All too common - and rather different to those cliched 'jitters' - we asked Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK, to share her tips for brides and grooms who are feeling anxious ahead of their weddings...
Getting engaged has the potential to feel overwhelming. What's your advice for newly-engaged brides and grooms who aren't used to being centre of attention?
Even when change comes in the form of a happy occasion, such as an engagement, it’s important to give yourself permission and time to adjust and process the change.
Remember, it’s completely normal to experience stress and anxiety during periods of transition. Remember that you are in control of this happy event; don’t allow yourself to be swayed into making decisions about the big day that don’t sit right with you.
If you are someone who has experienced difficulties with anxiety previously, ensure that you keep doing all the things that you know have helped you to manage anxiety in the past; for example, staying in the moment- not thinking too far ahead and anticipating the worst but instead, taking each day as it comes; therefore, practising mindfulness.
How can brides and grooms stave off feelings of expectation (such as pressure from family members) or inadequacy (for example, comparing their own wedding plans to those of others) during their planning?
Today, it can be easy to feel we are chasing unattainable expectations, particularly in an increasingly digital and fast-paced world. If you find yourself feeling anxious about meeting the expectations of others, it can be worth cutting down the amount of time you spend scrolling through social media apps filled with extravagant and ‘picture-perfect’ weddings.
Rather, focus on meeting your own personal expectations, they are the ones that count. Write a list of what you and your partner want from your wedding and keep the items on this list at the forefront of your minds. Remember this is your day and whilst the wishes of other family members shouldn’t be totally disregarded they should not be prioritised over your own.
How can a bride or groom tell the difference between whether they're simply stressed or feeling more overwhelmed? What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Although anxiety is an everyday and normal emotion, there are a number of symptoms including physiological, psychological and behavioural symptoms that when experienced, may be signs of normal ‘wedding stress’ tipping into an anxiety condition.
So for example, a change in eating habits, sleep or avoiding doing things which you used to do without feeling anxious are all tell-tale signs of anxiety becoming problematic. Physical symptoms of anxiety include difficulty breathing, palpitations, tension headaches, dry mouth, increased perspiration and dizziness.
Wedding planning is stereotypically very stressful - drawing up guest lists, managing budgets, juggling logistics... How can brides and grooms minimise this?
Anxiety can affect everyone in different ways but there are a number ways to help cope with it. Simple steps, like remaining active, limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake, and ensuring you allow time for relaxation, can all make a big difference.
Additionally, there are lots of really valuable self-help books, resources and groups available, which many of our members find particularly useful. Many people find taking a few minutes out each day to practice mindfulness can be helpful as this technique is about focussing on the here and now rather than the past or present.
Keeping balance in your life is really important so as not to allow the wedding to completely take over.
For brides who feel anxious about things going wrong (for example: that clichéd 3am nightmare of a wedding where the guests don’t turn up…) - what would you advise?
Practicing mindfulness techniques can help you approach things in a more relaxed frame of mind; these techniques might help you embrace the moments leading up to the wedding day.
To start - learning to breathe correctly (i.e. ensuring that you not anxiously breathing) can make a big difference.
Another idea is to commit your worst fears to paper and then alongside each, write down what the worst outcome would be for each. In the final column, have a go at problem solving each of concerns listed. So, if your worst fear is no-one turns up – a practical way of mitigating against this would be to ask people to confirm their attendance and to ensure that the invitations are sent out in good time.
Feeling out of control is a common trait of those that experience issues with anxiety and so doing as much preparation as you can in advance to avoid minor hiccups can help. Ultimately however, no-one can control everything and so learning to accept that things might not go perfectly but that this wouldn’t be the end of the world is key. Give yourself wiggle room to get some things wrong; you are human after all.
On the wedding day itself: how can an attention-hating bride or groom deal with the spotlight being on them?
As a bride or groom, being the centre of attention can be difficult to avoid. For many, this can be incredibly daunting.
One method that can help people become more comfortable with this, is by gradually introducing themselves into situations where they are the focus of attention. The run-up to a wedding offers a number of great opportunities for this, including wedding dress shopping with bridesmaids or hair and make-up trials. Increasing your familiarity with these types of situations makes them a lot scary.
In addition to this, you might find it helpful to confide in your close friends and/or family members so that they can help on the day by bringing others into conversations; keeping the conversation going so that it is not solely on the bride.
Social anxiety responds very well to the psychological therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and so it might be that undertaking a short course of therapy in advance of getting married may really help with a problem of this nature.
Are there any techniques you'd recommend for people who feel anxious on the big day itself?
There are a number of breathing techniques which can help reduce anxiety on your wedding day. These can be as simple as taking a few moments to simply notice your breathing patterns, or breathing in deeply for five seconds, holding for five seconds, and then releasing slowly over seven seconds. This will trigger your relaxation response.
Meditation and mindfulness techniques are also really useful for coping with anxiety and stress. This doesn’t have to mean hours of challenging techniques, but instead can be introduced in a number of simple ways. For example, as part of our Anxiety UK membership, we include a year’s free subscription to the Headspace meditation app. Using this for just 10 minutes a day has been found to have real benefits.
Getting to know the physical lay out of the venue where you are getting married in advance is also recommended; this helps you to feel in control. Some people also find having lavender oil or something similar that is strong scented and a relaxant can help too.
Which three things should anxiety-suffering brides and grooms remember throughout their wedding planning?
Remember to talk to those around you about how you are feeling. Anxiety is completely normal and opening up to those around you can make a real difference.
Secondly, don’t forget that the run up to your wedding doesn’t all have to be about the wedding. A little distraction with your favourite past-times is often a very good thing; it’s all about having a balance. And finally, go easy on yourself. Whenever we experience periods of anxiety or stress, it can be tempting to tell ourselves that we should just snap out of it, but sometimes we all just need a bit of time and support.
For more information and support on any aspect of anxiety and/or stress, visit www.anxietyuk.org.uk or call Anxiety UK’s national information line: 08444 775 774.