Whether you're going full-traditional, completely off the beaten path or landing somewhere in between, weddings can be bonkers. A month before mine, I found myself locked in a bathroom stall at work furiously searching on my phone for quick and easy stress-reduction remedies. I was experiencing tidal waves of overwhelming emotion that would cut my sentences short, distract me from being present, and causing me to cry unexpectedly.
When I think back on these moments, it's clear that I was overwhelmed and experiencing decision fatigue. Of course I was! Weddings are bonkers! I was searching for a quiet way to help myself; to practice self-care in a way that allowed me to feel whole instead of bulldozed by thoughts, to-do lists, and uncontrollable emotions.
In the end, all of the below techniques played an integral role in allowing me to feel present, together, and to enjoy the journey… while still being able to listen to the myriad of unsolicited advice without losing my shit.
But before we start, two things:
- You're not alone, and
- You've got this.
Breathe Through Your Nose
If I can borrow from my post about stopping a thought-spiral, breathing through your nose can scientifically reduce stress — get this — immediately.
Sarah Brose, a yoga therapist and teacher based in the Okanagan Valley, taught me that breathing into my belly works to calm the body's central nervous system. It's one the best things you can do for yourself to calm your body: close your mouth, inhale through your nose, and breathe into your belly. She said this method can be especially effective for neurodivergent folks who deal with anxiety.
If you're not sure if you're actually breathing into your belly and not your chest, try this: lie on our back on the floor with our palms resting on your belly. Take a deep inhale through your nose. Direct the air to your belly. You'll feel your belly rise into your palms.
While doing this, you can use the mantra Sarah taught me: “I am aware I am breathing in. I am aware I am breathing out.”
If this feels difficult at first, do your best to stick with it for at least 3–5 long inhales.
Give Yourself a Hand Massage
You might be more familiar with foot reflexology but acupressure points also exist in your hands — and pressing on them or lightly massaging specific points can stimulate nerves that send signals to all different parts of your body.
I find that massaging gently between my knuckles calms my sympathetic nervous system which controls the fight, flight, or freeze response. You can also trade hand massages with your partner if they're in need of a bit of soothing, too.
Plan Your Weekends
My partner and I made a pact: our weekends were sacred. We counted them and our go-to response to anyone trying to fill our weekends with something to do was, “We only have [six] weekends before the wedding. We'll let you know.”
When you put your weekends in context, you might realize there aren't as many weekends as days before your nuptials. And it's important to fill this time with activities you like to do.
Finding nature ranges from going for a walk in the park or the woods to stepping outside of your tiny, urban apartment to breathe in outside air.
Connecting with the land on which we live and run our lives is important. Let yourself feel the air on your face. Smell flowers or rain. Move your legs. Perhaps practice some deep, belly breathing outdoors.
The Washington Post recently reported that people who spend 2 to 3 hours each week in nature, whether it be walking down a tree-lined street or sitting by a lake, are roughly 20% more likely to feel “high overall satisfaction with their lives” compared to those who don't spend any time outside.
Need some motivation? The Coleman Canada Outdoor Report released in 2017 stated that 29% of adults spend less than 5 minutes outside every day, but we spend an average of 3 hours and 43 minutes each day on our phones (source). How's that for balance?
Take a Break From Your Phone/TV
In addition to the above, The National Sleep Foundation reports that 95% of people use screen-based tech within 1 hour of going to bed. Did you know the light that screens emit trick our bodies into thinking it's still daylight and, thus, delays the release of melatonin, which helps us fall asleep?
If you can, leave your phone in another room and trade those late-night Netflix episodes for a book.
Put On Some Music
Harvard Health reports that music not only affects cognition (the action of processing thoughts, experiences and senses) but also that it improves spatial-temporal reasoning (moving your body through space).
According to Harvard Health, the benefits don't stop there: music allows us to express ourselves, communicate with one another, help to calm us when stressed, boost our mood, and lower our blood pressure. Just what we need when we're knee-deep in planning a wedding.
You don't have to do the raisin meditation but if you find yourself spiraling from decision-fatigue, taking a break to consume a snack or meal mindfully can bring you back to your present self.
Mindful Magazine suggests that slowing down when eating so your body, which takes 20 minutes to signal to your brain that it's full, time to catch up.
When you're eating, do just that: eat. Don't distract yourself with your phone or by sitting in front of the TV.
While you're eating, think about all the people involved in growing each ingredient and getting that food into your hands. If you're up for it, thank them for doing the work that allows you to nourish your body.
The Food Network lists bananas and avocados (for potassium), carrots and celery (for crunch), almonds (for an immune boost), and a bit of dark chocolate (for serotonin — a natural anti-depressant) as stress-relieving foods.
Pick Up Some Rhodiola
Rhodiola is an herb that some research suggests can relieve mental fatigue due to stress. The herb, also known as “golden root,” is harvested in snow-ridden Arctic climates like Northern Asia and Eastern Europe. It is considered an adaptogen — a plant species that “encourages the body to adapt to physical and mental stress without major side effects” (source).
Straight from the bottle in my backpack, it claims to help “support mental and physical stamina as well as cognitive function and mental focus.” It is also reported to show favourable results in treating mild to moderate depression and improving moods (source). Of course, please consult your doctor, naturopath, or healthcare professional before taking Rhodiola for specific questions in regards to your own body.
Make Something With Your Hands
My partner and I make soaps and balms — lavender soaps, coffee scrubs, shampoo bars, hand and lip balms… It is one of my favourite ways to spend spare time while still feeling productive.
Not only is it time away from my computer, my day job, and party-planning, but I also feel a boost in my confidence — I've created something I can use — and self-esteem.
In an article by Jamie L. Kurtz, an associate professor of psychology at James Madison University in Virginia, Kurtz details how hobbies can boost our time management skills, expand our social circles, help us manage stress, and make us more interesting people.
Don't have time? It's Parkinson's law that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” So if you're not scheduling that book club or those knitting classes into your free time, Kurtz explains, work projects, emails, and wedding planning will fill that space quite easily.
Remind Yourself of Your Intentions
The most traditional part of our ceremony was that we were getting married. Everything else we either created, made up, or pulled from our spiritual beliefs, continually checking in without our intentions by asking ourselves, “Does this decision feel right?”
I didn't wear a white dress. We got married in the woods after our families went on separate hikes that joined together midway through. We wrote our entire ceremony. We chose times based on astrological events.
It was very easy for me to get lost in the questions, the concerns, and what felt like judgments from our network of support. But what brought me back was thinking about why we made these choices. We made them because we believed that they were the right choices for us.
Don't forget why you are doing this. No one can take that away from you.