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By Jodie, Apr 24 2018 07:30PM

Some of you might know that I used to be a teacher. I was a music and drama teacher for 18 years. I’ve taught thousands of children over the years, directed countless productions and concerts and spoken in front of hundreds of children and adults. Put 150 11-year olds in front of me and 4 hours later I’ll give you a choir and a performance. I’m pretty confident when it comes to speaking in front of large audiences.


What very few people know is that 18 months ago I started having panic attacks, which resulted in time off work and having to seek medical help. I’m not generally an anxious person, so it was scary to be faced with these panic attacks that I struggled to understand or control.


I needed to find techniques that worked for me, that gave me back control when my body wanted to take that away and which I could use anywhere, in any situation.


So, I thought I would share some of my top tips for feeling confident on your big day, whether that’s walking down the aisle, saying your vows, or even making a speech.


DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional and this advice is based on my professional experience as a teacher and of managing my own anxiety.

1. Good time management on the day. Plan your whole day out, including timings and try to stick to them as closely as possible. Make sure you always allow longer than you think you’ll actually need. If your hair and makeup is finished 10 minutes sooner than planned, then you’ve got some extra time to relax and enjoy the preparations. If you’re running behind schedule you’re more likely to get worked up which will spill over into the rest of the day.


2. Practice, practice, practice. It might sound silly, but if you practice all the things you’re worried about, they won’t seem as daunting when you have to do them for real. When I used to prepare kids for drama exams and competitions, we’d practice every little detail – how they’d walk into the room, how they’d present their script to the examiner or judge, how they would stand, how they would know when to start their performance, how they would get off the stage at the end etc. Although they’d be nervous before the real thing, they were able to concentrate on their performances because all the other little details came naturally. And they all passed and couldn’t wait to do it all over again the following year!


If possible, practice at your venue and practice with whoever is walking you down the aisle. Practice with your music so you know how fast or slow to walk. Practice in your shoes (or at least in heels if you’re wearing them on the day). Practice standing in front of your partner and reciting your vows. Are you going to hold hands? Just one hand or both? Who are you going to give your bouquet to and when? Practice walking back up the aisle with your new husband or wife. Again, do this with your music, in your heels. You could even practice your photo poses and smile if you’re worried about how you’ll look in your photos (beautiful and happy in case you’re wondering!) All good shows have a dress rehearsal and your wedding is no different


3. Delegate. Easier said than done if you’re a bit of a perfectionist like me. But seriously, don’t take everything on your own shoulders. Give people jobs to do – either to help you out or to keep them out of your hair! When my ultra-organised friend got married, my designated role was to keep her away from her mum and sisters for as long as possible! Not because they all hated each other, but because she knew they would stress her out. So, I took her to the gym, made sure she arrived at her hair appointment as they were leaving, and did exactly what she asked of me. It doesn’t have to be someone in the bridal party, although they obviously tend to be the ones on hand. Just make sure you give them specific instructions so there’s no confusion and be realistic with what you’re asking them to do in the time they have.


4. Don’t rely on alcohol to help calm your nerves. It might seem like a good idea, but registrars can stop a ceremony if they believe you to be intoxicated.

5. Don’t suffer alone. Choose someone you trust, who knows you well and who can be a calm and rational presence for you if it all becomes too much. Agree a signal, a code word, or even a look between the two of you which tells them that you need help and they can come and rescue you. This approach means that they won’t be constantly worrying if you’re ok (or worse, constantly asking you if you’re ok!) but still allows them to support you if and when you need it.


6. A lot of brides worry about walking down the aisle and having all eyes on them. There’s no real way to avoid this unfortunately – you have to get to the vicar or registrar and your partner somehow or there isn’t a wedding! Try to remember that all of your favourite people in the world (and maybe one or two extras that *someone’s* snuck onto the guest list!) are there to celebrate with you. If it’s really freaking you out, ask a couple of close friends to sit in an aisle seat so you can make specific eye contact with them as you approach them. If you think seeing your partner might make you ugly cry, try this technique I used to use with my pupils who were doing one-to-one exams. Don’t look directly at your other half – look in their direction but focus slightly over their shoulder to a spot behind them. This works more generally too – if you don’t want to look at anyone as you walk down the aisle, pick a spot on the wall that you’re walking towards and focus on that. And try to smile. Even if you feel scared, smiling will help. Fake it ‘til you make it, and all that


7. Breathe. As long as your corset back hasn’t been pulled too tight, you’ll be able to do either of these exercises! I’ve used them to help me sleep when my brain just won’t shut off as well as in the middle of a full-blown panic attack.


The first one is called box breathing. Stand or sit upright, with your hands relaxed in your lap or by your side. Close your eyes and inhale through your nose slowly for a count of four. Feel the air fill your lungs until they are completely full and beyond. Hold for the same slow count of four, then exhale slowly through your mouth until your lungs are empty, again to the slow count of four. Hold the empty breath for four more counts. Then repeat.


Another variation of this is to breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold for 7 counts and then exhale through your mouth over 8 counts. This technique doesn’t require you to hold the out breath. This was the most effective way for me, personally, to gain control of my breathing when having a panic attack and it’s supposed to also be really good for helping you to sleep.


8. Try this grounding technique which uses the five senses to help calm you in stressful situations. Start with a deep breath and then work your way down from 5 to 1:


* • 5 things you can see

* • 4 things you can feel – it doesn’t have to be things you can touch, so it could be the grips in your hair or your feet in your wedding shoes.

* • 3 things you can hear

* • 2 things you can smell – these can be in different locations, so you don’t have to stand still! If you can’t smell anything, think of two of your favourite smells.

* • 1 thing you can taste – again, if you can’t taste anything, think of your favourite taste.


End with another deep breath.


I'd love ot hear about any other tips you might have for other anxious brides, or if any of my suggestions have worked for you!


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