Stress Less

I recently made the mistake of exclaiming to a friend (due to marry as we go to print): “Not long now, is it?” Her face tightened. Her lips pursed a little. Her eyes sharpened and shot a rather unimpressed glance my way.

Usually a paragon of laid-back calm, she explained that I had unwittingly repeated the rhetoric uttered by all who cross paths with her at this sensitive junction in time. I meant it as an innocent expression of interest, but it translated to her as a red tinged reminder of everything yet to do and that could go wrong.

I also asked her how she was coping with the stress.

“I’m drinking my way through it”, she informed me. Issued with a dose of tongue-in-cheek inflection, even though she was aware of the irony as she threw me a characteristic cheeky smile, I couldn’t help but notice that at the time she was, in fact, armed with a pint.

It got me thinking. We've all had dealings with stress, such is the pace and pressure of modern living. But what do we actually do about it? Though it's an everyday occurrence, it can become chronic rapidly. And the consequences can be dire.

National statistics report that stress at work costs the UK economy over 7 billion a year. Over half a million people in Britain are afflicted so badly that they are becoming ill – leading to an average of 30 days off work, which accumulates to the region of 12 million annually. In short, stress leads to decreased productivity and morale, as well as increased absenteeism and litigation in the workplace – so imagine what it can do to your relationship.

Linked to a range of illnesses such as depression, diabetes mellitus, heart attack, high blood pressure, migraine, peptic ulcers, asthma and allergies, TB, skin disorders and rheumatoid arthritis, there is a range of physical, emotional, behavioural and psychological symptoms and repercussions associated with stress.

The marital build-up is undoubtedly a highly stressful time. The move and often protracted period from engagement to wedding day requires some serious stress management, so we've compiled some advice and ideas to help you stay stress-free and loved-up toward your nuptials – and with any luck - for long after...


Communication is crucial for a happy relationship. How many times have you heard that the cause of a breakdown is because people just ‘stopped talking’? The pre-wedding period is one of the most testing times of your relationship and sharing your woes and worries is paramount. Not only will they be resolved more quickly – leaving you less time to brood and build up resentment – but you can achieve a unitary force of action that will ensure hurdles are tackled together, minimising stress in the process.

Of course you will come to blows. Accept this. It’s not the mark of a doomed relationship, just a signifier of the fact that you are different people with different opinions – and under duress. Your differences are vital to the relationship’s dynamic and so long as they compliment each other in the right way, should serve to only strengthen your bond.

If you have an issue, approach your fiancé. If you fail to achieve a resolution, seek counsel elsewhere – family and friends know you well and can lend you an objectivity often unavailable from within your romantic realms. With a little outsiders' perspective, you can return to the situation calmer and fortified with the compromise required to advance.

Counselling is an extremely wise and vested option. Again – this is not tantamount to your inadequacies as a couple, but rather the opposite. It demonstrates a determined willingness to openly address and reconcile any concerns that arise, strengthening your confidence and understanding of each other and yourselves as a unit.

Go Alone

One of the biggest impediments to a couple’s relationship is a lack of independence. Wanting to share your life with someone is entirely normal, separation anxiety and an ability to do anything alone, isn’t. Being in love is being vulnerable – that’s part of the fragile nature and beauty of it - but in your sweetheart’s absence, there stands a support system that should lift you during the darker days with the mere acknowledgement of it alone.

When you simply cannot cope with the most menial of tasks minus your other half without spiralling into paralysed indecision and inertia – then you simply need to step away and reboot – alone. After all, how can you possibly form one half of a couple if you are not 'whole' yourself?

Take time out for yourself to reconnect with the ‘inner’ you. Whether it be a lone cup of tea pouring over the pages of a gossip magazine, a spa session, walk on the beach or shopping trip – it’s paramount that you fly solo from time to time – especially if the stress and co-dependency are becoming stifling.

Be Well

When stress dominates, rationality disappears. It’s difficult to firmly grasp the simple things but having an awareness of them will stand you in the best stead to blast the blues out of your system.

A large part of the battle is focusing on the three basic elements of stress mitigation – sleeping, eating and exercising. Your physical wellbeing is conducive and closely bound to your psychological health, so redirecting your attention to these things will instantly ease the pressure.

We’re not talking about transferring the OCD from your wedding planning onto your everyday affairs, just exercising a little control over the basic tenants of physical welfare.

Doctors and health professionals all repeat the same mantras. Try to achieve between six and eight hours of quality shut eye every night. Dependent on weight, climate, physical exertion etc - drink eight 8-ounce glasses (which equates to approximately 1.8 litres) of water a day. Eat a varied and balanced (high fibre, low fat) diet and exercise regularly.

Specifically, increasing your intake of vitamins B, C and E and minerals magnesium and zinc strengthens your nervous and immune systems. The best way to consume them is through fresh food, as opposed to supplements. Oily fish, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables are lauded as some of the best 'Super foods' that promote dietary health, but the trick really is to opt for a colourful mix of fresh foodstuffs.

Don't miss meals or leave more than four hours before refuelling for a better, more efficient metabolism that helps to release mood-enhancing chemicals and deplete stress hormones.

Exercise increases the blood flow to the brain and body, flooding them with beta-endorphins and stimulating the nervous system. Your heart, bones and circulatory system all profit. Guidelines state that you should aim for minimum of at least thirty minutes, three times a week. Whether this means signing up for a marathon or increasing the frequency of sex – a brilliant stress buster (and relationship reinforcer) – the idea is to tailor to your needs and lifestyle rather than engaging on an impossible regime.

Go Natural

Get outdoors. Just ten to twenty minutes of being in the fresh air and natural surrounds can substantially increase natural endorphin and immune levels and psychological wellbeing.

The sunshine boosts vitamin D levels and serotonin fills the brain with a feel good factor that naturally mimics months of Prozac – without any of the negative side effects.
People that work or spend time outdoors generally lead happier and healthier lives, so whatever the weather – go al fresco for an instant uplift.

Try to maintain this ethos in as many aspects of your life as possible. It doesn't mean morphing into Swampy and living in the trees, but by replacing man-made with Mother Nature, you may be surprised at the transformative results.

Lay off the artificial stimulants. If you're subsisting on caffeine, booze, sugar, cigarettes and fast food, then do you think you'll be a glowing goddess or handsome hunk on your wedding day? Chances are, you won't.

Replace coffee with herbal tea, burgers with salad and beer for water and not only will the pounds probably drop, but your more relaxed and youthful self will return. Toxins and chemicals actually 'stress' our body and strain our internal processes and we externalise this through poor skin, nails, and hair – not to mention, mood.

Remember that being mindful of your diet doesn't mean you can't also indulge. It's the extremes to consciously avoid, such as self-denial and gluttony, which disrupt your biorhythms, metabolism, chi – or whatever you want to name your natural, working optimum.

Indeed, you want to look your best but being on a weight loss programme should mean a sensible schedule of gradual slimming, not shedding two stone in two weeks through starvation, sleeplessness and nervous energy.

You may want to consider alternative therapies. There's a vast range to pick from, such as Reiki, massage, meditation, Ayurvedic medicine, dream therapy, acupuncture, naturopathy, hypnotherapy, shiatsu…as well as a host of other 'New Age' methods that can promote relaxation, boost immunity and release negative thoughts and emotions.

Practice simple relaxation techniques such as breathing, music and humour. Surround yourself with things and people that make you feel good, avoid those that don't, accept that there will always be obstacles and difficulties but try to deal with them with as much composure and as you can muster. Beyond that, remember to...


- and delegate. Choose together who and how exactly you want things to be done, do them (by accepting help) and then relax - together. You have a lifetime of ups and downs ahead of you, but by dealing with them collectively you will be better prepared for a successful wedding and winning marriage.