Ten Ways to Overcome First Date Nerves

February 3, 2021
First Date Nerves

Ah, the thrill, stress and hyper excitement of a first date! It's everything great and terrible about romance, all combined into one hormonal overload of tension - that can be tough to get under control.

In this guide, the Best10 team collates our years of dating expertise (some more successful than others) to bring you our top ten tips for staying cool as a cucumber, no matter how high the first date stakes might seem!

  • If you're not even a smidge nervous?
  • You're honestly not bothered if it goes well?
  • There is zero sign of an elevated heart rate?

You already know that this isn't a date meant to last! 

Our first snippet of wisdom is this - first dates are meant to be nerve-wracking.

Don't ever think that a date, of any gender, won't be charmed to know you have been anxious about making a great first impression. 

A little bit of nerves is positive, so these tips aren't about eliminating any sign of interest, but about being slick enough not to turn a promising first date into a disaster.

Stop Dwelling on the Worst-Case Scenario!

I know, you've met someone who seems awesome on your dating app, and you've been chatting for weeks. It feels like you have found your forever after, and you NEED to make sure this initial in-person meeting goes to plan!

The problem is that if you dwell on it, ruminate about possible issues, and let your overactive imagination run wild; you can self-sabotage a date with a great person.

Relationships evolve naturally, and it's important to let them.

Distract yourself by doing something you love - anything at all! Exercise is an excellent option since you can balance out mental anxiety with physical stimulation. Just make sure you leave plenty of time for a shower before you're due to head out the door.

Breathe Deeply

Taking slow, rhythmic breaths helps calm a racing pulse, brings ourselves back to the present and has a calming effect.

Deep breathing is a great way to reset your nerves, refocus your positive energy and stop obsessing about whether your cowlick is going to be a deal-breaker (it's not).

Try breathing in for the count of four, holding the breath for a count of four, and breathing back out slowly to the same count of four.

Remember It's Meant to Be Fun

A first date is not an interview. You aren't competing to see how many of your lifetime achievements you can drop into the conversation within an hour. It doesn't need to last for days, and getting nervous about what you're going to talk about can make a conversation feel stilted and forced.

Dinner dates are traditional, but they're almost certainly the worst option! You want to go somewhere that gives you stuff to chat about if you're feeling tongue-tied, not be sat in a spotlight in a quiet restaurant trying desperately to think of witty anecdotes!

Try visiting an art gallery, going to crazy golf, heading for a walk around the park - anything where you can interact naturally and at your own pace.

Try Not to Make Everything Ride on the Date

It's tempting to brag about the gorgeous date you've snagged, but I'd recommend keeping your moves to yourself until you know the relationship is heading somewhere.

Telling everyone you know about your Saturday night plans can backfire horribly if one of you has to reschedule, or you don't find that the spark of attraction hits quite the same as you'd hoped.

Not all dates end up being right for you, so remember that everything isn't riding on this one encounter, and you shouldn't stack up all your hopes and dreams on a potentially one-off cup of coffee.

Don't Get Drunk

I don't really need to elaborate here - just don't do it!

Ask Questions and Don't Be Afraid of Silence

Many of us ramble, mumble and talk way too fast to be understood when we're feeling under pressure.

Silence and natural pauses are a part of authentic conversations, so don't feel that you need to rush to fill every gap in your date with an award-winning monologue - let it play out and see where it goes!

Try to ask a question for everything you tell your date about yourself. It makes them feel appreciated, interesting and establishes an open rapport. Talking endlessly about your life can be an easy way to keep the conversation going, but it often comes across as a bit self-obsessed in reality.

You'll start to relax and feel a lot less nervous when the focus isn't solely on you, and perhaps learn a bit more about your date while you're at it!

Choose Your Date Location Wisely

I've already mentioned my suspicion that an evening dinner date is the worst first date option. You can do a tonne of things, and most of them don't involve chugging a glass of wine every ten minutes to try and soothe your nerves!

Ideally, you want something:

  • Informal - like a cup of coffee, brunch, ice cream in the park.
  • Simple, which doesn't feel too high stakes.
  • Short, with an ideal first date being an hour or two.
  • Familiar, somewhere you know and feel comfortable.

Chilled out dates are far easier to cope with if your nerves are getting the better of you, and if you're really anxious, knowing that it's just a couple of hours makes it a lot more manageable.

Dress to Impress - But Look Like You!

What to wear on a first date? You want to look cooler than you are, in better shape, smart and sophisticated but also approachable, right!

Honestly? It's way too easy to overthink it and turn up looking like you're heading for your cousins' bar mitzvah rather than a casual first date!

Your date wants to meet you, not an alter ego. 

There is nothing bad about making an effort and showing up looking your best, but if you rock up for brunch in six-inch heels or clothes that are too tight, you're setting yourself up for an awkward hour of trying to make conversation whilst sucking in your stomach.

Sit With Your Nerves

As I say, nerves aren't bad, and allowing yourself to feel your anxiety and recognise what you're nervous about is well worth doing.

You're nervous because you like this person, and you want them to like you back! That's A-OK.

Accept that you feel nervous, acknowledge your feelings, and let your emotions play out as a natural part of the dating process.

Have an Icebreaker Prepared

No, you don't need to have entire conversation threads ready and waiting - but practising how you're going to say hello can take a lot of the pressure off!

If you've met a date online you know a little bit about them anyway, so have a few questions to hand, or think about your introduction, and your mind will stop racing quite so much.

Above all, enjoy the experience, and make the most of the moment! First dates can be awesome - or not - but however it goes, it's a time that can go a long way to shaping your understanding about what sort of person will be your perfect puzzle piece.

Looking for a first date but haven't found anyone who rocks your boat? Recovering from a first date disaster and ready to jump back on the bike?

Visit Best10 for independent reviews of all the top-rated dating apps, designed to make your next turn on the dating merry-go-round a roaring success!

Lauren Edwards-Fowle
Lauren is a freelance writer passionate about how we develop rewarding experiences, and overcoming the barriers we face to living our best lives. Lauren writes regularly about the modern world of dating, relationships, parenthood, and social dynamics.