Now that you’re back at work the excitement of your Christmas or New Year proposal can feel a distant memory and as you stare out the window at the dank, dismal weather all you can think of is ‘where do I start?’
Planning a wedding is incredibly exciting, but it can also be very stressful. On the surface, many brides and grooms try to hide the pressure and anxiety they’re feeling, and might even feel ashamed that they’re struggling to cope with stress during a period that should be the “happiest time of their life”.
But the truth is that every aspect of putting together an event as big as a wedding is a mammoth task in itself. It’s only natural that between worrying about your budget and how to make everyone happy, your mental health can fall down your list of priorities.
But if you begin dealing with your stress and finding tricks to help you manage, it is possible to enjoy the process of wedding planning and put the focus back on you, your relationship and your upcoming marriage.
Mental health charity Mind suggests the warning symptoms of stress that you should look out for and the best ways to reduce stress.
An event as big as a wedding does require you to juggle lots of commitments and financial concerns so it’s natural to feel some stress, says Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind.
“Being under pressure is a normal part of life and can be useful in small amounts. But if you become overwhelmed by stress, these feelings could start to be a problem.
“Stress in itself is not a mental health problem, but prolonged, unmanageable stress can lead to mental health problems like depression or anxiety,” he says.
The effects of stress can be emotional, mental and physical, and it won’t always be obvious that you’re suffering from stress so it’s important to know what to look out for.
“Unmanageable stress affects us all in different ways, but there are signs to look out for, such as feeling irritated, drinking or smoking excessively, finding it hard to sleep or struggling to concentrate.
“You may feel really upset and emotional, or feel like crying. You might also notice some physical signs, like headaches, upset stomach, or difficulty breathing. Severe stress can affect your blood pressure too,” Stephen says.
When the behaviour of a bride changes, she can often be dismissed as a “bridezilla”, but it could be time to step back and ask whether stress is becoming an issue for you. Behavioural changes include snapping at people; being tearful; constantly worrying, and you might find it harder to make decisions which can make you even more frustrated with yourself.
For a full list of symptoms, visit Mind’s website
How To Reduce Stress
Here are the best self-care tips to cope with stress and help protect your mental health during wedding planning (and if self-care sounds like a word you’d hate, I promise you won’t hate this sensible advice.
Spend Time With Your Support Network
Connecting with people is so important for our mental wellbeing. Don’t isolate yourself from friends or family in favour of your to-do list.
Brides, if you really can’t let go of the wedding preparations then get your bridesmaids around and do some décor crafting with them. It’ll tick one thing off your list and you get some good quality girl time too. Grooms, get your mates together for a kickabout, to play some video games or watch a match.
Family, however well-meaning, can be a big stressor during wedding planning. Get your parents or siblings over for a Sunday roast, ban the topic of weddings for a few hours and just catch-up. If they’re truly toxic to your health though, don’t feel bad about taking some time away for a while.
Go On A Digital Detox
If Pinterest has basically replaced your partner, take a social media detox. A number of studies have linked social media use with depression, anxiety, sleep problems and body image and body confidence issues. Whether it’s creating a wedding way beyond your budget on Pinterest or staring at the bodies of Victoria’s Secret models on Instagram, social media can be a great source of dissatisfaction and anxiety.
Try deleting the apps from your mobile so your access is limited to when you’re at your laptop. Alternatively made a rule where both of you put your phone to one side for a couple of hours to have dinner and watch an episode on Netflix. Your relationship will benefit as will your mental health.
Re-Discover Activities That Make You Happy
If every evening is spent with your Excel spreadsheets and your lunch break is spent calling suppliers, then you’re unlikely to be devoting as much time to the activities that used to make you happy and relaxed.
Whether it’s going for a walk, zoning out with an audiobook, painting, taking a bath, listening to music or even watching your favourite trashy TV show, make sure you get that ‘me time’ every day when you focus on no one else’s needs but your own
Make A Done List
At the end of every day (or at least once a week), note down all the things you’ve completed that day and celebrate the small wins. To-do lists can send you into a panic and actually hinder your effectiveness, but an “I’ve done” list makes you feel proud and strengthens your motivation.
Evidence has shown the importance of writing it down too, not just keeping it inside your head. Read them and marvel at how amazing you are and all the things you’ve achieved (however small those tasks may seem). You got this!
Get Some Fresh Air
Stephen says that three big factors in managing your stress are “eating healthily, sleeping well and making time for exercise.”
Reaching for the nearest chocolate bar or glass of wine are often our go-to responses to stress, but emotional eating and drinking can make problems even worse. Focus instead on following a balanced diet and finding an exercise regime that works for you. This doesn’t have to be strenuous: the NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, and swimming, yoga or gentle walking are great places to start.
Evidence shows exercise can lower our risk of depression by 30%, improve sleep quality, increase self-confidence and help us manage stress and anxiety. Grab one of your bridesmaids or groomsmen and sign up to a fitness class if having a buddy is more likely to get you moving. Just don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day!
If You’re On A Crash Diet, Stop!
We all want to look our best on our wedding day. But severely restricting your calorie intake will make you feel lethargic and irritable, give you headaches and bad breath, and could have some serious side effects on your mental health. According to the NHS, depriving your body of the nutrients it needs could lead to thinning hair and dull skin. Not ideal for your wedding photos!
On restricted calories, your body will go into starvation mode and your metabolic rate will plummet so you’ll actually find it harder to lose weight. The NHS suggests sensible weight loss is 1-2lbs a week, which equates to a healthy calorie deficit of 500-600 calories a day. For an average woman, that means eating 1,400-1,500 calories a day. Your body and mental health will thank you.
Establish A Sleep Routine
When you’re sleep-deprived, irritability and anger levels increase, while your ability to deal with stress decreases. It’s not always as easy as going to bed earlier. Often poor sleep leads to worrying, which leads to poor sleep, and so on in a vicious cycle.
But it can be useful to establish a sleep routine: give yourself an hour before bed where you don’t look at any screens as the blue light can interfere with hormone production; establish a bedtime routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day; and find ways to help you relax such as taking a bath, meditating (YouTube has lots of sleep meditations you can follow) or trying some breathing exercises.
Learn To Say No
To that party or work meeting or volunteer project. Your time and energy are precious and it isn’t selfish to set boundaries, establish your needs and focus on the things that bring you joy. Don’t push people away, but don’t feel obliged to go to that dinner party.
To say no without the guilt, avoid feeling like you have to be “nice” and give a firm but polite no with a simple reason, like you’re already busy, not a list of excuses.
Write Down Your Worries
If you suffer from anxiety, then it can be really hard to stop worrying, but there are ways to help you control your anxiety.
Some people find that setting aside a specific time to focus on their worries can help, as can writing down what you’re worried about and keeping those thoughts in once place like a notebook.
Share Your Workload
The sheer number of things to do during wedding planning can be overwhelming but there are some practical ways to help. Firstly, break your list down into manageable tasks. Secondly, remember it doesn’t all have to fall on you and your partner’s shoulders!
Enlist trusted bridesmaids, groomsmen, parents and friends and delegate. In the final few weeks before the wedding, good tasks to allocate out include packing up items to take to the venue, confirming supplier arrangements (put someone very trusted in charge of this) and any wedding DIY tasks. On the day, have them meeting, greeting and directing suppliers, managing guests and keeping the day on schedule
If you have the budget, consider bringing in a wedding planner. There’s a lot of misconceptions over cost and how involved they need to be, but most have a mixture of packages and their involvement is up to you.
Planning a wedding should be a joint process so be open with your partner if you’re struggling. Your wedding isn’t about cute table settings; it’s about making a commitment to that person to share your futures together and your health is so much more important.
Stephen at Mind emphasises how crucial speaking to your partner, family or friends can be for reducing stress. “It’s very important to open up about how you feel to someone you trust. Bottling things up only increases the pressure on you,” he warns.
You might be worrying so much that you begin to worry whether it’s cold feet. If that happens take some time out to reconnect with your partner and remember why you’re marrying them. And reassure them that you freaking out isn’t about not wanting to marry, because that’s probably stressing them out too!
Be Kind To Yourself
Forgive yourself when you make a mistake or don’t finish your tasks for that day. Nobody’s perfect and extra pressure on yourself doesn’t help. Be realistic and remember that it’s OK to need a longer engagement and it’s OK to not have every quirky bit of DIY décor you’ve seen on Pinterest. You are not a terrible bride, don’t beat yourself up.
For more information and advice, contact Mind or your local GP.