It’s normal to have some jitters early on when you’re dating someone new, but if you have an anxiety disorder or you’re especially jittery about this relationship in particular, it can feel like a big deal. While your feelings are valid, it’s important to curb any unhealthy impulses and negative thoughts if you can—especially if they’re inaccurate or unhelpful. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to soothe these early-relationship fears. We’re here to walk you through some easy adjustments you can make so that you can feel better on your dates.
This article is based off an interview with licensed clinical psychologist and author, Chloe Carmichael, PhD. Check out the full interview here.
Method 1 of 11: Acknowledge and respect the way you feel.
It’s totally normal to feel a little jittery, so don’t worry about it. In fact, it’s a sign that you’re in tune with the way that you feel and that you want the date to go well. Both of these things are good, and you shouldn’t be upset that you’re kind of anxious about the date. Even if this anxiety is a little unpleasant right now, recognize that this feeling will go away and that it’s simply a sign you’re emotionally intelligent.
- Even if you do have a formally diagnosed anxiety disorder, the pre-date jitters are still perfectly normal. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything to curb these feelings (you should, and we’ll show you how), but just know that you don’t need to beat yourself up over feeling this way.
- If you’re a bit on the younger side, you should know that this gets easier over time. Like anything else, dating gets easier and less stressful with practice!
Method 2 of 11: Remind yourself of the objective facts.
Putting everything into perspective may put you at ease. So, you’ve got a date lined up. That means something. Take a little bit of time to just remind yourself of everything that you know to be true. Reminding yourself of certain underlying realities may really help you cope with all of these nerves. For example, you probably know the following facts:
- This person agreed to go on a date with you which means they think you’re worth dating. Forget those insecurities about not being good enough!
- People don’t date someone if they don’t think they’re attractive. If you’re a little insecure about the way you look, you don’t need to be. They’re going out with you, so you have to be good looking!
- You’re nervous/anxious. That means that you care about the outcome of the date, which means there’s something to gain from all of this.
- If this is a second, third, or fourth date, they like you! Nobody agrees to multiple dates unless they’re actually interested in that person.
Method 3 of 11: Pick laid-back date activities.
Take the pressure off by skipping the intense, super romantic dates. Hit up an arcade, go see a movie, or just meet up for a coffee. Go to a cheap bar or diner instead of that fancy steakhouse. The chiller your date-night activity is, the less likely you’ll be to put a ton of pressure on yourself. It’s easy to make a big deal out of things when you’re dressing up fancy or spending a ton of money, so just don’t! Little romantic gestures mean just as much as big dates, anyway.
- If you start out with a big, fancy romantic date on your first outing together, you may feel an unnecessary amount of pressure to outdo yourself on the second, third date, etc.
- If it feels like what you’re doing isn’t a big deal, you’re more likely to feel like your anxiety isn’t a big deal.
Method 4 of 11: Engage in some pre-date self-care.
Whatever it is that helps you center yourself, do it before your date. You could engage in some traditional mindfulness activity, like yoga or meditation, to settle your thoughts and relax. Alternatively, you could take a bath and light some candles, or go for a long walk to your favorite park. Whatever it is that puts your soul at ease, do that for an hour or two before you get ready for your date.
- You might listen to some relaxing music and read a good book, or burn some incense and take a nap.
- If your anxiety tends to be at its lowest point when you’re actively engaged in something, play some video games, talk to a good friend, or go play with your dog. Do something you enjoy that will keep your focus on something other than your date.
Method 5 of 11: Look your best.
If you look good, you’re more likely to feel good. It sounds obvious but set aside plenty of extra time to pick your outfit, iron your clothes, and do your hair. If you wear makeup, set aside some extra time for that. Before you walk out the door, look at yourself and just say, “Wow, I look good!” Give yourself a compliment. Wink at yourself in the mirror. If you start the relationship feeling good about yourself, that momentum will carry you through any anxiety you’re feeling.
- It’s easy to get up in your head about how you look when you just start dating someone. Always remember, this person agreed to go on a date with you, so they already think you’re cute!
- Do not get ready 10 minutes before you need to get out of the door. Give yourself enough time to relax while you get ready, but not so much time that you’re overthinking anything.
Method 6 of 11: Show up to dates a few minutes early.
Wherever the date is taking place, show up a few minutes ahead of time. If your date is at a restaurant, grab a seat at the bar or chill on a bench outside. If it’s a movie theatre, get there early and hang out in the lobby. You can even walk around the block and just enjoy the weather if you’d like. This will give you some time to adjust your headspace, cool off, and gather your bearings.
- If you’re over 21, a pre-date drink is fine but don’t overdo it. If you show up to a date with a buzz you might feel good, but your date might not be super happy about it.
Method 7 of 11: Focus on your partner.
Putting your energy into good conversation will soothe your woes. Ask your date questions, engage in conversation with them, and do your best to be present and focus on them. Anxiety is always an internal thing—it’s an experience you have inside of yourself. By putting all of your energy into your date and trying to engage with them as much as possible, you’ll focus on something other than what’s going on in your head.
- This is also just a great way to ensure that the date goes well. If you get super in your head about whether you’re coming off as anxious or not, you’re not going to be fully present for your date.
Method 8 of 11: Lean on a simple coping strategy.
If your anxiety acts up, perform a relaxation exercise in the moment. Obviously, it isn’t the right time to break out the yoga mat if you’re in the middle of a dinner date, but you can still perform a simple coping exercise. In the moment you might:
- Challenge your negative thoughts. Just fight the bad thoughts and turn them into positive ones.
- Perform a breathing exercise. When your date isn’t looking, breathe in through your nose slowly, hold it for a moment, and exhale slowly through your mouth.
- Take a time out. Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom. Cool off for a few minutes, and return to the date when you’re feeling better.
- Count to 10 in your head. Focusing on a rote activity will redirect your focus. During a break in the date, just count slowly to 10 in your head.
- Identify, name, and give a color to objects around you. This will help recenter your energy and calm your anxiety.
Method 9 of 11: Open up to your date as things move along.
Be a little vulnerable and share things about yourself. Often, anxiety in a new relationship is tied to a fear of things going wrong. If you’re nervous about how your date will act once they get to know the real you, share things about yourself as the relationship progresses. When you see how they don’t judge you, it’ll make it a lot easier for you to communicate with them, which should curb any catastrophizing you’re doing.
- Try admitting one thing that you’re slightly embarrassed about. It could be some silly mistake you made at work recently, or a miscommunication you had with a friend.
- You could tell them about your fear of heights, or a weird quirk you have that’s unique to you.
Method 10 of 11: Talk to your date about it.
Once you two have some momentum as a couple, tell them how you feel. In fact, your date may even be flattered that you think they’re enough of a catch to trigger a bit of nerves. If the two of you have been on a few dates and you’re ready to be vulnerable, telling them what you’re experiencing will help your bond grow stronger. On top of that, your date will reassure you that things are going well and you’ll feel much better.
- Reverse the scenario and think about it that way. Imagine a cute guy or gal agrees to go on a few dates with you. At some point, they’re blushing or jittery, and they turn to you and say, “I’m really happy we’re going out, but it really gets my anxiety up. I can’t believe this is going so well.” How would you feel? Probably pretty good, right?
- This usually isn’t a good move when it’s the first date. If the two of you are still feeling one another out, this might be a bit too much to share.
Method 11 of 11: Remember these anxious feelings will pass.
This kind of anxiety usually goes away over time. Okay, so you’re anxious right now. That’s not fun, and it’s okay to acknowledge it’s not fun, but tell yourself, “It’s also not the end of the world.” It can only get better from here. Dating anxiety also gets easier the longer you’re with your partner and the older you get, so don’t assume this won’t get easier.
- It may help in the moment to remember that it’s going to get a lot easier in the future. Sometimes, knowing that an intense feeling is temporary can make it go away entirely!