It's been months since he popped the question, and you've never been happier...more exhausted. While it's easy to write it off as an inevitable part of life for a bride-to-be, feeling tired all the time isn't normal, says Woodson Merrell, M.D., the chairman of the department of integrative medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. "And it can take a huge toll on your well-being, kicking up food cravings and even weakening your immune system." But needing more shut-eye may be only part of the problem. Research reveals that the food we eat, people we interact with, and decisions we make can also influence our energy levels.
We asked experts how to tackle some of those hidden drains so you can have all-day stamina.
Wedding Stress: You're faced with too many options
From which coffee you order in the morning to the TV show you watch at night, you're confronted with hundreds of choices every day. (And that's before you started planning this wedding!) Weighing your options takes work, which can lead to fatigue. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who made a series of shopping decisions at a mall reported being more tired—and were less able to think clearly—than those who only browsed. What's more, "being overwhelmed can lower your confidence levels and make you feel stuck," says Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Yale University. So if you've spent your day tasting wedding cakes and negotiating with photographers, you may want to hold off on making any major life choices.
To get through the day without becoming bleary-eyed, avoid weighing every possibility, says Judith Orloff, M.D., the author of Emotional Freedom. For less important decisions, like which entrées to serve at the reception, zero in on two top contenders—the first dish that catches your eye and a standby—then consider the benefits of each.
For weightier issues, such as selecting a wedding venue or buying a home, make a list of the pros and cons of each option. Then sleep on it to allow your intuition to kick in. "Give yourself some time to process your decision," says Orloff. "Your gut instinct, which draws up unconscious memories, can help guide you."
Next Page: De-Stress Yourself
Wedding Stress: You're wired 24/7
Staying perpetually connected may help you get ahead on the job, but you just may hit a wall on the home front. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that women who frequently take business calls and e-mails at home—whether on the weekends or after work—are more likely to report feeling tired and distracted all day than those who don't. "Being accessible at all times puts you on edge constantly, which causes your body to release a steady supply of stress hormones," says Larry Kubiak, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Tallahassee, Florida.
If you can't unplug after work, at least set aside a block of tech-free time.
If eating dinner with your roommate or fiancé is important, for instance, log off—but make it clear to your co-workers (and yourself) that you'll check messages after 9 p.m. "If you establish a routine, you can relax without feeling worried about missing out on something," says Diane Halpern, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College. Also commit to not checking your BlackBerry, iPhone, or work e-mail one day (or even just for a few hours) every weekend.
Another way to cut down on the time you spend online is to get your in-box under control. One British survey found that people waste up to an hour a day searching through e-mails and switching between tasks because they don't organize their incoming messages. Start deleting notes you don't need, responding immediately to messages you can answer in two minutes or less, and flagging e-mails you plan on addressing later.
Wedding Stress: You listen to everyone's gripes
You're smack in the middle of sending out your save-the-dates when your college roommate calls (yet again!) to whine about her ex. Before you know it, you've lost an hour of precious time—and your desire to do anything wedding-related.
Your drama queen friends do more than run up your cell phone minutes. "They can suck you into a cloud of negative thinking, which triggers your body to pump out extra stress hormones," says Orloff. While you should offer empathy, trying to fix a pal's problems will only create new ones for you.
"Shake a needy friend out of victim mode by saying, 'I'm sorry to hear about this. What do you think you can do to fix it?'" says Albert Bernstein, Ph.D., the author of Emotional Vampires. If nothing else works, Orloff suggests trying this kind but firm intervention: Say, "I have only five minutes to spare because I need to finish addressing these invitations, but how can I help?" Having a time constraint will force your friend to edit her thoughts or find someone else's ear to bend.
Next Page: De-Stress Yourself
Wedding Stress: You're low in magnesium
"Your body needs this mineral to help convert food into energy," says Tara Gidus, R.D., a nutrition consultant in Orlando, Florida. In fact, one study from the Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota, found that women who were deficient in magnesium used more oxygen during physical tasks than those with adequate levels. Unfortunately, 65 percent of women fall short of the recommended daily allowance of 320 milligrams.v
Meet your quota with foods high in magnesium, such as spinach (160 milligrams per cup, cooked), pumpkin seeds (151 milligrams per ounce), white beans (113 milligrams per cup, cooked), Brazil nuts (107 milligrams per ounce), and halibut (91 milligrams for 3 ounces).
Wedding Stress: You're in a slump
"When you hunch over, your chest collapses and your lungs compress, reducing the amount of air you take in," says Patrice Winter, a physical therapist in Fairfax, Virginia. "As a result, less oxygen gets to the brain, leaving you fuzzy-headed." Slouching also strains muscles in the neck and upper back, sapping your stamina. "For every inch you lean forward, it takes about twice as much physical effort to hold up your head," explains Winter.
Having strong core muscles can help support your spine, so incorporate strengthening moves, such as slow crunches, planks, and push-ups, into your workout. "Then check your posture every few hours throughout the day," says Janice Novak, author of Posture, Get It Straight! Make sure your shoulders, ears, and hips are aligned. "Over time," she says, "this posture will become more comfortable and natural for you."