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First Date Nerves: 22 Secrets to Not Be Nervous & Feel Relaxed On a Date

Nerves can make a first date daunting. Understanding the psychology behind why you’re feeling this way can help kick your nerves to the curb. Here’s how!

first date nerves - how to not be nervous and be relaxed on a date

There you are, standing in front of the mirror, fussing with your outfit, as your phone counts down to that first date. The stakes feel high, don’t they? Your mind is hosting its own episode of ‘Worst Case Scenario Theater’, and your heart is playing bongo drums inside your chest. Yep, you’re dealing with classic first date nerves.

But take a deep breath, because here’s the good news: managing those jitters isn’t just possible, it’s crucial for making a meaningful connection.

Let’s dig into the facts, tips, and brain hacks that’ll help you turn those nervous butterflies into confident eagles—or at least into something less fluttery. [Read: Texting before the first date – 15 rules to make them eager to see you]

The science behind first date nerves

You’ve probably noticed that going on a first date can sometimes feel like you’re getting ready for battle. Your palms get sweaty, and you can’t seem to sit still. Well, thank your ancient ancestors and their encounters with saber-toothed tigers for that!

1. Fight or flight – why you’re wired to worry

The body’s natural response to stress or danger is called the fight-or-flight mechanism. Back in the day, this helped our ancestors survive life-threatening situations.

Today, it’s a bit less about survival and more about social concerns, like, “Will my date like me?” But make no mistake, your body still treats it as a big deal, releasing a surge of adrenaline to help you cope.

2. The amygdala chronicles

Meet your amygdala, a little almond-shaped cluster of nuclei in your brain. It’s basically the control center for emotions, especially fear.

Whenever you’re anxious about your date’s opinion of your restaurant choice or your awkward laugh, it’s the amygdala sounding the alarm bells.

Understanding how it operates can help you navigate first date nerves more effectively. [Read: Dating anxiety – what it is, 39 causes of panic and signs & steps to get over it]

3. Cortisol and you – a love-hate relationship

Now, cortisol, the stress hormone, enters the scene. It’s like that friend who overstays their welcome at the party.

Initially helpful in providing a burst of energy, it can turn into a buzzkill when its levels stay high for too long, making you edgy and anxious. So, controlling cortisol is key to tackling those first date nerves.

Tips for calming first date nerves

You’re halfway through texting your best friend that classic SOS message: “What if it’s awkward?” “What if they don’t like me?”

Breathe. Before you spiral into the abyss of first date nerves, here’s your game plan to keep those jitters at bay. [Read: 19 secrets to not be shy & awkward around your crush and talk casually]

1. Mindfulness – the mental mute button

You’re in the car, parked outside the venue, fumbling with your phone just to keep your hands busy. Right then, close your eyes and try the 4-7-8 breathing technique.

Inhale through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7, and then exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds.

Repeat this four times. It’s like giving your overactive mind a temporary ‘Out of Service’ sign, allowing you to re-center before walking in.

2. Reappraisal technique – your emotional chameleon

You’ve just started to wonder if your date will find you boring. Now, halt that thought in its tracks. Instead, consider your date as a new friend you’re about to make. This isn’t just mental gymnastics, it’s a well-established psychological reappraisal technique.

By changing the narrative in your mind, you change the emotional impact it has on you. It shifts the vibe from a job interview to a casual catch-up, making you feel more at ease. [Read: 26 things to talk about on a first date to make them like you instantly]

3. Anchoring – your emotional safety net

If you find comfort in holding your favorite coffee mug when you’re nervous, try to bring a similar sense of comfort to your date. Maybe it’s wearing a necklace your best friend gave you or carrying a small token in your pocket.

When nerves strike, just touch or look at your chosen anchor to remind yourself that you’re still you, even in new or stressful situations. [Read: How to calm your nerves in any situation you’re walking into]

4. Dopamine snacks – small wins before the big night

Got a couple of hours before the date? Set up mini victories for yourself. Listen to a favorite song, complete a quick workout, or pamper yourself a little.

A quick face mask or some grooming can make a big difference in how you feel. Each of these activities can boost your dopamine levels, making you walk into that date with a vibe of success already under your belt.

5. Permit yourself one glass of wine

Here’s where one becomes the magic number. If you’re at a location that serves alcohol, allowing yourself just one glass of wine can work wonders.

It helps to lower inhibitions just enough to make conversation flow but not so much that you start oversharing about your love for cat memes. But remember, just one—because too much liquid courage can backfire spectacularly.

6. Pamper yourself a little before the date

You’ve heard the phrase “look good, feel good,” right? Put it into practice. Dedicate a half-hour to an hour before the date to do something purely for yourself. [Read: 44 outfit tips & secrets on what to wear on a first date for girls & guys]

It could be a quick shower with that luxury body wash you save for special occasions, or styling your hair just the way you like it.

This isn’t vanity, it’s a tactical move. The better you feel about yourself, the more natural confidence you’ll exude, which can be incredibly calming when nerves are at play.

7. Prepare topics in advance

First dates can feel like an improv show where neither party knows the script. To avoid the dreaded awkward silence, come prepared with a few topics.

No, not like a school presentation. Just think of interesting questions or anecdotes you can bring up. Maybe you’ve recently read a fascinating article on the impact of social media on relationships, or perhaps you’ve been to an amazing local hike that you’d love to share.

Being prepared keeps the convo flowing and your nerves at bay. [Read: 72 first date questions, conversation starters & things you should never ask]

8. Activate your social network

No, not the one on your phone! Before you head out, maybe call a close friend or family member.

Chatting with someone familiar helps normalize the situation, eases your nerves, and gives you that emotional boost of ‘I got this!’ You’re just hanging out with one more person—no biggie, right?

9. Wear comfortable clothes, but make it fashion

This is not the time to break in those new heels or that skinny tie that makes you feel like you’re being strangled.

Choose an outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks but also allows you to breathe. Comfort translates to confidence, and confidence is the ultimate nerve-buster.

10. Check in with yourself

During the date, take mini mental breaks to check in with yourself. This is all about practicing mindfulness again but in short spurts.

If you find your thoughts spiraling, excuse yourself to go to the restroom, look yourself in the mirror, and remind yourself that you’re awesome. A quick pep talk can recalibrate your mindset. [Read: 55 secrets & self-love habits to build confidence and realize your worth]

11. Eat a light snack beforehand

Being hungry and anxious is not a fun combo and can lead to the dreaded “hangxiety.” Eat something light yet satisfying before heading out.

This prevents any embarrassing stomach growls and also keeps you from overordering in a fit of nerves.

12. The power of scent

Have you ever smelled something and suddenly felt happier or calmer? There’s a scientific term for that: olfactory memory. Studies have shown our ability to have long-term recognition of odor.

Wear a perfume or cologne that you associate with happy times or just really love. A quick whiff can instantly ground you and reduce stress levels.

13. Be early, not just punctual

Being even five minutes early can set a more relaxed pace for the evening. Use those extra minutes to survey the setting, pick a good seat, and take a few deep breaths.

Being in control of the environment, even just a little, can reduce unpredictability and ease your nerves.

How your mind plays tricks on you

So you’ve tried the mindfulness techniques, sipped that one magical glass of wine, and even chatted with your bestie for an emotional boost. But what if you still feel like you’re your own worst enemy on that first date?

Well, that’s probably because your brain loves a good drama, especially when you’re anxious. Understanding the mind games you’re prone to can help you navigate them more effectively. Let’s dissect some of these tricks so you can counteract them effectively.

1. Cognitive distortions – when your brain’s a drama queen

You’ve just texted your date and haven’t gotten an instant reply. Now, you’re convinced they’re not interested. This is what psychologists call catastrophizing. It’s like your brain’s personal soap opera where you take a minor situation and turn it into a full-blown crisis.

Another one is mind-reading, where you think you know exactly what your date is thinking—and it’s usually something negative.

These are cognitive distortions, and recognizing them is the first step toward muting the drama in your mind.

2. Confirmation bias – the ‘told-you-so’ of the brain

Say you’re a bit worried that your date will find you boring. The moment they glance at their phone, your brain goes, “See? I knew it!” That’s confirmation bias at work.

Your mind tends to pick out evidence that supports what you already believe, even if it’s based on fear or insecurity.

The solution? Challenge your own narrative. Not everything that happens is a piece of evidence against you. [Read: 51 warning signs of a bad first date & BIG red flags in the first few dates]

3. The illusion of transparency – no, they can’t actually see you sweat

You’re seated, you’re chatting, but all you can think about is how visibly nervous you must look. Spoiler: Most people overestimate how much their internal state is observable to others. This is called the illusion of transparency.

Believe it or not, your date is probably too wrapped up in their own thoughts and feelings to notice that your palms are a bit sweaty.

Psychological hacks to trick your brain

Alright, we’ve delved into the theater of your mind, unveiling the cognitive distortions and biases that can turn your first date into a psychological thriller.

You’re now probably thinking, “Cool, I know my brain’s a drama queen. So, how do I give it a new script?” Well, here are some psychological hacks that are like cheat codes for your emotional software.

1. Cognitive behavioral therapy *CBT* lite – be your own shrink

You don’t need a psychology degree to do some basic CBT exercises. For example, when you catch yourself catastrophizing about how the date will go, challenge that thought.

Ask yourself, “What’s the evidence?” or “Is this a fact or a feeling?” By questioning your automatic thoughts, you can shift your mindset from panic to pragmatic.

2. The power of priming – your pre-date playlist

Your emotional state can be easily influenced through priming. Create a playlist of songs that make you feel confident and happy. Listen to it as you get ready or while you’re on your way to the date.

You could even add some spoken affirmations in between tracks. These audio cues set the emotional tone, and you’ll walk into that date already feeling like a winner. [Read: 40 fun and upbeat songs to groove you out of that funk]

3. Paradoxical intention – when trying to fail makes you succeed

Have you ever heard of Viktor Frankl’s technique called paradoxical intention? It sounds counterintuitive, but try going into the date with the aim of being as nervous as possible.

The irony? You’ll find it’s quite hard to be nervous when that’s your actual goal. It’s a psychological reverse psychology hack that could dial down your anxiety levels.

You’re fantastic!

Here’s the thing about first date nerves: they’re normal, but they don’t define you. Beneath the sweaty palms and anxious thoughts, you’re pretty fantastic.

So instead of seeing those nerves as a sign that something’s wrong, view them as a sign that you’re human and that something meaningful could be on the horizon. [Read: How not to be nervous – 18 calm ways to eliminate nerves instantly]

Ready for a little experiment? Before squaring off with your next bout of first date nerves, choose one tip from this article to hack those butterflies.

You’re already amazing, now it’s time to vanquish those first date jitters and let someone else discover just how incredible you truly are.

[Read: 27 cute signs of a good first date to know if it went well & what comes next]

Everyone gets nervous on first dates, you’re not alone. But your nerves don’t have to stay forever. By understanding where your first date anxiety comes from you’ll be better equipped to free yourself from your first date nerves.

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...