Coronavirus & Weddings: Managing Uncertainty, Supporting Each Other & Self Care

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It’s a scary time for the world in general – and that includes those planning or working in weddings. Alongside my wedding photography, I also work in the NHS as a psychologist.

I don’t often talk about my other role (although I think it can be really helpful in understanding what makes my couples tick, calming wedding nerves & spotting emotional cues), but it seems like bringing my skills from both roles together now makes more sense than ever.

The coronavirus situation has been changing really quickly, resulting in different guidelines, advice and rules in different parts of the world. This has left a lot of us struggling with uncertainty – about what to do, how to cope and what the future looks like. Anxiety is a normal response, so it’s important that we try to be kind to each other and ourselves at the moment.

Understanding & supporting each other

Humans generally dislike uncertainty – it is anxiety provoking and hard to manage. The stress of coping with such huge uncertainty affecting so many aspects of our lives can lead to people snapping and being short or angry with others or feeling panicky and scared.

One way that humans often try to manage uncertainty is to create rules to follow. This can help as it reduces the number of individual decisions we have to make each day as we can just apply our rules instead of having to make each decision from scratch.

The rules we make for ourselves will vary depending on our own past experiences, current situations, restrictions & priorities. This means people may make conflicting rules: for example I will refund clients/I will not refund clients, or I hope to go ahead with my wedding/I will postpone my wedding.

From our own perspective it can be really hard to understand why someone might make a rule totally opposite to our own. It makes us feel anxious and threatens our rules – we don’t want to have to question our own rules as that brings back the uncertainty we are trying so hard to manage. So we can often react with anger toward someone who has made a different rule (‘how dare they do this when I’ve decided not to do this’). We also try to band together with people who have made the same rules as us, so we can feel ‘right’ and therefore safer – and then may feel we come together more as a group by speaking or acting out against people who have made different rules (‘us vs them’).

To understand different rules, we have to try to take the perspective of others – which can be hard if we don’t know them: their resources, their health, their history and beliefs. For example, knowing that a bride has a life-limiting illness and wants to get married quickly might help understand why they still really want to go ahead with their wedding, or knowing a that a supplier lives with someone in a high risk group might help understand why they are cancelling all bookings for a long period of time.

It can be helpful to hold in mind that everyone is dealing with uncertainty and anxiety at the moment, and managing this the best they can, given the resources they have. If others are making different decisions, remember they may have their own reasons for this that you may know nothing about. If your couples, suppliers or guests are making different decisions, try to show compassion that they are just trying their best to cope – talk to them to understand what’s driving their decisions and see if there’s any way you can help or support them.

Self care

As well as checking in with others to see how they are coping, it’s important to check in with yourself. It’s ok to feel scared, sad, angry, confused, fragile, anxious, tearful, low, worried… It’s normal to be unsettled by this situation, to be anxious about what will happen, to feel sad about what you can no longer do. Please know you’re not alone.

It can be really hard to concentrate at the moment, as our brains and bodies are still on alert. You might find your thoughts racing at a million miles an hour, notice you keep fidgeting or pacing around, or struggle to keep focused on a single topic or task.

You might be feeling really fragile, perhaps reading but not feeling able to comment and join in. Maybe finding some things online very upsetting or anxiety-inducing. If you don’t feel able to speak out here, please do try to reach out to people individually, whether online or in person.

As the shock of coronavirus and the measures that have been put in place starts to fade, we gradually move from denial and anger, through bargaining and depression, to acceptance. Try to give yourself time to process what’s happening, to grieve for hopes, dreams and plans that have become uncertain, had to change or be postponed.

Be gentle with yourself: try to talk kindly to yourself, the way you’d speak to a friend. Where you can, take the pressure off yourself: you don’t have to do everything right now and you don’t have to fill your time at home being productive 24/7. Self care is really important at the moment so I’ve put together some of my top tips for self care in this uncertain time.

Sleep: Try to go to bed and get up about the same time each day. Particularly at the moment you might find you sleep better if you ensure before going to sleep you are having a shower or bath, reading or listening to music, doing some gentle yoga, puzzles or art – rather than watching the news or scrolling through social media. Let your mind wind down and move away from sources of anxiety before bed.

Routine: Making a routine for the day can also be a way to feel in control and combat some anxiety. Having times for meals, scheduling some exercise if that’s right for you, doing work or household jobs but also ensuring there is time for activities you enjoy – whether that’s watching tv, playing board games, drawing, learning a language, playing music, origami, at home workouts… whatever gives you a sense of pleasure.

Connections: Try to connect with others. Facetime or skype, texts, emails, online chats, even letters – stay in touch with the people and pets that matter to you.

Tiny moments of gratitude: Look for tiny things to appreciate and be grateful for. It’s easy to feel lost in anxiety and negative thoughts so making an effort to find one or more things to be grateful for each day can really help. You might take a moment to appreciate a flower, a really good cup of coffee, some birdsong, a fluffy blanket, a catch up with an old friend or a spray of perfume lifting your spirits.

Extra support: And if you’re struggling, please reach out for help. The Samaritans are still offering support by email ([email protected]) or phone (116 123) for those who need it, and they’ve published advice for those worried about their mental health in the current situation.

(All views expressed are my personal views and not those of the NHS)

Hannah Larkin

Hannah Larkin View all Hannah's articles

Hannah Larkin is an international fine art wedding and family photographer based in London. She is also a Clinical Psychologist working in the NHS.