The first date.
Just reading the words may give you the jitters. You’re not alone if you find yourself breaking a cold sweat and struggling to keep yourself calm while your heart beats out of your chest. Even the most practiced dater can’t avoid the nervous tension. If you want to learn how to keep your mind calm and your heart strong on that first date, here are a few strategies you can try.
Own your fear.
Sometimes just stating the obvious can help relieve the pressure for you and your date. Remember that your date is just as nervous as you, even if he or she seem polished and smooth. Some people just hide fear better. Vulnerability loses its power when you acknowledge it. If you feel your heart pumping and your knees shaking, call it out.
Master your body.
Make it a habit to regularly check in with your body (when you’re not on a date). Your physical state can send powerful messages to your brain, which then dictates your emotional and mental state. Experiment with different postures and movements and notice how they affect you emotionally. What makes you feel confident, powerful, or secure? Sexy, open, and loving? What makes you feel afraid, closed, and distrustful? Sometimes even a simple shift from being hunched over to extending your chin and putting your shoulders back can give you a boost of confidence and keep the heart space open.
Know the science of fear.
When we are subjected to an experience that causes positive or negative stress, our brains automatically release a dose of stress hormones into the body. This fear response is beyond our conscious control. It was designed to keep us safe and survive dangerous situations, but it can be a bit of a hindrance on a first date. Once the adrenaline is flowing, you have no choice but to wait until your body decides it’s safe to calm down, which might be two hours after your date! So, if you find your heart racing, your palms sweating, and your voice shaking, know that your nervous system may take some time to decide to calm down.
Helping your nervous system find a relaxed state on a daily basis is the best way to help your fear response become less active over time. Meditation and mindfulness techniques, yoga, exercise, and healthy eating can help. To create a state of calm immediately before your date, try some techniques such as taking slow deep belly breaths, practicing calming yoga poses, or meditating. Definitely give yourself adequate time to be ready, so you have no reason to get your brain stressed (like rushing in traffic, looking for parking, or agonizing over the perfect date clothes). If you find yourself in high stress mode in the middle of the date, excuse yourself to the restroom and have a mini deep breathing session in a bathroom stall. Better yet, learn how to be mindful of your breathing during that first date conversation.
Find comfort in your clothes, and in your own skin.
You want to feel beautiful inside and out, bottom line. First of all, invest in a couple of killer date outfits that make you feel and look amazing. Choose something that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Wearing something that will make you feel self-conscious or physically uncomfortable will just give your mind one more distraction. The bonus is that you won’t spend hours agonizing over what to wear and put your mind into the fear state.
Be mindful of why you wear what you wear. Are you hiding your body because you’re embarrassed about how you look? Or are you allowing yourself to feel vulnerable and authentic? Most of us tend to feel self-conscious about our bodies on some level. Sometimes we really do need to get healthy and lose some pounds. However, if you’re constantly feeling down about your body, you probably need some work on learning how to love and accept yourself more than anything. The key is to allow yourself to be truly “seen,” to be witnessed, to be real. Self-acceptance is a magnet for love.
Be the chooser, not the chosen.
Most people go on a date with one question in the back of their mind…will I be liked? In the quest for love, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the power is in someone else’s hands to love and approve of you. While it does take two people to agree that they want a relationship, don’t forget that you have half of the power to decide.
As an American, you likely spend countless hours analyzing everything before you buy it. You look for the best deal on the Internet. You shop around for a new car, or the perfect shoes, or the most delicious Thai food. So why is it that when it comes to dating, you lose your choosiness? If you find yourself in a pattern of feeling very vulnerable in the dating process, feeling anxious, and seeking approval, it’s time to change your mindset. Become a dating consumer. This shift in thinking can help you feel empowered and confident. Remember that there are billions of people on this planet, and therefore, your choices in love are infinite.
Shifting your mindset and mastering the state of your body can be powerful influences on your nervous system and your self-esteem. With practice, you can learn to date with confidence, openness, and empowerment, and keep your heart open to the possibilities of love.
This article was originally published on MeetMindful.com by Chelli Pumphrey.