Are you having your first date in years, or first date of the night? Either way, you might be navigating some nervous moments. Here are a few tools to keep your cool on that date—but you can also practice them in the boardroom, on stage, or just about anywhere else you feel the jitters creeping in.
1. See if you’re actually nervous. Sometimes “nervous” becomes the umbrella term for a range of feelings. Take a moment and feel what you’re feeling. Don’t rationalize or try to change it: just settle into the sensations in your body and notice the thoughts that come up. You may find that it’s actually apprehension, panic, exhilaration, tension, or any number of other emotions. Being clear about what you’re feeling and investing in a little self-inquiry might be enough to diffuse the anxiety. Maybe you’re just excited!
If you’re panicking or apprehensive, at least now you have a sense of direction. What feels icky, exactly? Are there red flags about this person or the specific date you have planned? Trust your gut and act accordingly.
Are you ready to be dating and willing to be available to someone? Have you decided already that she won’t like you? You might consider healing work, or simply accepting that you’re nervous but doing it anyway. Good on ya, either way. It’s not easy to put yourself out there honestly to someone new.
2. Breathe. My personal trainer reminded me that whenever any of her clients—including me—try something new they hold their breath. It’s a natural response. In yoga, a huge part of the practice is remembering to connect the breath with each movement, even (especially) when there’s a brand new posture involved. Sinc, breathing correctly actually helps prevent injuries, it will help you on your date, too.
Prolonged periods of shallow breathing can cause high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, irritability, and even impotence, and our respiratory system is linked directly to our endocrine and nervous systems. If you go right from a stressful job into a date, your adrenal glands could be in a constant fight-or-flight buzz. Taking deep, slow breaths actually tells your kidneys, “we’re not in any danger here, so let’s relax.”
When you sit down with your date, take a breath. Then, take another before you ask or answer a question, and when the waiter takes your order. Breathe whenever you pick up your water glass. Make a conscious effort to breathe well, because doing so will help keep you relaxed (a vibe your date just might pick up on).
3. Stay grounded. Whenever I’m “on,” all of my energy feels like it’s in my head. I’m smiling, talking, making eye contact, and hoping there’s nothing in my teeth. Eventually, I forget I have feet. When I drop my attention down, imagining my feet rooted through the floor (even in heels), I arrive in my body again. Instead of feeling like a helium balloon that’s barely tethered to a chair, I feel my entire body settling into the here and now.
4. There is no right—there’s just you. So much energy is expended on the effort to make a good impression, to say, do and be the right thing that it can be downright exhausting.
Nobody wants to be the knob that embarrasses himself and his date without even knowing it. However, if dates feel like job interviews, you are missing the point entirely. The first encounter is not about your credentials, and your date is not a boss you need to impress. Show up as you—and not the rarified version of you saved for courtrooms and keynotes: even that guy could probably use a hug.
5. Chill. This date is a chance to get to know someone who might be awesome, to learn about new perspectives and ideas, listen to different music, and go to that restaurant you’ve heard so much about. So let’s keep some perspective: this date is definitely not the be all and end all of anything.
Lower the stakes, darlin’. Show up, listen, and surrender the attachment to how it’s supposed to turn out. I promise you’ll have more fun.
And that’s the point, right? We don’t look for love because we want it to feel like work. We want effortless, friendly, sexy fun. Let yourself off the hook so you can just take pleasure in other’s company.
Now go enjoy yourselves. I won’t wait up.
—Photo Big Al/Flickr