All brides experience stress. It’s unavoidable when you’re juggling the demands of wedding planning and real life (you know, that little old job that pays the bills?). But if normal bouts of stress start spiraling out of control, it could impact your physical and mental well-being. So put down the pint of ice cream (your friends Ben & Jerry can’t make those centerpieces any cheaper), and read on for helpful tips and tricks to cope with pre-wedding angst.
First, it’s important to understand the source of your stress and then figure out how it can be minimized or eliminated completely. Is it the budget, your future mother-in-law, or feeling constantly overwhelmed with your to-do list? Luckily, a budget can be modified. The mother-in-law can be temporarily avoided thanks to caller ID. (This is just a short-term solution, gals. She’s here to stay, so learn to live with her.) And a to-do list can be tackled by simply asking for help. Bridesmaids aren’t there to just look pretty. Make ‘em work!
While certain issues can luckily be resolved quickly, many brides experience chronic stress. Thea Singer, author of Stress Less: The New Science That Shows Women How to Rejuvenate the Body and the Mind, says that a bad case of pre-wedding stress can impact everything from your immune system to sleep habits… even your relationships. So not only will you be more susceptible to illness and infection, but your fiancé can’t escape your wedding warpath. (Learn scary effects of stress and what you can do to reduce it.)
If seating charts are keeping you up all night, you’ll be paying for more than those Chiavari chairs. Skimping on shut-eye wreaks havoc on your brain and body. Research shows that exhaustion can make you short tempered, forgetful, and more inclined to devour the entire cookie jar. Although “comfort food” may soothe your stress momentarily, nose-diving into a bag of chips won’t help in the long run. Singer explains that junk food acts on the same rewards center in your brain as drug abuse. It has a momentary effect that makes you feel good, but soon crashes, triggering you to eat more. Plus, studies show that weight put on by stress is more likely to go to your belly, which won’t bode well with your wedding dress.
“When you get a craving, think of something else that brings you pleasure,” advises Singer. “Go for a walk, watch a movie, or call a friend. You want to find substitutes for things that send you down a negative path.”
On the other hand, rigid dieting can also raise stress levels. Existing on carrot sticks alone can make any bride a walking nightmare. Stay sane and healthy by eating a balanced diet packed with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Don’t deny yourself snacks; just remember that moderation is key.
To avoid the fallout of not getting your ZZzz’s, Singer says you need to really commit to getting a good night’s rest. “Think you don’t have time to sleep? You don’t have time not to sleep. Think about getting enough sleep as you would think about staying in the shower long enough to get the soap off.”
In Stress Less, Singer shares some helpful tips from Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein, chief medical officer of Sleep HealthCenters:
- Exercise regularly. Research shows that exercise helps you fall asleep faster, and also promotes a deeper snooze. But be sure to stop your workout at least two hours before bedtime.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at around the same time everyday. Train your body to anticipate sleep with a bedtime routine. An hour before bed, turn off the computer and do something relaxing, like reading or meditating.
- Design your bedroom for sleep. Keep your room quiet, cool, and cozy.
Aside from getting your sleep habits on track, turning to your friends and family, whether it’s for help or just a hug, is also crucial. Singer explains that social support actually reduces the perception of stress. To really reap the benefits, get face-to-face time (writing on a Facebook wall doesn’t count). “Rely on your social support and relationships outside of your spouse-to-be,” advises Singer. “That’s really, really important. Don’t expect him to be everything.”
Singer also recommends “in-the-moment” strategies to help brides keep anxiety levels in check.
- Meditate for 20 minutes a day. Deep breathing helps balance out your nervous system and has a physiological calming effect. (Keep reading for a step-by-step guide.)
- Studies show that regular aerobic exercise actually “stress-proofs” your brain. So, find a form of exercising you actually enjoy. Singer says, “You don’t want to feel like you’re being driven to the gym by your inner drill sergeant.”
- Make to-do lists doable. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or cram everything into an unrealistic timetable. (A cake tasting, dress fitting and a call with the caterer won’t all fit into your lunch break.)
Feel like your wedding is taking over your world? Start chilling out now with these deep breathing tips featured in Stress Less, from Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School:
- As you inhale, the belly extends out as though it were being filled with air (it is not). Then, as the inhale continues and the belly extends fully, the chest expands.At the end of the inhale, pause very briefly, and then as you start to exhale, let the chest collapse first. As the exhale continues, the belly pulls in slightly as though it were being emptied of air. Then pause very briefly at the end of the exhale before beginning the next inhale.The breath rate should be four breaths per minute or slower (fifteen seconds or longer for each breath),but even six breaths per minute is therapeutic. It is important that this breathing is done through the nose. The eyes are closed during this exercise, and your mental attention is focused on the flow of the breath.
Thanks to these tips and strategies, you should be fully equipped to manage and reduce any wedding stress that comes your way. So stop losing sleep over menus, set lists and table settings and start saying ‘I do’ to these healthy habits.
Jessica Solloway is a Washington, DC based writer and producer. From wedding planning to work, dating to dieting (and everything in between), she enjoys writing about lifestyle topics women want to know about. Jessica received her degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Check out her blog, The Savvy Mrs.