First date nerves are only to be expected, but extreme cases can deter people from meeting a match altogether. Learn how to keep nerves in check, however, and they can work in your favour. “In certain situations a small amount of anxiety can help performance,” explains eHarmony chief scientist Dr Galen Buckwalter. While extended periods of serious symptoms (see checklist below) are best treated by a doctor, there are plenty of measures you can take to help you relax on your date.
Meet a match somewhere you know
Unfamiliar locations can breed extra stress so opt for somewhere you know you will be comfortable and can guarantee the food and atmosphere will be good. Surrounding yourself with friendly faces when meeting a match for the first time can also ease tension. Just don’t let them distract you. Your date should be the centre of your attention.
A little preparation will eliminate panic-inducing last-minute problems but don’t obsess over the details. Some degree of spontaneity will help you and your match feel relaxed. “If you’re already an anxious person you may well know that very rarely do situations and events happen exactly as you imagine them before hand. Your best bet is to come up with a general and flexible game plan,” counsels Dr Galen.
Book restaurants and tickets in advance and come up with of a few back up plans should things go wrong. Worried about being short of conversation? Think about what you want to find out about your match and dream up a few questions beforehand. But be gentle. You don’t want your date to feel like they’re in an interview.
Don’t put too much pressure on
One of the reasons dates can be so terrifying is that so much seems to be at stake. If you’re insistent that this person should be “the one”, how can you possibly relax?
In reality, one date is not a huge deal. If nerves are likely to be a problem, make sure the first date comes soon after your first communication with a new match. Emailing them for months before meeting in person will only increase the pressure and the resulting sense of loss if things don’t go to plan. Take the pressure off and you will instantly feel more relaxed.
Still can’t control your nerves? If your symptoms match these, seek advice from a professional.
Dr Galen’s unhealthy anxiety checklist
Emotional. Does anxiety seriously interfere with your life? Are you anxious for extended periods of time, to the point you can’t apply yourself to everyday tasks?
Physical. Do you experience intense physical sensations like sweating, heart palpitations and breathlessness for extended periods of time? Do you ever panic that you might be dying or “going crazy” when there is no other physical cause for these feelings?
All these are indications of a more detrimental anxiety problem. Take comfort from the fact that anxiety is one of the most common, treatable conditions that health professionals see. So don’t let it inhibit your lifestyle. Consult your doctor for help.