
Whatever makes you interesting to yourself, consider sharing it on the date so that the other person can get to know you and so you can feel comfortable sharing about yourself.
8. Distract Yourself
If you have a big first date coming up, plan your day in such a way that you can distract until its date-time.
Distracting yourself with other activities that keep you busy helps alleviate date-related stress. It keeps you moving so that you don't have time to sit down and let your mind wander and worry about the date.
Consider running an errand just before your date or stopping by the gym an hour or two before to blow off some nervous energy.
Of course, you’ll want to ensure that your distraction doesn’t prevent you from showing up to your date on time; however, just the right amount of distraction can help you come to the date ready to relax and have a good time.
9. Go In Without Expectations
If possible, going on a date with no expectations can help you relax before and during your date. Often, nervousness stems from the worry that your date won’t go as expected. It can also come from the worry that your expectations for the person or the date itself won't be met.
Lowering your expectations can help you avoid anxious or nervous feelings before your date. Go into the date with the expectation that you are going to spend an hour or two getting to know someone, that you are going to have the best time possible, no matter what.
If you approach your date with an open, non-expectant mind you can relax and enjoy the situation for what it is, rather than what it could or should be. Without so much pressure on the date “going well”, you can focus on spending time together and see what comes of your first date.
Relax and Enjoy Your Date
Going on a first date isn’t always the most relaxing activity; however, if you can achieve a state of calm before heading out the door you’re likely to have a more enjoyable time.
Try out a few of these techniques to try and settle your nerves and distract your mind so you can relax before your date.