Tips from a bride: Handling stress

Joel & Brandy Photography
by Kara Furr, Pacific Coast Weddings editor

OK, so maybe the title of this post is misleading. Maybe you think I have mastered the art of stress-free wedding planning. I haven't. I'm still feeling multiple moments of chest-tightening and mind-whirling on any given day, but I'm here to tell you that you're not alone, and to share how I'm getting through the last few weeks before my wedding.

I'm getting married in two weeks. In Wisconsin, no less; so I'm planning my wedding at quite a distance, and I have  much left to do.

So far, I've found that there are three peak times of stress during the wedding process:

Immediately after setting a date. You're trying to figure out what you want, and everyone else expects you to already know, and/or to tell you how they expect it to be. Take a breath. It's OK to tell people to back off; just do it nicely.

Two months from your wedding. You've still got lots to do, but you're ready. You know how your wedding is going to look, and who's going to do what. This should be a time when you should be feeling confident and stress-free, but that wasn't the case for me. I felt like there was something I was supposed to be doing, and was completely freaked out about it. My advice? If you're doing a DIY project, work on that a little bit at a time, and you'll feel like you're getting something done.

Two weeks from your wedding. Good luck staying focused on anything at all right now. There are a million little things you need to do, and they're popping into your head constantly. You're hungry, you're tired and everyone keeps asking you if you're excited yet. And you are! You're really excited; but you're also chasing people down for their RSVPS and DIYing and making sure the pile of things you've got left to do gets finished. Focus on the excitement. You're about to get married, and if the little things don't get done, it's not the end of the world. But don't forget your marriage license, because that one's a big deal.

So maybe that sounds bad, but it doesn't have to be. You'll have moments of stress, just like me, but there are ways to minimize it. I would in no way consider myself an expert, but here's how I'm handling the stressful moments that pop up in the lead-up to my wedding:

Lists. One of the things I find the most stressful is trying to remember all the things I need to do. If I don't write things down immediately, I forget them, so I keep a little notebook with me where I write down things that need to be done as soon as I think of them. And as soon as I have written it down, I stop obsessing about it, because I know it's there waiting for me.

Do at least one thing per day. In the final lead-up to the wedding, it can start to seem like there's so much to be done that it's impossible to complete it all. The sheer volume of tasks can be paralyzing – wouldn't it be so much easier to curl up on the couch and watch TV all night than try to deal with it? I've fallen into this trap often, so I instituted a one-task-per-night policy. This makes my list more manageable, and it's easy to get one item checked off each day.

Yoga breathing. It sounds silly, but it really works. It's called 4-7-8 breathing, it works to slow and control your breathing. Here's how to do it:

4 – Expand your diaphragm and slowly inhale through your nose for a count of four. 
7 – Hold your breath for a count of seven. 
8 - Exhale through your mouth for eight counts, drawing your diaphragm in. 

Practice this three or four times in succession whenever you're starting to get worked up, and I bet you'll feel a little better.

Exercise. If I start feeling really stressed out, and controlling my breathing isn't helping, I know it's time to hit the gym. If you're not a fan of the gym (and I don't blame you, there), go on a hike or take the dog for a walk – do something to get your heart rate up for at least half an hour. Those endorphins are a real life saver, and comes with the added benefit that you'll be looking especially svelte on your wedding day.

Have fun! Go out with your friends, take a bike ride or make a great meal with your partner. Live your everyday life, do what you love and get out of wedding land for a while. This is supposed to be one of the best times of your life, so get out and enjoy it! 

So there we have it! I hope your wedding planning process is smooth, fun, and stress-free, but in case you find yourself getting anxious, try these tips, and know you're not the only bride out there who's feeling the crunch.