There’s been a wave of reports recently about the huge increases we are seeing with people experiencing anxiety in the UK . Enormous.
It’s universal it doesn’t discriminate and it’s one of the areas of mental health that I work with clients most frequently.
There are of course various degrees of anxiety. Anxiety itself is not an abnormal response it’s a natural response to keep us safe. It is part of our automatic flight or fight response and a human condition, but it’s when it gets to unmanageable levels, when our body thinks there is a permanent threat, immense fear can build when we in-fact are not in any danger, that it can cause difficulty and illness.
What’s to blame for this exponential increase?
Us? Our culture? Our growing and perhaps unhealthy ‘need’ for praise, daily adulation? Social media? A platform that inspires, but also feeds into a growing culture to constantly compare? Peer and societal pressure?
All of the above.
It’s no secret. When you get engaged, there are ridiculously high expectations and assumptions placed on you to churn out a certain type of wedding.
Expectations to execute traditions, that may not resonate, or take us outside of our comfort zone. Public speaking, being the centre of attention, perfecting our aesthetic. Managing money and everything that brings up, organising, negotiating, dealing with conflict.
Tasks that some of us thrive on, may be completely alien others. But we take them on regardless.
We both now understand why it is a “once in a lifetime” day. Never again!
Weddings can shine a spotlight on our insecurities. Some which we didn’t even realise were there, others that have been lurking and decide to rear their ugly head at the most inconvenient of times.
I had a close friend contact me who had an anxiety attack about the sheer thought of having to go through the wedding dress shopping experience. An experience she felt was not for her and that her body shape did not conform to typical bridal industry standards.
Walking down the aisle was a big worry for me, everyone looking at me bought me out in cold sweats.
The other thing for me was trying to please everyone and hating the confrontation resulted in a wedding that wasn’t really us.
Blogger Louise from Whimsical Wonderland Weddings wrote a heartwarming account on her own blog and also in issue 7 of Rock n Roll Bride Magazine her experience with debilitating anxiety, that led her to cancel her wedding day just 6 weeks before.
I’m afraid of being centre of attention.
Having a wedding and getting married can force us to really look at relationships in our lives. The simple task of putting together a guest list challenges us to look, in a way we are not used to, at WHO is on our A list! To look at relationships closely, at those that are truly serving us and those that aren’t.
And that’s before I even mention navigating unexpected (or expected) family politics. “I’m not coming if they are coming” Type childish dialogue. Sound familiar? Yup.
Also in managing the expectations of the parents. I quickly realised that this day wasn’t going to be about just the two of us. Which was fine for then and I am happy with that, but if we had my daughter prior to getting married that wouldn’t have been the case at all and I would definitely been more challenging. Nicola
To generalise, conflict of any kind is a common trigger for anxiety. ESPECIALLY when dealing with family and people we care about. We generally find it difficult to be honest with one another through fear of hurting the others feelings and instead we often sit on something that bothers us and it bubbles.
My anxiety pre-wedding was around being the spotlight and so feeling like I had to look perfect, which meant lots of going to the gym pre-wedding, incidentally on the day I absolutely loved the attention ; )
We don’t often talk about it, but there can be immense pressure in getting married and planning a wedding. I think anxiety builds up throughout the process. But weddings are positive right? So why should we be anxious or feeling negative about them in any way, shape, or form? That’s ungrateful, right? Cue feeling guilty about feeling worried or anxious during what’s expected to be the happiest time of our lives and then vicious cycle continues.
Perhaps if we become more understanding that yes weddings are universal, be we are all made of different ‘stuff’ not all built with the same resilience, the same skill-set to navigate and manage people or conflict, to speak in public, to be in front of 200 people or body confident.
We need to remember, that we are all coming from different backgrounds with different values, social systems, cultures and family dynamics to contend with. A stressful situation for one person may be an adrenaline rush and exciting challenge for another.
So if anxiety is normal, how do you know when anxiety is at an unhealthy level?
The first step is noticing you are in an unhealthy cycle of fear or worry. Once you notice, don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself permission to feel nervous, anxious or worried, it’s perfectly normal and remind yourself that it is temporary and it will pass.
Notice what is making your anxious, a thought about something that has not and may not ever happen (I like to call these hallucinations), or a factual event. Then know you can take action to reduce and eliminate it.
2. Are you having a wedding that represents you
Some of what triggers immense pressure and anxiety around weddings is feeling you have to consistently conform to a formula that is against your natural rhythm.
Take stock to think about what you both want, what you can both afford and how you both want to feel on your wedding day and shape your day around that. Ask yourself are you doing this out of want or obligation?
No one will get arrested if you decide to ditch a tradition or two!
We’re blessed with choice in the western world, we can get married in a castle, or have a laid back and personal ceremony on a beach or in the middle of a forest, thanks to the growing desire for bespoke and humanist ceremonies. Weddings can be as extravagant or as chic and informal as we choose to. Remember WE are in control of that. No-one else.
If you don’t want to do a speech, don’t. If you do want to do a speech and you are a nervous wreck, get some coaching, or lessons with speech or drama coach to get some techniques to cleverly overcome the barrier. OR be creative… Pre-record something on film instead. There’s always a way. You don’t need to turn yourself into a nervous wreck to get married.
3. Get our of your mind
A lot about combating anxiety is giving it a label. Confronting it. Accepting that it’s happening. By not talking about it, by internalising it, enables it. Talk about it, claim it. Ask yourself, am I in danger right now? Get it out of your mind and out there, or on paper – try journalling.
4. Just Breathe
The first thing we forgot to do when we’re anxious is breathe.
There are infinite roles associated with getting married. Contrary to belief, no-one is expecting you to take them all on. Build upon and make use of your support network around you.
Find community with others getting married online there are hundreds of Facebook groups (some better than others lol) but sharing with people going through a similar experience can help massively.
If you recognise your anxiety is becoming unmanageable and impacting your quality of life, you should absolutely not be afraid to seek help, (even it feels ‘silly’ and if you’re worrying over nothing) and speak to your GP.
Amongst the euphoria, there is definitely an unspoken pressure that is associated with getting married. From taking on a ‘new’ identity the transition into a marital home and life.
Sometimes we get caught up in the pretty and forget the true meaning behind why we are doing this. Sometimes just giving yourself that reminder can be an instant stress reliever. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the wedding pretty, but it’s the icing on the cake, not the foundation. Recognise if your anxiety is starting to affect the quality of your life. Ask yourself are you in danger and do what you can to take control.
Mind is a great resource for discovering more about anxiety and self-help techniques.
If you would like to learn more about how to manage stress and anxiety please don’t hesitate to contact me, or join me at my Wedding wellbeing workshop at eco spa, Bhuti in gorgeous leafy Richmond, London on the 8th April 2017. There’s a cheeky VIP treat in the spa too!