Bipolar Life-Bipolar With a Side of Anxiety

Anxiety? You forgot to mention that.

Once upon a time, in a land far away there lived a much younger Lisa with Bipolar Disorder (BD). She entered a period between mania and depression when suddenly an unknown force viciously smacked her down deep in her chest. This force restricted her breathing, causing an embarrassing collapse in the middle of the busy rush…at the bank.

Unfortunately, this was no fairytale. With no warning and only a few months after my first hospitalization, I encountered my first anxiety attack. This attack came after a stressful situation involving a fund transfer and delay that was unexpected. The relentless pounding in my chest created a paralyzing episode right in the middle of the bank.

In 1921, Dr. Emil Kraepelin, a pioneer in psychology, described Bipolar Disorder. In his description, Dr. Kraepelin explained two terms-anxious mania and excited depression. I experience both. Imagine my surprise in learning it was common for bipolar and anxiety to affect individuals simultaneously. However, they forgot to explain this fact until I collapsed in the bank. Whoops!

Fortunately for my care team, I have a calm and patient attitude towards evolving mental health issues. After being educated and coping techniques, I slowly managed anxiety.

Implementing strategies to my care plan was essential. I have listed some of those tips below:

#1 Deep breathing

My personal favorite is deep breathing. When first introduced to deep breathing exercises, I questioned how taking a breath would help. Our body has two opposing peripheral nervous systems. These systems are the sympathetic system, which initiates that fight-or-flight response; and the calming parasympathetic system, which slows things down. When anxiety accelerates at full throttle, the parasympathetic system is the brake needed to combat the powerful throttle.

If you haven’t tried this exercise, I recommend you add it to your routine. I receive the most benefit when lying on my back in a quiet room with dimmed lighting.

  • Place a pillow under your head and take in a few normal breaths. Close your eyes and quiet your mind (the best you can. I know this battle well).
  • Place one hand on your tummy and the other on your chest.
  • Breathe in through your nose and feel your tummy rise as you inhale.
  • Exhale through your nose as you feel your tummy lower.
  • Repeat a few times.

I like to take 30 minutes and create a space of intense meditation.

2. Monitor your sleep!

Interrupted sleep escalates fatigue and concentration issues. I learned (the hard way) that it might open the door for a manic episode. If anxiety begins, the inability to sleep follows. To avoid this misstep in managing my BD, I follow a strict routine, which ushers in REM high-quality sleep.

Headphones are necessary. They make a headband style headset for those who find buds uncomfortable. Since my use is solely for cutting all other sounds, I use earbuds on a low setting.  Studies show a possible correlation with earbuds and hearing loss when used inappropriately and at high levels. I listen to a short documentary followed by eight hours of white noise. Again, this is my routine meant to encourage you to find one that works best for you. Additional to sound relief, I use a mask to relieve light sensitivity. Dress comfortably and keep the room at a temperature that will not disrupt that comfort. Try to go to bed at the same time each night.

3. Reduce caffeine and alcohol

Due to kidney stones, I cut caffeine from my diet years ago. For some caffeine is life! Unfortunately, caffeine may be a culprit in kick-starting your anxiety. Limit your caffeine craze and stop consumption by noon. Conversely, to the effects of caffeine, alcohol works in the opposite way as a ‘downer’. Limiting both caffeine and alcohol may help the anxiety-filled bipolar patient.

4. Control your thoughts

We have little control in this world, but the one thing we can tackle and be victorious over is our thoughts. Turn the negative thoughts and fears into positive thoughts of hope and confidence. This requires determination and will power.  Success happens over time (not overnight).

I feel anxiety is a nuisance. It arrives unexpected and unwelcomed. After practicing these steps to help myself and participate in my own care, I have been able to manage anxiety. This may seem unattainable.

If this is your attitude, I recommend you visit #4!

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