Managing Stress and Anxiety When Bipolar Disorder Seems to Have Control

For many with bipolar disorder, one of the most limiting of symptoms is Stress. There is nothing quite like being in the grip of a panic attack when everything seems so at risk and yet so silly. For many with this condition, the uneasiness and worry that comes from anxiety can make it nearly impossible to know right from wrong much less to know how to handle the emotions they are feeling. It can make a person feel helpless.

Know It’s Common

Perhaps the most important thing for men and women with bipolar disorder is to realize that anxiety and stress are common symptoms of this condition. According to some studies, in fact, up to 60 percent of those with bipolar suffer from both symptoms. Not everyone has full blown panic attacks – the studies only indicate that about 30 percent with this disorder do, in fact.

Taxing Your Already Spent Emotions

Those struggling with bipolar often have spent emotions. Adding stressful situations and anxiety attacks to the mix only worsens that way a person feels. There are times when stressful situations are unavoidable. You can do something, though. In fact, it is the simplest of things that will make the biggest improvement in the way you feel and your outlook in those moments when you feel nothing can go right.

The Relaxation Response

One option is the Relaxation Response. Developed by a psychologist, this method provides a method to manage stress. In fact, the concept behind it is that stress is one of the most manageable symptoms for bipolar disorder sufferers. Imagine that – you can control the way you feel.

To understand how it works better, consider the body’s natural instincts in situations of threat. Thousands of years ago, when the mechanisms of flight or fright were developed, they were designed to give people the ability to make a decision. Should I stay and fight or should I run from this impending danger? Back then, the risks involved other humans, nature, or animals. However, the same mechanisms the body uses to make this decision, and the impending response behind it, are the same as the stress buildup that happens when you are dealing with a difficult situation.

In flight or fright, the body’s mechanisms build to allow the individual’s most important organs to work their best. For example, the functions of some organs, such as the kidneys and liver, slow. The brain diverts the blood flow and energy to the legs, arms and heart so that you can run harder and faster or fight with all of your force.

Today, stress is different. A physical threat is less likely but what is likely is a feeling that is similar to fight or flight. The body reacts in the same way. That is a good thing because it gives the brain the extra power it needs to manage the situation. The problem is, it is only good in small doses. Today, people live in such stressful situations that they are constantly in this fight or fright stage – and that is bad news.

With the Relaxation Response, it is possible to calm the brain and use all five senses in a better way to control their stress and anxiety response. Deep breathing exercises can help to calm a racing heart. Visualizing a pleasant scene can help to break the mind away from the stressful situation.

What Can This Really Do?

For bipolar disorder suffers, it provides an opportunity to break the feeling of anxiety without having to medicate for it or break away from the task at hand. It helps to slow the metabolism, relax muscles, reduce breathing, lower blood pressure and slow the heartbeat. In short, it brings anxiety symptoms under control.

There’s Much More

There is plenty more than women and men can do to control stress and anxiety so that their other bipolar symptoms do not worsen. For example, simply having someone to talk to about chronic stress can help. It provides a sense of relief. In addition, gaining a sense of priority in stressful situations can help. Simply pulling back and determining what is most important to handle right now can help to bring clarity to a moment. Being able to control some aspect of the events occurring, can be helpful.

Those with bipolar disorder may suffer from anxiety and stress more frequently than others do. Nevertheless, there are steps individuals can learn to improve the way they feel in the moment. Gaining that bit of control can sometimes make all of the difference.

Submitted by: Tracy Rosecrans

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