How to ‘stress-less’ as a bride-to-be…..
13th April 2012
As a bride-to-be (and a three times bridesmaid) I know only too well how, during all the wedding preparations, the pressure can mount until the word ‘stress’ doesn’t even touch how you’re feeling! Most people just accept that this as par for the course, unless you’ve managed to delegate everything to a professional wedding planner (I wish!) or you happen to be super chilled out (I’m not!). But as my professional head keeps telling me, by making some simple changes to our diet and lifestyle, we can help the body feel more in control when under pressure and actually reduce the feelings of stress. And when I practice what I preach I feel so much better!
Stress isn’t always caused by one huge upsetting event in your life. It can come about after an accumulation of small every day, not necessarily negative, events. For example having the constant pressure of decision making, even for a happy event, can cause feelings of stress for some people. Our different personalities have quite a bearing on what we are able to cope with. Other common stressors during wedding prep include trying to lose weight (both the physical stress on the body as well as the mental torture if it’s not done properly!), time pressures, money worries, guest list issues etc. etc. Stressful events in themselves aren’t a bad thing; we are designed to cope with life’s ups and downs. Unfortunately, sometimes when the stressors are relentless our bodies just respond in the wrong way and it is this response and the diseases that stem from it that causes the problem. Making sure the body is well nourished and rested can help to reduce these effects.
We’ve all experienced butterflies in our tummy and that urgent need to rush to the toilet; that is a direct effect of stress hormones, the ones we release when we are feeling nervous, frightened or under pressure. It’s what we called the fight or flight response and it’s a response to an immediate stressor. Traditionally this would have been a big grizzly bear eyeing you up for lunch; for us that moment before walking down the aisle will probably cause the same response. It’s the body’s way of getting ready for action by increasing heart rate, mobilising energy stores, increasing blood pressure and shutting down non-essential functions like digestion. Now the problem is we’re not going to respond by running away at speed or fighting the vicar or registrar – well I hope not anyway – so all those hormones build in the body.
If the intense stress carries on over the longer term we continue to release the stress hormone cortisol and out body starts using up vital nutrients just to keep going and to produce these hormones. You might feel like you’re coping but may also experience insomnia, headaches, anxiety. Your metabolism and normal body functions are disrupted because you’re constantly producing these stress hormones.
Then finally, after a period of time exposed to constant stressors, we might reach the exhaustion stage, where our bodies just can’t produce the stress hormones in the levels needed. We feel exhausted and may experience depression, low sex drive (certainly not what you want in the build-up to the most romantic day of your life), frequent infections and even changes in your periods and hormone levels. Everything becomes just too much for the body.
Typically, someone who is stressed, struggling to cope and perhaps not realising it will….
- drink alcohol to relax and send them to sleep, but the sleep isn’t quality sleep
- drink coffee in the morning to get them going after the poor sleep
- have a cigarette to calm nerves after all the caffeine
- eat stodgy comfort food for lunch
- have a bar of chocolate mid-afternoon to get over the 4 o’clock slump
- dodge the gym because they are too tired after work
- reach for the take-away menu because the thought of deciding what to cook is overwhelming and they are starving
All of these things form a vicious cycle giving you a boost of energy followed by a slump, then requiring another boost of energy. And they make things worse. They also tend to encourage weight gain, poor mood and dull skin and hair – the exact things you don’t want as a bride!
Now being aware of stressors and the effects they have is the first step in being able to cope better. And other than trying to reduce the stressors, the next step is trying to strengthen the body to prevent any negative effects. A well-nourished and healthy individual can cope with most things thrown at them!
Blood sugar balance – this is probably the most important thing to think about when trying to cope with stress. The body interprets imbalanced blood sugar levels as a stressor.
When we eat carbohydrates this is digested and absorbed as glucose, a type of sugar. Now refined carbohydrates like white bread, white pasta and sugar are absorbed very quickly because they don’t take long to digest. This causes our blood sugar levels to rise very high, very quickly. The body detects this and releases a hormone called insulin to remove this sugar and put it into storage but it panics because there is so much sugar in the blood and releases too much insulin. This sends our blood sugar levels plummeting as too much sugar is taken from the blood. It’s at this stage that we get the shakes, fatigue and cravings for sugar/carbs and other stimulants. So aim keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the day by eating a good mix of complex carbohydrates, protein and good fats.
Avoid stimulants (normal tea, coffee, coke) – these give an instant energy boost but reduce energy levels in the long term. Caffeine elevates the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin, and over stimulation can lead to irritability and a lack of concentration – the same symptoms as stress! If you have to have coffee in the morning make sure it’s after breakfast.
Limit alcohol - not only does it interfere with good sleep but it depletes important nutrients like B vitamins required for energy production. The next morning you’ll feel even more tired.
Regular exercise – cardio work will use up those stress hormones to restore balance in the body. Stretching and breathing exercises like yoga and Pilates will encourage you to slow down and relax. Happy hormones will also be released so you are guaranteed to end up feeling happier.
Planning – the absolute key to making good choices during stressful periods is planning. That means making a shopping list, knowing what you will cook each evening, taking a packed lunch and always having the healthiest snacks available.
46% of women over-eat when stressed, compared to 17% of men!
And women are more likely to suffer from stress related conditions than men!
So as you can see it’s even more important for us women to take control when it comes to managing stress! If you are struggling with stress why not consider visiting a qualified nutritional therapist to help you find a balance through diet, lifestyle and supplements (if necessary)? If you can support your body you will stay happy and healthy – happy wedding planning!!
Now pass me the camomile tea!