How quickly does “Woo, I’m engaged!”, turn into “Arghhhhhhh, I’m engaged?!”
Although you’re excited about planning a wedding and getting married, it’s also totally normal if, as wedding planning builds, you start to feel out of sorts. You may feel the pressure to deliver the very best wedding and overwhelmed with everything you have to do. As the stress builds, you may start to act more and more out of character – feeling anxious, angry, or maybe just like you want to hide from it all. These feelings can also be compounded by nerves, insecurities or worrying around being the centre of attention on the day. If you’re not careful, by the time your wedding day arrives, after a prolonged period of heightened anxiety and stress, you might feel the least like yourself. On the day you want to feel most like yourself.
So, how can you avoid going into a doom spiral of pre-wedding anxiety and instead bring the wedding of your dreams into reality all the while feeling like your most confident self on the day?
The answer is actually very close to home – it is YOU. The same you that creates the crisis, is the very you that will also resolve it beautifully. You may have heard that the key to unlocking our super powers is in the mind, so let’s get our geek on and have a little look at how our brains work.
HOW YOUR BRAIN THINKS
Keeping things very simple, think of your brain as being made up of the intellectual mind and the primitive brain. When you are operating from your intellectual mind, you tend to be quite positive. You can assess situations properly and you are innovative. Your primitive brain, on the other hand, is there to ensure your survival. And sometimes, it takes its job a little too seriously.
Since the dawn of time, your primitive brain has been wired to recognise threats to your life. Think polar bears or axe murderers – it’s the major shit. Research has shown that as your anxiety goes up, you start to operate more from the primitive area of your brain. This part of the brain will always respond in three ‘modes’: anxious mode, depressed mode, angry mode (or it can be a delightful combination of all three). These ways of operating were helpful when we lived in a prehistoric cave, but don’t prove to be as useful when the wedding invites turn up in the wrong colour.
On top of reacting from ‘imminent death’ mode, your primitive brain tends also to be pretty negative. As it is basically designed to keep you alive, it will always see things from the worst possible perspective. Therefore, if the perception is that danger is all around (whether it be a polar bear or an in-law debating the guest list), then you will start to be on high alert most of the time.
Your primitive brain also can’t be innovative. It can’t learn and adapt its behaviour. That means it doesn’t matter if you get to the end of the day and you have cried, raged and (insert your self-sabotaging behaviour of choice), your primitive brain is giving itself a pat on the back as to a job well done. It doesn’t matter that the day was an absolute car crash, you survived!
YOU HOLD THE ANSWER
So, how can you break this cycle and get your brain out of thinking you are living in the Zombie Apocalypse? One way is through the use of hypnotherapy. This works simply by being in a relaxed state, bringing your intellectual and primitive minds together, so that they are focused on the same thing. At this point, we have access to the subconscious mind, and we can start to work towards dispelling those thoughts that are not serving us.
Everyone is naturally great at being in this relaxed state (known as trance), and you do it more often than you think. Wonder why you sometimes get your best ideas whilst in the shower? Well, when you undertake actions that you can do without ‘active thinking’, it gives your brain the chance to wander off. Your brain is designed to be fabulous at pondering ‘What if?’ scenarios. You can think about this as working in ‘default operating mode’. Your brain sets about sorting through the questions you have posed to it earlier on.
In the shower, or while driving, you will only stay in this trance state for a few seconds at a time. Hypnotherapy essentially helps you tap into your default mode, but gives you a greater amount of time for your brain to figure out the shit you need to. This automatically gives us more space to make better decisions and feel calmer. Although we can’t control the challenging events that may occur in the run-up to a wedding, creating brain space does give us the ability to cope better.
But there is more to hypnotherapy than creating space for your brain to figure stuff out. Another cool feature of your brain is that your mind doesn’t know the difference between you imagining events, and things actually happening in reality. This is why sports visualisation is so powerful. Athletes rehearse their performances mentally, prior to implementation. By imagining how you want things to go, you are rehearsing the event, and our brains think it is happening for real.
I once had a bride come to me with reservations about walking down the aisle. She was convinced that she would blush red, and be overcome with emotion, resulting in her ugly crying. We chatted through how she WANTED to behave as she walked down the aisle – confident, to be able to enjoy the moment, and even how she wanted to shed a single, beautiful tear! We relayed this experience to her during a guided visualisation and recorded it, so she could listen to it whenever she wanted. When it came to the actual day, the experience she had was EXACTLY as she had imagined because her mind had rehearsed it before.
MY TOP TIPS FOR COPING WITH WEDDING OVERWHELM
Have a word with your primitive brain
Recognise that perfectionism is coming from your primitive brain. It is trying to keep you safe, but it is not real. We all have odd thoughts from time to time, but if you are finding that the overall narrative is doom and disaster, then that is not your intellectual mind talking to you.
Have a brain game plan you can implement easily
Think about what has previously helped you cope in periods of stress. Is it a chat with a friend? A slice of cake? Vibing out to your favourite track? Screaming? Make a note of these, and make them your ‘go-to’ actions when you start to feel the creep of crappy thoughts.
Imagine your ideal day, and write it down
Make this powerful by incorporating as many senses as you can. For example, what fragrance can you smell? What does the fabric of your outfit feel like? Also, include how you want to feel. Once written, you can re-read it as often as you like. Really imagine your day as you read it through. Visualisation is powerful AF.
Take baby steps towards wedding planning
Think of wedding planning like a Sat Nav. Do you tell the Sat Nav where you don’t want to go? No, you put in a very clear destination. Similarly, your Sat Nav doesn’t tell you all the directions in one overwhelming hit. It says, “In 100m, take a left”, “At the roundabout, carry straight on.” Think about your planning in the same way. What small step could you see yourself taking towards a bigger task? Break it down.
Include your favourite people on your wedding journey. Some people need to be told what to do, but when they offer to help, give them a job! Not only are they helping you, but you are also giving their brain a boost of ‘happy chemicals’ too. Win-win!
Don’t miss the good shit on the day
Of course, there is always the possibility that something may not pan out quite as expected. In this moment, look around, and note the things that are going right. Take note of how happy people are to be with you, celebrating. If you need reassurance in advance, talk to your friends that have got married. Chances are, they won’t even recall the shit that went south, as they were too busy riding high with all the good moments.
Julia is a solution-focused hypnotherapist based in Maidstone, Kent. She has clocked up 100s of clinical hours helping clients cope with anxiety, depression, and phobias. When not helping others, Julia can be found pole dancing or eating cake. Visit her website to learn more.
- Photography: Yulia Kosynska