No matter how prepared you are, every wedding comes with a moment (or five, or ten…) of stress. Whether that’s from navigating relationships, finding yourself amidst an ever-growing to-do list, or simply handling a myriad of changes you didn’t see coming, it all adds up. Not to mention, there’s the constant loop of wedding information playing in the back of your head.
How do you break away from the clutter inside your brain to gain some calm and clarity during this incredible time in your life? I asked Tara Becker, licensed master social worker and mental health coach, how stress affects our brain and what can we do to settle it. Based on her experience at Momentous Institute, which works with children and families through education, therapeutic services, and training in social emotional health, here’s what she had to say.
Becker explained when we’re stressed, our emotions take over and our critical thinking comes to a halt. We move into fight or flight when we feel overwhelmed or threatened just like we would if we were in physical danger. But there are much better ways to react than to run! “In order to think through our options and respond thoughtfully, we first have to calm our brain and bodies down,” she says. She suggests you get ahead of your stress by knowing your triggers. “If you’re aware, and you notice your body starting to react, you can then take steps to help yourself calm down.” When you notice the signs flashing “I’m stressed!” here are three easy ways to center yourself, according to Becker.
Take Slow Deep Breaths
When you breathe deeply it stimulates your vagus nerve which tells your body to relax. Make sure to elongate your breaths, breathing out longer than breathing in. Box breathing is a popular tool that helps you regulate it. Inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold again for four seconds, repeat, and there’s your box!
“One way to proactively head off stress is to take time to intentionally value what’s going well,” recommends Becker. Set aside 10 minutes of your day to write down three things you’re grateful for. That sounds pretty simple, right? And it has major rewards. Studies show that practicing gratitude has been found to increase positive emotions, reduce the risk of depression, heighten relationship satisfaction, and increase resilience in the face of stressful life events.
If you’re not a fan of working out, this might not be your most exciting go to. But even a short workout (yes, even five minutes!) can have a major impact. Choose what works best for you. Try volleyball or soccer if you enjoy being in a group. Go for a walk or run outside—being in nature can increase the benefits too. Just think, you’re only five minutes away from leveling out your anxiety.
Feeling more relaxed? Good. Take those deep breaths, you’ve got this! And most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy this time! It’s an amazing moment in your life to soak up all the joy that lies ahead. When you get lost in the details, and it all seems too much, remind yourself that you are marrying the love of your life—that’s what truly matters.
photography by Chua Lee Photography