With everything that's happening in the world right now, especially when it comes to wedding planning, I feel brides (and grooms!) need a little bit of help managing their feelings, stress and anxiety.
I'm very excited to say this blog is a little Q&A with Charlotte, who is a qualified CBT therapist and has set up The Bridal Mindset. She is going to give us some advice on how to manage stress and anxiety when it comes to wedding planning!
So let's dive straight in!
What is CBT Therapy?
Lauren: Some couples may be wondering what CBT actually is, can you give us a little insight?
Charlotte: Cognitive behavioural therapy is an approach that looks at how our thoughts and our behaviours impact on how we're feeling. How the things we think or things we do or don't do impacts on our mood and identifying what's maintaining those feelings and moods.
It's a practical form of therapy, working on building skills and learning techniques to help improve how we're feeling and behaving by targeting and challenging those to have a more positive impact on ourselves.
What is the Difference Between Stress & Anxiety?
Lauren: I'm really in to understanding ones mental health and how important is it for your wellbeing but also for people to speak about it more, which leads onto my next question. What is the difference between stress and anxiety and what are the signs?
Charlotte: Stress is an immediate response to a situation that's going on around you, so it could be quite a day to day change, for example different things going on at work, different things happening in our personal life etc but it triggers an immediate response where your body feels a threat within your environment. The good thing about stress is that once the 'stressful' situation has happened the tension and feelings will reduce and you'll start to feel better again.
Anxiety however, is a more persistent set of feelings that can be quite hard to identify with a trigger or what's caused it. It's an underlying bubbling feeling that may or may not ease once the a 'stressful' event has happened and remains there.
Signs and symptoms for stress and anxiety are very similar, it could be that you're feeling tense or shaky, you might feel sick, get a headache or feel hot and sweaty. You may become irritable and snappy towards people around you and even feel as though your thoughts are racing around your head and you can't begin to control them. So it's good to try and be aware what your signs and symptoms are, to be able to manage your stress and anxiety levels.
What Tips Have You Got For Dealing With Stress & Anxiety?
Lauren: That's so interesting, so I assume that stress can lead onto anxiety if it's not managed and dealt with in the right way, so what tips have you got for couples dealing with stress and anxiety during wedding planning?
Charlotte: So my first tip with managing that overwhelming feeling of wedding stress is to make a schedule! When we feel overwhelmed it can be really hard to make sense of our thoughts, so prevent that by putting a plan in place, create manageable tasks and set time limits for those tasks and reward yourself afterwards, be kind to yourself!
When planning I would also recommend thinking of the 4 W's - WHAT is it that you need to do, WHEN can you do it, WHERE are you going to do it and WHO do you need to do it with, this will ultimately help with scheduling.
Secondly, recognise what you can control. So, with life there is always things that we don't have control over but there are some elements that we can control and being able to identify that is the starting point. Ask yourself, can I do something about this? If the answer is yes, then great add it to your schedule and break it down with the 4 W's. If you can't, acknowledge that and be fair, but stubborn, with yourself and accept that.
Thirdly, communicate! Whether that's to your partner, your parents, your bridesmaids or even your suppliers communication is key. It might be that you need to let them know a time for your meeting or that you need to take some time out for decision making or that you're getting suggestions left, right and centre from friends and family and can't cope with it all, communicate! It may feel uncomfortable but the sooner you communicate that, they know where they stand and it's then beneficial to everyone.
Forth thing links in with communication and it's being assertive, being able to tell people how your feeling and what you want whilst respecting their boundaries and them as a person will help with managing stress.
Finally, take a break! Wedding planning can become all consuming and it's amazing but it can also become too much, stressful and overwhelming which then can make it unenjoyable, so learn to take a break from it. Scheduling wedding planning as well as breaks will help to spark that enjoyment back into the days that you are planning.
How Can Couples Use CBT to Reduce Stress Before Their Wedding?
Lauren: We've talked about couples feeling stressed during the wedding planning process but how can couples use CBT to reduce stress leading up to the big day? As I guess that's when the stress can really start kick in.
Charlotte: Acknowledging what we can and can't control is one way of dealing with this stress and anxiety leading up to the wedding. When you're feeling anxious and the worry is starting to build and feeling as though it could spiral out of control, PAUSE, take a moment and ask yourself 3 golden questions:
What can I do about this situation? By worrying about this situation am I making myself feel any better? By worrying about this situation am I changing the outcome?
Once you ask these questions to yourself, you'll start to realise if there is anything you can do and the likelihood is that, with a lot of these uncertainties, the answers to all three questions is NO. So in that case, what's the point in worrying about it. Acknowledge that, try to focus on something else and you'll start to feel better for it.
What's the Best Way to Deal with Wedding Day Anxiety?
Lauren: Some really great advise there, thank you! So what about the wedding day itself? What's the best way to deal with wedding day anxiety?
Charlotte: Thinking and understanding you're going to be a little bit nervous on your wedding day is natural! Be kind to yourself, be fair to yourself and acknowledge that it's okay. However, there are things we can do to help with this burden on the wedding day.
I would suggest starting to get a relaxation routine in place so no matter how far away your wedding is, getting it in place now will help. Start by identifying certain songs or certain scents and smells that help you to relax and then move on to learning how to be able to switch off, engage in 'grounding' techniques and focusing on the 'here and now'.
So, look around you, in the room you're in, and identify 5 things that you can see and really tune into these items, say them out loud or in your head whichever works for you. Secondly identify 4 sounds that you can hear, tune in to these and focus on the 'here and now'. Identify certain smells in the environment you're in, it may sound strange but it really helps you to concentrate on the moment. Then take in one deep breath and exhale slowly. This is a 'grounding' technique.
What this will help you to do on your wedding day when you're feeling anxious, will help to bring you back into the 'here and now', ground you in the present and focus you on that moment rather than allowing you to worry about future events. Putting on those songs or smelling that scent that you identified calms you whilst getting ready on your wedding day will also help to relieve the stress and anxiety.
Relaxation is a skill so the more you practice before the wedding day the easier it will be for you on the day to calm and ground yourself.
How Can Couples Use CBT To Get Excited About Planning a Postponed Wedding?
Lauren: what great advice! I'll definitely be taking those tips on board to help teach my brides if they're feeling anxious on their wedding day. I guess my final question is how can couples use CBT to get excited about planning a postponed wedding? As there are obviously a lot of couples out there, going through this at the moment and we know they have been struggling and have lost the excitement for it as they're worried all the plans might need to change again (hopefully they won't).
Charlotte: If you've had to postpone your wedding, chances are it will have felt like a bit of a rollercoaster, CBT can be really helpful to manage how we respond to situations so unfortunately, we can't control other people and in this instance, a global pandemic but we can control how we respond to it. Look back at previous techniques I've already mentioned as we can use these to help us get excited about planning again. For example creating a structure and schedule for wedding planning allows you to look forward to doing it. Breaking it down into easy and manageable tasks can make it more enjoyable and exciting rather than daunting. And taking everything one step at a time.
I've mentioned this a few times and it's the one thing I keep saying this to all my clients and that's BE KIND TO YOURSELF, only you can look after yourself during what can be an overwhelming, stressful and anxious time, that is planning your wedding.
Lauren: this has been so useful and really insightful, there are some fantastic tips here and I hope this gives couples some skills to put into their wedding toolkit to help with managing wedding planning stress as well as wedding day anxiety.
REMEMBER, please do seek medical advice if you are struggling or speak to a professional, you are not alone in this.
For more stress free wedding planning tips, watch this!
Photos by: 1, 2 & 4. Mindy Coe Photography 3. Ross Hurley Photo