As exciting as a first date can be (once you’ve gotten past the awkward introductions and small talk), the built-up anticipation you experience in the hours, days, even weeks before can be absolutely terrifying. Especially in this day and age, when meeting someone online is becoming more mainstream than, say, having your BFF set you up with a friend of a friend, you never really know what you’re getting yourself into on a first date. Before getting yourself all worked up though, you might want to figure out how to de-stress before a date prior to agreeing to one because, trust me, the last thing you want to do is to psych yourself out and bail at the last minute.
Personally, I think the reason people experience first date jitters at all is due, in large part, to the expectation of it all. Even if you’re not normally one to wear your heart on your sleeve, agreeing to a first date makes you vulnerable. This could be the start of something new, and no one can fault you for feeling a bit nervous. Matters of the heart can be messy, but they can also be amazing. Worst case scenario: It doesn't work out, so you enjoy a meal, laugh off an hour or so of awkward conversation, and move on.
Easier said than done, I know. If you feel like your nerves will get the best of you, here are a few tips and tricks that'll help you de-stress in the hours, even days, before a first date to ensure you enjoy the experience, no matter how it turns out.
Dating gives you the time and wiggle room to figure out what you want and don't want in a partner. Imagine a first date like it's window-shopping: You're getting a feel for what this person has to offer before committing to a serious relationship.
Before heading out, licensed psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Seth Meyers suggests jotting down a "needs and deal-breakers list" that will help you organize your thoughts about what you expect from a potential partner.
For example, your needs may include character traits like drive, compassion, and family-oriented, whereas deal-breakers might be something along the lines of if the person is a smoker, if they're unemployed, or they tend to get too rowdy in public places.
Dr. Meyers wrote in an eHarmony blog post that everyone's list will, of course, be different. The idea here is "to ask yourself what you need in a relationship." He explained,
When you create a list like the ones included above, you focus more on asking yourself if he is good enough for you, rather than the other way around!
Because this is a first date, it can go one of two ways: You'll either hit it off and go from drinks to dinner, maybe even dessert (wink, wink), or your date will turn out to be a dud and you'll end up spending the entire happy hour planning an escape route.
Having said that, it's definitely in your best interest to go into a first date prepared for the worst, hoping for the best, and armed with a plan of action that applies to both scenarios.
Sex and relationship coach Dr. Jordan Gray suggested in a blog post the idea of being able to "upgrade or downgrade your date" by having back-up and alternative plans. For example, if it quickly becomes clear that you and your date have zero chemistry, cut the night short after drinks. On the other hand, things might pan out stunningly well, and if that's the case, you'll want to have plans for the second half of the date up your sleeve, such as dinner reservations.
Above all, though, as life coach Nina Rubin, M.A. tells Elite Daily, do your best to live in and enjoy the moment of your first date. She explains,
Notice how it feels to get ready for the date, how it feels to meet the date, how you feel at various intervals of the date.
If you don’t feel safe, leave. If you feel safe, remind yourself that you’re safe and you’re having fun on the date. If it’s not fun, don’t feel obligated to stay a long time.
We're all well aware by now that how we feel about ourselves (and life in general, really) can heavily depend on the kinds of food we fuel our bodies with. The better we eat, the better we feel; it's really that simple. But when you're a pile of nerves, it can be all too tempting to either stuff your face to curb stress, or, worse, to not eat at all.
Relationship and etiquette expert and founder of Relationship Advice Forum April Masini says this is a major faux pas. If you're hit with the munchies amidst prepping for your first date, Masini says snacking is totally OK, and encouraged.
She tells Elite Daily,
Have a piece of fruit or some protein before your date, and drink some water or have half a glass of wine, as long as you’re not a lightweight.
Hunger pangs, distraction from hunger, and gurgling. hungry tummies, and attacking the bread basket are all going to add to your stress on a date — if you don’t snack first.
Perhaps it's not the most opportune time to take up yoga or start knitting for the first time ever while you're grappling with first date jitters.
There are a ton of therapeutic activities and hobbies you can take up in order to calm your nerves, but if you're on a time-crunch with zero patience to even begin to attempt a regulated inhale-exhale regimen, that's OK.
The best thing you can do to calm your nerves before a first date is engage in some sort of activity you already know will work to relax you. If watching The Office puts you in a better mood, leave enough time in between getting ready and heading out the door for a few episodes. Or maybe you're the type of person who needs to shake the sillies out, so post-shower, try blasting some beats and dancing it out.
Once you're comfortable in your element, be sure to hold onto that feeling throughout the night. Relationships aren't about putting on a front; you want to be with someone who accepts you for you, whoever that authentically is.
LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, MSSA, MA, tells Elite Daily
Don't hide that you tend to be late or lost. Don't order alcohol if you don't like it.
Let your date see that you are fussy about food or where you sit. Why should you reveal these quirks? Well, don't you want to see how your date handles it?
First dates aren't normally group activities, and oftentimes you and your date will pick a spot that either only one or neither of you are particularly familiar with to establish a neutral playing field.
Under these circumstances, relationship coach and owner/operator of Maze of Love Chris Armstrong says it's a good idea to get to know the people around you. He tells Elite Daily,
Whether it's the bartender, the wait staff, or whomever, talking to and getting to know people who will be in the dating environment helps you feel more at ease.
They become familiar faces in what could otherwise feel like a world of complete strangers and your date that you're already nervous about.
If you and your date met online, chances are his or her dating profile is still live. Lori Salkin, senior matchmaker and dating coach at SawYouatSinai.com, suggests that prior to heading out the door, it's a good idea to, in a sense, "review" who you're meeting.
She tells Elite Daily that she advises her clients to quickly refresh their memory regarding their date's line of work, interest, and where they come from.
"It can't hurt to take a look at their social media again," Salkin says. "See who you know in common, think about the pictures they post; it might help in making conversation on the date."
First dates are nerve-wracking, and chances are, you're not the only one feeling the effects of swarming butterflies in your stomach.
The same scary scenarios racing through your mind before dinner are probably going through your date's mind as well, but just like you, they're probably putting up a front about it.
If you're waiting at the bar or hanging outside the coffee shop with a few minutes to spare, give yourself a much-needed pep talk and remind yourself that, in regards to matters of the heart, we're all in this together.
Finding love — hell, even finding a person to just Netflix and chill with — is a process, but a first date is nothing to be afraid of. As previously advised, go into it preparing for the worst, hoping for the best, and above all, have fun!