Category : Mood Stability

Three Stress Reduction Tips

Guest author – Ryan Rivera

Tips and Techniques for Reducing Stress

Living with bipolar disorder is a struggle. There is no denying that the ups and downs can have a drastic impact on your ability to live a high quality of life, and while there are medications and therapies that can aid in recovery, overcoming bipolar disorder is not a short term issue. It takes years of commitment and dedication to control. Everyone can find relief, but finding that relief isn’t going to happen overnight.

Yet that doesn’t mean that what’s happening now doesn’t matter. It does. Those living with bipolar disorder – or any mental health issue, for that matter – need to get the most out of their life that they can. The more they enjoy the times they’re less affected by the disease, the easier it is to see the way they can feel when they recover.

That’s why stress reduction techniques are so important. The less stress you have when you’re not caught up in the ups and downs, the easier your ups and downs will be and the more hopeful you’ll be about your future.

Understanding Stress Reduction

Two things need to be noted about stress reduction, however. First, stress reduction itself is actually more of a mental ability than a technique. True coping takes place using your own mental strength, so while some exercises (like yoga, for example) may help reduce stress, it’s your mind – not the technique itself that ultimately reduces stress.

Second, one of the reasons that stress reduction techniques fail for many people is that they expect them to work right away. That is not the case. Relaxation exercises and stress reduction techniques are unlikely to work for a considerable amount of time – for some as long as a month or more. That’s because they need to be natural. When you first start out, you’re focusing so much on making sure you’re doing it right that you’re unlikely to find it relaxing. Once you’ve practiced for a long period of time, the actual technique becomes second nature, and you can sit back and let yourself be more relaxed.

Reducing Stress

The following are several tips and techniques for controlling life stress and preventing it from spiraling out of control:

  • Visualization/Deep Breathing – There are two relaxation techniques that are best combined for stress reduction. These experiences – known as “deep breathing” and “visualization” involve carefully sitting and breathing slowly through your nose and out your mouth, while holding for a few seconds in the middle. Deep breathing can be combined with visualization, which involves imagining yourself in a happy place and focusing on all of your senses (sights, smells, sounds, touch). These techniques are effective, but can take as long as a month or more of practice before they feel natural.
  • Positive Distractions – Studies are starting to look at the role of distraction in the stress reduction process. It was previously believed that during times of stress it’s best to be alone with your thoughts. But in reality, your thoughts are often colored by your mental health issues, turning your thoughts into your enemy. Positive distractions are a healthy way to ensure that you’re not overly focused on your thoughts. Turning on the TV for noise, listening to the radio, walking in a colorful environment – all of these may be advantageous. Just make sure that what you’re watching or listening to (or where you’re walking) have no negative influences. Choose sitcoms over dramas, for example, since the key is to be watching something good natured, not something also stressful.
  • Exercise – Exercise is beneficial for more than just your physical health. It releases neurotransmitters and improves hormone function, and studies have shown that it is very effective for those dealing with mental stresses and bipolar disorder.

Despite these ideas, a large part of your own stress reduction is going to be dependent on practice – not just with what you decide to do (exercise, etc.), but also in how you learn to handle the stresses in your life. The more you motivate yourself to take action and overcome your stress, the more your brain will depend on itself to heal, and that can only be beneficial for your ability to control bipolar disorder.




Are Your Personal Boundaries Strong?

Flying picI’ve been thinking about personal boundaries. I’ve been told by people who understand and teach about them, that I don’t always exhibit behaviors that indicate that I have “strong” boundaries. I have no idea what that means, so I’m researching the topic. I want to decide for myself if personal boundaries are worth having, or if boundaries are just an arbitrary construct that people use to make themselves feel unique and separate from others.

Try to envision an imaginary wall that separates you from others. According to some psychologists, this wall allows you to have a strong and healthy identity and sense of yourself as a separate individual. It allows you to have a unique identity so that you don’t blend into or take on other peoples feelings. According to Dr. Burgess, who is an expert on bipolar disorder, people with bipolar disorder often have “leaky” walls and boundaries. Leaky boundaries can cause you to feel that you are responsible for others happiness and success. Leaky walls can make you feel as though the other person’s emotions are yours and that you are responsible for them. You can feel so intertwined with others that you can not separate yourself easily. You may take on their problems, emotions, and responsibilities to your own detriment. Frankly, I have enough problems of my own and I’m way too selfish to take on other peoples problems. I do have empathy sometimes but I’m not a pushover. Well – there was this one time…..but it was a lost dog and not a person, so it doesn’t count!

Julie Fuimano says, “personal boundaries are lines you draw that define your values. They are not walls to shut people out, but rather limits that keep the unwanted behaviors of others from entering your space. Boundaries are essential for personal health. They act as filters, permitting what’s acceptable into your life and keeping other elements out. Your boundaries are about what others may say or do to you or in your presence”. That sounds reasonable to me. No one wants to be around annoying people who behave badly. Unless you are at a wild party and everyone is really, really drunk. But that’s the exception to the rule. Right?

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says “A personal boundary is a space around yourself that gives you a clear sense of who you are and where you’re going. When you choose who you allow into your physical, emotional, and mental space you’re activating your personal boundaries”. That’s interesting. I’m very particular about who I spend time with and who I allow into my space. Right now only about four people in total and that’s on a good day!

Pia Mellody, author of Facing Codependence , created a list of physical and internal boundary violations. I try to avoid doing any of the behaviors listed below, do you? What about the people you are close to, and the people you associate with? Do they violate your personal boundaries?

Physical Boundary Violations

  • Standing too close to a person without his/her permission.
  • Touching a person without his/her permission.
  • Getting into a person’s personal belongings such as one’s purse, wallet, journal, mail, and closet.
  • Listening to a person’s personal conversations or telephone conversations without his/her permission.
  • Not allowing a person to have privacy or violating a person’s right to privacy.
  • Exposing others to physical illness due to your having a contagious disease.

Internal Boundary Violations

  • Yelling and screaming
  • Name calling
  • Ridiculing a person
  • Lying
  • Breaking a commitment
  • Patronizing a person
  • Telling a person how he/she should be or what he/she should do (Negative Control)
  • Being sarcastic
  • Shaming a person

My friend, Margaret, read this article and responded by saying, “I believe boundaries help define our notion of self, and we then respect ourselves as do others in our lives: family, friends, and people at work. But underneath that, we have to know who that self really is on many levels. So who we are is the important question, and the boundaries will naturally follow once we have ascertained that.”

My take-away from briefly researching the topic of personal boundaries is that you must know yourself and what you can live with. Communicate your boundaries to others so that they know exactly what behaviors you will tolerate. Demand conformance to your boundaries. Believe in your boundaries and without reserve, enforce them when they are violated.