How to reduce anxiety before your first date

You've set up the date, waited all week and now the time has finally come: it's date night. If you're feeling anxious about your first date with a new potential partner, our relationship experts offer helpful tips to ease your stress levels and enjoy the experience. 

By Diana Faria

What to do before and during the date
©iStockphoto.com/Neustockimages
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."


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