This past Saturday, my big sister got married to the love of her life. On a sweet little wooden deck attached to the quaintest winery I ever did see, she promised to love and cherish my brother-in-law past the babies and past the wrinkles, for the rest of her days on this earth. My entire family drove four hours north of the City and we celebrated the occasion by dancing under twinkle lights and drinking blackberry wine in the rolling green foothills of Upstate New York.
Every last second of that day felt like it was straight out of Zac Brown Band’s Sweet Annie music video. (And that’s exactly what they were going for!)
But the days leading up to it? For no particular reason other than that weddings are particularly stressful — man, they were stressful.
Picture this: After an evening flight the night before, Tyler and I piled into my dad’s truck with my dad, my mom and my younger sister, Emma to make the four hour drive upstate. About 90-minutes into the trip, just to quadruple check, I said, “Hey, mama, did you put my dress in the truck?”
“Yes. It’s in the garment bag in the back. With Emma’s dress, my dress and dad’s s–” she stopped. “We do not have dad’s suit.” It was in a different garment bag. In his closet. At home.
Then, of course, when we sorted out the suit debacle, we arrived at the hotel. After checking in, we learned there were flowers to be picked up, tables to be unfolded, lanterns to be hung and hair appointments to get to.
It was a whirlwind of to-dos and make-sure-you-don’t-forgets and it was surrounded, on every side, by greeting family and out-of-town guests as they trickled into the hotel.
Weddings are happy times, yes. But no matter how organized you are or how well-planned it is – in the final days before the I do’s are said, things get harried. And when you’re with your ENTIRE family? Sometimes, the stress kind of amplifies. (Why is it that the people we love and cherish the most, the ones we would stand in front of moving trains for, are the ones who we sometimes have the shortest fuses with?)
Basically, wedding + last-minute wedding errands + in a hotel with your entire family who you love to the ends of the Earth but they’re family and family things can be just a teeeeeensy bit crazy = S-T-R-E-S-S, STRESS.
But the truth is this: Life – weddings, family and 15-hour travel days aside – can sometimes be stressful. And if we’re smart, we’ll learn how to control our stress before our stress controls us. Here’s what I learned about effectively dealing with stress (albeit, imperfectly) this past stressful-but-totally-worth-it-in-the-end weekend.
1. Clue someone in on your stress.
Tyler was truly my knight in shining armor this weekend. Whenever I was just about to lose it or when I was sulking in the guilt after just having snapped at my mom or being short with my dad, I would look at him and he’d say, “You’re doing great, babe. Just smile.” For whatever reason (probably because I visibly turn into a fire-breathing dragon when I’m stressed), he could tell when I was about to blow.
The first night we were there, we met in the hotel lobby to talk after I’d showered in the room I was sharing with my mom and Emma. I let him know what parts of the day stressed me out, what I was worried about stressing over in the coming days and how I knew I’d handled certain parts of the day wrong.
Instantaneously, I was met with graceful truths and life-giving encouragement. By being vulnerable with Tyler and letting him know what was going on in my head, he was not only able to calm me down or talk me off the ledge, but he was also able to keep me in check and hold me accountable to do better next time.
2. Remember what matters.
I had to remind myself – over and over again – that this weekend wasn’t about me. I was not the bride, nor was I the groom. I was not the one giving my daughter away, nor was I the mother being escorted to her seat by an usher. I was not the officiant, nor was I the caterer. I was there to be a participant in a beautiful convergence. I was there to watch my sister become one with another human being.
And to top it all off — there were plenty of other people who were just as nervous, stressed or anxious about the weekend.
And the weekend was about any and everything but me.
It wasn’t about making sure I got enough sleep.
It wasn’t about my hair and makeup looking perfect.
It wasn’t about getting Instagrammable snapshots of me and my mini-me on a wooden patio that overlooked the mountains in the distance.
There was a bigger picture – and it wasn’t about me.
I want to say that again and rephrase it in a way that will be true every day, forever. I want to say this again because I could use the reminder every morning before my feet even touch the floor:
There is a bigger picture – and it isn’t about me.
3. Give grace (to others and then to yourself).
Let me be very clear here, just in case you missed it: I was not a picture of perfection and happiness every second this weekend. When the pictures come out and they’re posted to the photographer’s blog, you will see my big smiling face in shot after shot. But the pictures would never tell you this:
There were times (especially in the car) when my ugly side reared its head and it showed way stronger and bolder than I’d like to admit. I got snippy and I snapped. I got cranky and hangry. I complained about my allergies and about sharing a bathroom with my mom and sisters. There were instances where no sooner than the words left my mouth, I instantly felt guilty about something I’d said or the way I’d just acted. I made mountains out of molehills and antagonized others to do the same. To be blunt, there were times when I was just a humungous spoiled brat.
And it wasn’t okay.
My snapping would cause others to snap. My shortness would cause others to be even shorter.
Doesn’t this sound like an opportunity to give grace? Don’t you read these words, maybe picture the scenarios with your own life and your own family and think, Man, this would be a perfect place for me to just let stuff roll off my back – here’s where I could be grace personified? Yeah, well, I thought that too. And it didn’t happen – at least not consistently.
Chances are that when you’re crazy busy and woefully bogged down with anxiety and stress, others around you are too.
Take a step back to notice when others are stressed instead of just focusing on your own (see number 2 above) and give them grace to be crazy, fire-breathing dragons. Let them be stressed out too. Let them get it off their chest, shoulders and minds.
And when you’re feeling bad about all the fires you started with your hot and bratty breath? Apologize sincerely, accept forgiveness and vow to do better next time.
Stress. Man, it’s the pits – but such a repetitious part of life. Let’s learn to handle it before it manhandles us.
Tell me, how do you deal with particularly stressful situations? Weddings? Family gatherings? Work transitions? Crazy weeks with no sleep? I want to hear your tips – because the Lord knows I need them!
Seriously – send me an e-mail (just click here!) I am eager to learn your ways and to make it so I stop breathing all of that fire.