When you throw a party for your nearest and dearest—whether that’s 40 guests or a few hundred—it’s easy to get bogged down in decisions and details. At first, figuring out everything from name cards and napkins to fonts and flowers can be fun. Then, a few months into your wedding-planning adventure, these tasks—as you’ve likely noticed—can send your stress levels skyrocketing, says Amanda Hudes, who’s both a certified health counselor and wedding planner in New York and New Jersey.
“Planning a wedding can feel like you’re in a big pressure cooker,” says Charlynn Ruan, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist at Thrive Psychology in Santa Monica, CA. “It’s like the holidays times 10,000. Which means it’s especially important to take care of yourself throughout the process.” After all, you don’t want to be so depleted you can’t enjoy the party you spent so much energy planning.
But you can put yourself on your to-do list and keep your energy and well-being high, even when pulling together your big day is pulling you in a million different directions. Start with these suggestions.
Go on weekly dates with your fiancé that aren’t conducive to talking.
Sure, you want to gripe about your mom’s input on the seating arrangements and the photographer’s hidden fees, but think about it: Is complaining over dinner really going to help you stress less? Or is it more likely to ratchet up your anger and anxiety? For many couples, it’s the latter, says Hudes.
So choose date-night activities that are more about doing than gabbing. Head to the batting cages, try indoor skydiving, go to a basketball game, or take a yoga class. “There’s a good chance you’ll have so much fun that you’ll find it less tempting to dive into talking about wedding stuff even if you do grab dinner afterward,” says Hudes.
Set a big goal that’s not wedding related.
Always wanted to try a 5K? Love to paint or cook and been thinking about taking lessons to improve your skills? Surprisingly, now’s the time, says Hudes. It may seem crazy to add one more commitment to your never-ending to-do list, but working toward a personal goal is actually a great way to make sure you prioritize yourself during wedding-planning craziness, she adds.
“The key is choosing something you really love to do, so that the activity feels like a stress release rather than one more thing to check off your list,” she says. Bonus: If you’ve become one of those brides who talks a lot about her wedding, this will give you something else to share with your friends when they ask how you’re doing. “Wedding planning can become your whole world—but the people in your world may not want to talk to you about it as much as you do,” says Hudes.
Ditch mirrors for a day.
When you’re planning an event where all eyes will literally be on you, it can be tempting to focus excessively on how you look. Kjerstin Gruys, PhD, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Nevada at Reno and author of Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year, can relate. When she was planning her wedding six years ago, she quickly saw how easy it was to put pressure on herself to try to lose weight and look a certain way—and in an effort to avoid succumbing to that pressure, she vowed to not look in a mirror for the year leading up to her wedding.
“It worked,” says Gruys. “Even though I was probably a little less pristine looking, I was happier, and noticed the people in my world seemed to be happy for me.” Can’t make that kind of commitment? Try avoiding mirrors for just one day, she says. “The wedding industry practically tells you that you’re not only allowed to be obsessed with your appearance, but that you should be,” she says. “Not looking in the mirror, even just for a little while, can help you resist that, which can ultimately help you feel better about how you look.”
Go off the grid for a while.
Go camping, glamping, or to any getaway where there’s no cell service. “Let yourself really relax instead of stressing about making it to a spin class or wherever else you need to be, and reconnect with your fiancé or friends in nature,” Gruys says. “Then notice how happy you feel.” Your smartphone and spreadsheets will be waiting for you when you get back. “And after a true break, you’ll probably plow through them even faster than you otherwise would,” says Hudes.
RELATED: Retreat to Silence
Watch something that makes you laugh ’til you have to pee.
Getting married can feel so serious. “We tend to see it as a way of saying to everyone, ‘This is who I am and who we are as a couple,’” Gruys says. “That’s a lot of pressure.” When Gruys was planning her wedding, she says, “I tried to watch funny movies and TV shows with my fiancé. It’s hard to simultaneously be laughing and stressed out.” That’s because laughing lights up the brain’s pleasure centers, explains Ruan. “When those centers are lit up, your amygdala—the part of the brain responsible for pumping out stress hormones—quiets down.” And that lets you be the gorgeous, calm, put-together bride you want to be.
RELATED: Why We NEED To Laugh More