Category : Treatments

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.

 

 

 

What Can Trigger a Bipolar Episode?

Bipolar Disorder TreatmentBipolar Disorder is a genetic condition but it may not express itself even if you carry the gene(s) for it. It is widely believed that a triggering event in the environment coupled with a genetic predisposition towards the illness is needed for the disorder to express itself. The disorder can remain dormant for many years. Although it often begins to rear its ugly head in late adolescence.

After the initial trigger(s) activate the genes and the illness, it then presents as major mood swings that come and go over varying periods of time. These are called episodes. Every individual has their own unique triggers that can activate  an episode. Although everyone is different and there are a variety of manifestations of the illness, many of the triggers are common and shared. For example, lack of sleep is often a trigger for a manic episode.

Again, even though the illness has a strong genetic component thought of as the underlying cause of the disease it may take a triggering event for the Bipolar Disorder to actually manifest itself. Trauma can trigger the disorder as well as travelling to a different time zone. Other common triggers include stress, hormones, and even taking street drugs. I’ve found that mood stabilizing medications are the key to keeping the episodes from recurring so quickly, and key to keeping them less intense and shorter in duration.