Relationships

How to reduce anxiety before your first date

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Relationships

How to reduce anxiety before your first date

Going on a first date with someone you recently met can sometimes be nerve-wracking and you might find yourself feeling very anxious before, during and even after the date. We asked Toronto-based psychotherapist Kimberly Moffit and relationships expert Stacie Ikka for tips to help reduce those first date jitters.  
 
What is it?
First date anxiety can appear in many different ways. Sometimes, Moffit explains, there's a sense of dread, nervousness, fear, decreased levels of confidence and negative thoughts about the outcome of the date.

There can also be physical indicators of anxiety such as sweaty palms and an increased heart rate. Other symptoms, Ikka says, include an exacerbated nervous tick, over talking (during the date) or the opposite – shutting down.
 
What to do before the date
Moffit recommends keeping yourself busy before the date in order to tone down your anxiety levels. "Spend the day keeping busy – do something else that you love, like spending time with friends, getting some work done or doing a hobby. If you spend the entire day getting ready [for the date], you're putting added subconscious pressure on yourself for the date to go well."
 
To reduce anxiety before any date, but especially before a first date, Ikka asks her clients to maintain a general dating outlook of eight from a scale of one to 10. Then, on a separate scale, she asks her clients to go into each individual date at a five. 
 
"In other words, I want them neutral," she says "If you go into every date at five, then you have room to slide up or down that continuum." If you like the person, that five can move up to a six, seven, and eventually a 10, but it can also drop to a zero if you dislike them.

The point, Ikka stresses, is  to go into the individual date at neutral number, where there is breathing room to slide up or down the scale. 

During the date

Forget having your first date at a coffee shop or having a sit-down meal. Instead, every first date should be centred around some sort of activity, even if it's just a walk in the park. 

"As soon as you introduce an activity or distraction, it alleviates the pressure of forced conversation and the potential for awkward silences," Ikka says. "When you sit across the table from a stranger, nothing can seem more unnatural or uncomfortable [than forced conversation]- especially when it's a first date."
If you have something you're already planning on doing, like going to an art gallery, ask your date if they would like to come along!

"Try to pick things that are in your local bucket list so even if the date doesn't go any further than the actual date, you've accomplished something on your own personal wish list," says Ikka. "It doesn't hurt to ask and if he says yes, even if he's not for you romantically, you get to do something that you've wanted to do anyway and presumably in relatively decent company."

While on your date, try to learn new things about the person you're with.
"Take the pressure off yourself and ask them the questions, think about if you actually like them, and get to know them a little better," Moffit explains.

Instead of focusing whether the date is going well, Ikka challenges her clients to leave the date having learned some life lessons. "Come away from the date with three pieces of knowledge that you can take with you in your life that are valuable to you that you otherwise would not have obtained if you hadn't gone on this date," says Ikka. Those lessons might come in handy in the long run, even if the person you're on the date with isn't "the one" for you.

After the date

At the end of the date, ask yourself one question and one question only: Do you want to see this person again? "It should be a simple ‘yes' or ‘no'. Don't worry about the whys or why nots." says Ikka.

Moffit recommends busying yourself with other activities to take your mind off the first date. "When the time comes for a second date, you'll have lots to talk about because you've enjoyed so much of your own activities and hobbies in the meantime!"
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How to reduce anxiety before your first date

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