Monday, February 09, 2009

Coping Techniques for Bipolar Disorder

Hey, y'all --

Well, today I have a lot of work to do, so of course the stress is standin'-a-knockin'at my bipolar front door. Will or will I not answer? Ah, that is the question. So I have to pull out my "bipolar toolbox" of coping techniques for stress, and do my best to ward off the evil stress-demon!

I have this stress-sigh. I don't know where I picked it up. Nobody taught it to me, it just started happening to me one day, when I was under a lot of pressure. It's this really deep sigh. I take this big breath (usually shaky, from all the nervousness), as deep as I can, then I blow it all out. Sometimes it takes a bunch of these till I feel calm again, but it helps.

I've heard of other techniques where they tell you to do this breathing exercise when you're stressed: You take a deep breath in through pursed lips (closing your eyes helps during this exercise), to the count of 5, hold your breath for a count of 5, then let out the air through your pursed lips for a count of 5. You repeat this 5 times. I've done this one many times, and it works! The reason it's easy for me to remember is because it's all 5's. I know that might sound strange, but it's true. The easier the better for me. (I'm a simple person, after all.)

They have all these relaxation techniques these days, from simple to hard. I think I've tried practically all of them, from the easiest to the one where you turn yourself into a body pretzel! :)

Dr. Louis P. Bauer has a website online at that I highly recommend for relaxation and meditation tapes. There are two of my articles (if you scroll down the homepage) on his site, and I have every one of his tapes (this was before CDs), and have used them for my bipolar disorder, when I couldn't turn off the racing thoughts. Also for stress, when I couldn't calm my body down. I'm telling you, these tapes/CDs work!

One thing I liked about them, that you can do without them (I have), is to lay down in a dark room on your bed with your eyes closed. Start with your toes, and picture them relaxing. Then slowly move up every part of your body (with the emphasis on slowly), until your whole body is relaxed. Stay that way as long as you need to, until the stress is completely gone. If it's easier for you, you can do it the opposite way, starting with the top of your head. I've done it that way, too, and it's worked just as good.

Another coping technique that goes along with that is to do the same thing as far as the dark room, bed, and closed eyes... but this time you picture yourself somewhere else. Somewhere where you feel safe and comfortable. Somewhere peaceful. All the while you picture yourself there, you're relaxed and deep breathing (choose any of the exercises that work for you). Picture yourself doing anything that makes you happy and stress-free. I like the beach, because the sound of the waves is very soothing. But you are in control of this exercise, and you can do it whatever way is good for you.

One technique that really works for me is to put on MY music. Notice I put "my" in capital letters. That's because I believe everyone has a MY music! I like all kinds of music (except opera), and a long time ago, I had my son make up a CD with all my favorite songs on it. I like to listen to that. Otherwise, what music I listen to has to do with what mood I'm in. When I'm really stressed, I put on one of my meditation CDs -- like ocean waves splashing in the background, or birds, or "sunrise," flutes, or guitars playing -- just real soothing music, or classical music or soft jazz (I love Kenny G for this).

A technique I use for racing thoughts that just won't shut off when I'm trying to go to sleep (don't laugh at this one before you try it) is: I picture a white greaseboard (although a blackboard would work just as well if you don't know what a greaseboard is). And every time a thought goes through my head, it goes on that board. Then I erase it. I keep doing that until they're gone, and I've tired myself out. At first they come fast and furious, but eventually they come slower, and then slower, and then I'm just so exhausted... well, you get the idea.

Since I have a wonderful supporter (my husband, who also has bipolar, and knows how I feel), I can talk to him about how stressed I am, and no matter how long it takes, he listens. Sometimes he has to listen for a long time, too, because I can get pretty stressed!

I can also write it out. I keep a journal, and even though it may come out in a jumble, whatever is stressing me out can go in there.

Then... if everything else fails... well, this is like admitting defeat, but I have to do it. And it is a part of my "bipolar toolbox" (and there for a reason). I have anti-anxiety medication, prescribed by my psychiatrist that I'll take if none of the above techniques works to bring down my stress levels.

But do you know what? Remember the journal technique I just wrote about? I guess blogging is kind of the same thing, because the stress I was talking about at the beginning of this post is gone, and I'm ready to go to work!

Hey, thanks for listening, and I hope some of these techniques work for you and your stress, because no stress is worth a bipolar episode.

What about you? Have you tried any other techniques that have worked on your stress and/or have helped you cope with your bipolar disorder?

If so, I'd really like to hear about them.

Wishing you peace and stability,

Remember God loves you and so do I,


At 7:33 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

I will be bookmarking this post for sure! I think I will need all the de-stressing tricks I can get for the rest of this year because..... I'm pregnant! I had been praying that it would happen quickly for us, becuase hormonal depression was awful. I'm feeling great right now, but I want to keep off meds if I can.

I do the deep breaths myself, and find that it works well for me. I used to do the full body relaxation, but haven't in a while. Thanks for the reminder, because stress is a major trigger for me and that's something I don't need right now! Thanks for your thoughts and prayers, and support.... you are awesome!

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Melissa said...

Congrats on the pregnancy Michelle. I will keep you in my prayers and thoughts.

At 9:32 AM, Blogger Michele said...

Oh my gosh, Michelle!

I am SO happy for you! When I read the news, I started grinning from ear to ear! I know how much this means to you, and I hope you'll stay close to this blog and let us all know your progress, especially because of your meds. I'm so glad your doctor is following you so closely as far as that goes.

I'm glad the post helped you so much. You're going into a stressful time being pregnant, so those exercises are really going to help you (not being negative, just being realistic).

Congratulations, sweetheart!


At 12:22 PM, Blogger Life on the Edge said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Life on the Edge said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Life on the Edge said...

Thanks for your great ideas. Sorry for the deleted posts-I was trying to leave a link to my blog about why I'm glad I have bipolar disorder.

At 12:24 AM, Blogger Delvin Moore-Crane said...

What if the stress comes from memories you find painful


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