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Taming Wedding Day Nerves

Are you feeling nervous about walking down the aisle? Does the idea of all that attention focused on you make your shoulders shoot straight up to your ears? Are you feeling tense just thinking about it?


Below are a few relaxation exercises to help you feel calm and confident on your wedding day. Practice them prior to your day, in moments of lower stress. You may find one exercise works better than others, so feel free to play around and find what works best for you.


Box Breathing

Box breathing is a relaxation exercise designed to calm the nervous system and reduce stress. To begin, sit, stand, or lie down, placing one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Breathe naturally, paying attention to the rise and fall of your chest or belly with each breath. If you notice that only your chest is rising, try to shift the airflow to your belly. Chest breathing sends a message of stress to the body, while belly breathing sends a message to relax.

Once you’ve started to breathe into your belly, begin your box breathing:

1 Inhale slowly for a count of four.

2 Hold your breath for four seconds. Try not to inhale or exhale during this time.

3 Slowly exhale for a count of four.

4 Repeat these steps until you feel calm.


If four seconds feels too challenging, feel free to try it for two or three counts.


Visualization Exercise

Visualization exercises are helpful for reducing stress and increasing confidence. With visualization, we take out worries about the future and “trick” the brain into thinking we’ve already had the experience or solved the problem. The more details we provide (sight, sounds, taste, smell, touch), the more the brain feels like it has successfully dealt with an issue.


Start by finding a comfortable position—either sitting or lying down. You may close your eyes or leave them open, gazing gently at the floor. Notice any tension in your body and invite it to let go, allowing yourself to feel relaxed.

Now, envision yourself in your wedding venue. It is lit in a beautiful, calm light. You find your body starting to relax as you take in the beauty of the venue and the light. You take a step down the aisle and feel a sense of confident presence. Take a long, deep, calming breath. As you look around, you see your friends and family gazing at you with love and support in their eyes. Take another slow, deep breath and feel this love and support wrapping around you like a warm blanket.

You continue your walk down the aisle, and with each breath, you notice a sense of lightness and peace. You feel a gentle, loving confidence flow through your body.

Take another deep, nourishing breath. You look up and see your beloved, feeling a sense of love flowing between the two of you. All of the stress leading up to this moment has melted away. Your body relaxes more and more as you walk.

With each step, allow yourself to take in more nourishing air, filling your belly, and then slowly let it out. Continue to breathe slowly, filling your lungs with nourishing oxygen and then slowly breathing out. As you walk, you feel your muscles softening and lengthening. Notice your shoulders dropping, your back relaxing, and your legs and feet feeling an energized softening. Your arms and wrists feel supported and relaxed. Your eyes and forehead are calm. You find a soft smile on your face.

As you stop to stand next to your soon-to-be spouse, in the presence of those who are here to love and support your union, you continue to feel wrapped in a warm, loving feeling.

You feel calm and confident.

You feel loved and supported.

Your body feels soft and relaxed.

You are peaceful.

You are loved.

You are supported.

You are confident.

When you are ready to return to your day, gently reawaken your body. Open your eyes. Wiggle your fingers and toes. You may want to do some gentle stretches. Enjoy the feeling of being calm and relaxed, and know that you can always return to this visualization. It, and your breath, are always here for you.


Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique reduces tension in the body, sending a message of calm to the mind. In this exercise, you will relax by tensing and then releasing different muscle groups in your body. Do this with caution—tense your muscles without hurting your body. If you have any injuries, please don’t tense and relax that part. If tensing your muscles is too uncomfortable, you can skip that part and just tell each part of the body to relax.

To begin, find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down, and close your eyes or gaze softly into the distance.

Body:

1 Breathing

Begin by taking a few slow, deep breaths. Inhale deeply through your nose, ‘allowing your belly to rise, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Do this three times. Inhale... and exhale. Inhale... and exhale. Inhale... and exhale.

2 Feet and Toes

Focus on your feet and toes. Curl your toes downward and gently tense the muscles in your feet. Hold the tension for a few seconds... and now release. Feel the relaxation spread through your feet. Notice the difference between tension and relaxation.

3 Calves

Now, focus on your calves. Tighten the muscles by pointing your toes upward towards your knees. Hold the tension... and release. Let the relaxation flow through your calves.

4 Thighs

Move your attention to your thighs. Squeeze your thigh muscles as tightly as you can. Hold the tension... and release. Feel the warmth and relaxation spread through your thighs.

5 Hips and Buttocks

Now tense the muscles in your hips and buttocks. Hold the tension for a moment... and release. Let go of all the stress and tension in this area.

6 Stomach

Focus on your stomach muscles. Tighten your stomach muscles by pulling your belly button towards your spine. Hold the tension... and release. Feel the relaxation spreading through your abdomen.

7 Chest

Take a deep breath and hold it, tensing the muscles in your chest. Hold the tension... and release as you exhale. Let your chest become completely relaxed.

8 Back

Gently arch your back slightly to tense the muscles along your spine. Hold the tension... and release. Let your back muscles relax completely.

9    Hands and Arms

Make a fist with each hand and tense your hands and forearms. Hold the tension... and release. Let your hands and arms become soft and relaxed.

10 Upper Arms

Tighten the muscles in your upper arms by bringing your forearms up to your shoulders. Hold the tension... and release. Feel the relaxation flow through your upper arms.

11 Shoulders

Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold that position... and release. Let your shoulders drop and feel the stress melt away..

12 Face

Tense the muscles in your face by scrunching up your forehead, closing your eyes tightly, and clenching your jaw. Hold the tension... and release. Let your face become smooth and relaxed.


Practicing box breathing, visualization exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation prior to your wedding can significantly enhance your sense of calm and presence. These techniques help manage stress, allowing you to fully enjoy each moment of your special day. If you find that you would like more help, would like some peer support, or would like to learn more, please email me at jessica@jmacdonaldphd.com.




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