This is our third and final installment in our Wedding Season Series — you can find the two previous posts here (Slimming Down) and here (Glowing Skin). This installment is all about stress, because let’s face it: Whether you’re the bride, a bridesmaid, or just a guest, the days and weeks leading up to that big day can be pretty stressful! And this of course relevant to all the rest of us not currently planning a wedding- because we can all benefit from working to reduce stress in our lives. You want to look and feel your best, but sometimes it may feel like so much is working against you to make sure you look anything but. Stress, which can at times feel unavoidable before big events (even happy ones), not only impacts how you feel, but how you look. It can zap your energy, create under eye circles, age the skin, and even make you gain weight. What a doozy! For example, studies have shown that stress actually alters your DNA in a negative way, and the mere anticipation of stress can accelerate aging on a cellular level. According to Vivian Diller, Ph.D., stress can also lead you to make less healthy lifestyle choices, which can further impact your weight, aging and overall health. Definitely not what we want! This post will be about how you can lower your stress levels so you can look and feel your best on that special day.
Step 1: Recognize Sources of Stress
Do an inventory of your life and see what’s stressing you out. Don’t leave any area of your life out. Look at your finances, family members, relationships (hopefully it’s not your spouse-to-be!), food, weight…look in every corner of your life until you find the things that are causing you to feel anxious. Do you have any toxic relationships in your life? Maybe some friends that you used to hang out with that don’t share your mindset anymore? It may be time to bow out of those relationships gracefully (and maybe gradually, though I recommend doing it as quickly as possible to get back to living a low-stress life).
Write Them Down for More Clarity
Even if you know in your mind that certain things are bothering you and you also know you’re not going to forget about them if you don’t put them on paper, still write them down and take some time to think about them. It’s so easy to know your money situation is bugging you, for example, but avoid it by not looking at your bank account. Or maybe you want to lose weight—know you need to lose weight for your health—but just haven’t done it yet. This doesn’t necessarily have to turn into a huge soul-searching session where you uncover things that were bothering you that you never realized you were carrying around with you (though that might happen too), but writing it out and really giving each thing some thought will help you identify the true stressors in your life and come up with a plan to minimize those feelings of stress and anxiety.
Making notes of everything you can control will make you realize that you have more control. That alone can reduce stress. Plus getting everything out of your head and onto a page can reduce anxiety because your mind is free to let those thoughts go—they’re written somewhere else, so there’s no reason for your brain to keep whirring around on those topics and stressing you out. Take it a step further by writing down little steps you can take to get rid of the source of stress. Are you going to try a new financial planning method? How about cut out dairy strictly for a month? Set some goals that you know you can reach. Once you begin seeing your progress, you’ll feel better.
Step 2: Use Appropriate Stress-Reducing Tools
Now that you’ve identified the cause of stress and written everything out, it’s time to use the appropriate stress-reducing tools to get rid of those feelings.
You probably know how important meditation is in my life. It’s a daily practice for me that I feel makes a huge difference in how each day goes—it just makes me feel prepared or anything. If I don’t get a chance to do it or I have to wait until later in the day before I have some time to myself for meditation, I can really tell. Meditation is powerful for reducing stress and gives your day a beautiful, calm starting point. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress.
If you want to take it a step further and engage in some active meditation, yoga is also good for stress relief—it’s even been shown to help you avoid getting stressed in the first place. It feels amazing, too, because you’re stretching out all those muscles that may have been spending quite a bit of time all tensed up while you’ve been stressed out. (Note: We have a yoga program coming this summer that will take you deeply through some powerful sequences, as well as help you understand the spiritual and underlying foundation of yoga. It will be powerful — stay tuned! ~*~)
Quiet and Solitude
Even if you don’t want to engage in a regular meditation or yoga routine (though I highly recommend it!), just getting some quiet time and solitude to calm down and collect your thoughts can help. On particularly stressful days, you may need this in addition to meditation and/or yoga. I know that between work, life as a parent and other responsibilities, this can be hard. But even 5-10 minutes is valuable. Don’t be afraid to step away, go into a room and just close the door, so that you can be with yourself quietly. Or, take a few minutes to sit quietly in your car and breath in and out before entering the house. Little experiences of quiet time like this can really add up and make a big difference in your overall stress levels.
Spend Time in Nature
What makes your alone time even more de-stressing? Spending it in nature is often very healing and powerfully relieves stress. The combination of fresh air, lack of artificial lights and sound, and other factors help charge you up and let you leave many of your worries behind. To do this, find a spot in nature that you love (hiking is one of my personal favorites, and brings many additional health benefits) or even just talk a walk through an area with lots of plants and trees. It doesn’t have to be far away or remote. A little bit more on the nature note: when is the last time you spent time outdoors without your shoes on, just you and the grass (or dirt)? Grounding, too, comes with stress-reducing benefits, and all it takes is some time outside with your shoes kicked off. Spring and summer are perfect for that!
Another very powerful way to reduce stress leading up to that big day is through the use of music. Of course, everyone has unique musical tastes, however, I recommend soothing types of music in this case, not hard rock or house or pop. Some good examples are classical or spiritual/New Age type music that put you in a relaxed, mellow mood. The beauty of music for this purpose is that the sounds of music can help your mind become more quiet. As the notes fill your mind, you’ll find that you think less, and that in and of itself can help reduce stress — because overthinking is a big root cause of worry, anxiety and stress. Music can be an amazing escape, where you forget whatever you’ve been worrying about and drift comfortably into a stress-free zone. In fact, there are some music CD’s and downloadable tracks that can even assist the relaxation process or help you get into a meditative state by embedding certain frequencies into the recording. Some can help you get into an alpha state, which is both relaxed and creative, or experience theta brain waves, which are commonly experienced by monks during meditation. The Holosync brand is popular for this purpose.
You Know What You Need
Ultimately, whatever you do for stress depends on what personally works best for you. You know what makes you feel good and what takes away your stress. Is it music? Time in nature? Physical movement that isn’t so intense that it adds to your stress levels and fatigue? Time spent in a special corner of a room, meditating, even for a couple of minutes per day? Maybe it’s a combination of those things. Make up your own customized prescription and then put it into action daily during the weeks leading up to the wedding. You may find yourself trying to make excuses about why you don’t have time for yoga or reasons why you shouldn’t take your shoes off outside. Remind yourself how much better you feel after you take these little moments for yourself, though. Make them a habit.
Step 3: Support Yourself with Nutrition
What you put into your body actually has a bigger impact on your perception of stress than you might realize. It seems counterintuitive in some ways because of the way some people think of “comfort food.” Those high-calorie, rich foods aren’t really doing much for you as far as stress goes, and they’re most likely robbing you of your beauty and your energy. First, go back to sections one and two of the series to make sure you’re not consuming any of the foods we talked about there (caffeine, refined sugar, processed junk, etc). All of those have to go if you want to look as stunning as possible on the big day. Don’t worry, though! I have replacements!
Make Your Diet More Alkaline
What you want to have instead are the Glowing Green Smoothie and plenty of alkaline forming veggies. Being more alkaline can help you feel calm and more at peace, yes, even through the potentially chaotic wedding planning process. I know this by experience, and through my work with many clients over the years. The more green we get into the diet, the more alkaline we become, and the more relaxed we feel. One explanation is that greens are rich in the mineral magnesium, which has calming properties and can even help with sleep.
Choose Less Caffeine, but Herbal Tea Is Good!
Don’t use caffeine as your go-to solution for getting yourself to go-go-go all day long. A little is okay, but becoming reliant on it as a daily practice can be like being addicted to a drug. When I was recently in South Korea, I was amazed at how many coffee shops were present on every block- even more than New York! And in northern Italy, where we also recently were, on the film set there was an espresso machine with a constant long line trailing along with it! But caffeine, believe it or not, can make you look older and more tired. It’s acid-forming, too, so it’s counteracting the veggies you’re putting into your body to be healthier, get a gorgeous glow, and de-stress. Instead of coffee or other caffeinated beverages, use herbal teas to relax and unwind. Instead of using coffee in the mornings or afternoons when you need a boost, get your energy from the GGS. Then make sure you’re seriously winding down in the evenings (quiet time and tea, anyone?) so you’ll get all the hours of sleep you need—restful sleep. Herbal teas are fabulous in the evenings for so many reasons:
- They help combat late-night cravings (you can find all kinds of flavors—sweet, spicy, tart, earthy, etc).
- A warm drink in the evenings can become part of a winding down ritual you do to let your body know it’s almost time to go to sleep.
- The process of making the tea can be soothing in and of itself.
- If your water intake has suffered throughout the day, herbal tea is one more way to stay hydrated, also a must for looking youthful and beautiful on your wedding day.
If you typically like to have a glass of wine or a beer to wind down after a particularly stressful day, try drinking these caffeine-free teas instead (you can enjoy the tea every night if you’d like to). You’ll get the winding down benefits without waking up the next morning dehydrated or bloated from your drink of choice. And if you really love your coffee, keep it to a maximum of a cup a day or a few times a week, or switch to some green tea for a less caffeinated alternative with some antioxidants.
Eat Foods That Cut Back on Stress and Its Effects
Some foods actually help reduce stress and its effects on your beauty, too. Bananas have B6, which can reduce irritability. If you’ve ever found yourself in a vicious cycle of things going wrong, bad reactions, more things going wrong, and more bad reactions to those situations, you know that getting rid of some of that irritability and calming down is so important—it breaks the cycle! Tryptophan can also make you a happier person, and if you start from a place of relaxed happiness, you’re less likely to stress out about little things that go wrong.
Cucumbers, Cucumbers assist in keeping you hydrated, plus they’re super-charged with energizing B vitamins that keep you from feeling so run-down from the stress, boost your mood, and help fight stress and anxiety. I addition to the water and B vitamins, there’s vitamin C, which can help get the cortisol, a hormone released during stressful times, out of your system. Cucumbers also help ease inflammation, a nasty side effect of stress. Make sure you eat the skin for the full effect. If you could just pick one food to help you manage stress and combat its effects, it could be the cucumber.
Avocado is such a creamy little blessing when you’re stressed. Not only is the texture right (um, anyone crave ice cream when they’re stressed out??), but there are B vitamins, potassium, and yes, fat (monosaturated), which can ease stress and anxiety. Don’t give yourself a free pass and overdo it just because you’re feeling on edge, though. One-half of a medium avocado a day is plenty.
Blueberries’ levels of vitamins B and C can help soothe stress. Their extremely high levels of antioxidants also fight free radicals and make you look and feel healthier.
Asparagus can help you get rid of the puffiness under your eyes (and elsewhere) because of its potassium levels. It creates electrolyte balance in the body, counteracting the effects of too much sodium, too. If you’ve ever snacked on chips or pizza because you were stressed, you may have seen the effects of that stress and sodium combination before. Not only that, the folic acid in asparagus can help get your mood back on track.
Celery calms the nervous system (it also helps puffy or dark under eye circles disappear) because of its high concentration of calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Specific De-Stressing Herbs
Adaptogenic herbs like maca and holy basil (sometimes called Tulsi) can soothe your adrenals—which are heavily affected by stress—and be beneficial during these stressful times of your life. They can create more balance in the body, reducing stress all around. Other adaptogenic herbs include ginseng, ashwagandha, and astragalus. The thing about adaptogenic herbs is, they don’t necessarily target any one organ or system of the body, but work to restore overall balance in the body. The adrenals benefit from that quite a bit, though, and they’re severely taxed when you’re under a lot of stress or if you’ve been drinking a lot of caffeinated beverages and missing out on sleep.
Look and Feel Your Best
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series! We’ve covered Slimming Down, Glowing Skin, and in this post, Beating Stress. So now you have all the tools to not only look, but also FEEL your best. I know how important that is as we not only go through wedding season but also approach summer. Whether it’s going to the beach, the pool, or even just wearing more shorts and skirts, it’s only natural to want to be outdoors and look great at this time of the year. I encourage you to take action on at least one tip in each installment of the series. For example, you could perhaps give up one of the foods in the “Slimming Down” post, use a skin care tip from the “Glowing Skin” post, and then reduce your stress using a strategy that we shared in this one. Do that, and then add other tips as you feel more confident in your ability to incorporate them. I’d also love to hear how you are incorporating these tips into your life in the comments below! Let me know how they’re working for you. Thanks again for reading this series — the next series is one I’m VERY excited about, and will help you make great food choices this summer so that you continue on the path to looking and feeling amazing — every single day. Love, Kimberly