Planning a wedding can be stressful. At every turn, there are decisions to be made (band or DJ? Chicken or fish? Café-hopping in Paris or zip-lining in Costa Rica?) and challenges to resolve (seating estranged parents, finding a tasty gluten-free cake). Add to that your usual work deadlines and social obligations and it's no surprise your stress level is soaring. Use these nine simple strategies to ease your anxiety so you enjoy the wedding-planning journey.
1. Stop using the "S" word
Stress is a loaded term: You automatically associate it with anxiety, tension, and fatigue, says Scott Sheperd, Ph.D., author of Who's in Charge? Attacking the Stress Myth. But by simply changing your inner dialogue—say, thinking about the seating arrangements as "challenging" rather than "stressful"—you can approach any situation with a more proactive mind-set. "This puts you in a position to solve the problem rather than dwell on it," he explains.
2. Crank up the tunes
Be it Chopin, Clapton, or Katharine McPhee, listening to soothing music can serve up some serious stress relief. Researchers from Monash University in Australia say it has a calming effect on the nervous system, preventing spikes in stress hormones, blood pressure, and heart rate.
For an even bigger benefit, croon along: A separate study from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, found that singing bolsters your body's immune response and reduces the production of the stress hormone cortisol. "It's an emotional release," says study co-author Terry Gottfried, Ph.D. "You also breathe harder and take in more oxygen when you sing, which may increase the production of certain cold-fighting antibodies."
Your body can help you slow your thoughts and regain a sense of control over any angst-producing situation. "The next time your mind is racing, take a deep, four-count breath from your diaphragm," suggests Holly Hazlett-Stevens, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno. Or give progressive muscle relaxation a try: Beginning with your toes and working up to your face, tightly clench each individual body part for at least five seconds, then slowly release. In a matter of minutes, the tension will disappear from your muscles—and your mind.
Next Page: More Ways to Manage Wedding Stress