Tag Archives: Stress

To stress or not to stress…

This post is a follow up from Coping with stress

Photo credit:  purplemattfish

Since stress is a given in life and no one is immune to it,   we better learn to deal with it in a way that builds us up instead of tears us down.

First we need to identify where our stress is coming from.   There are two main factors:
External factors: work;  relationships;  family;  moving house;   getting married;  getting a baby.
Internal factors: nutrition;  emotional well-being;  sleep & rest;   overall health and fitness.

Some questions
We have to ask ourselves some questions where we look at our habits and attitude to life.   For instance:
How are our sleeping and eating habits working for us?
How do we approach life’s events?
Who in our opinion is responsible for dealing with the stress in our life?

Enter Bipolar Disorder
In this respect,   we as bipolars are already dealing with a lot of internal and external stress by default.  Our emotional well-being is not a given,   instead it is the biggest challenge in our lives to achieve.

As far as sleep habits go,  I know for myself that it changes as much as the direction of the wind,  as do my eating habits.   My overall health usually leaves something to be desired and my exercise is mostly lacking.

We,  as well as those around us,  are often dealing with challenges concerning relationships,  including family relationships,  because of our bipolar.   Having a job and keeping it can be a challenge in itself.   We don’t do too well with change.  Even the stupid changes of day-light-savings-time can be a disturbing factor!

What can we (as in:  all of us)  do?

Furthermore, it is important to locate the stressors and to know what we can or can’t do. Where possible, we change the situation by either avoiding or altering the stressor. If we can’t change the situation, we need to change our response by adapting or accepting the stressor.  (Quote)

Avoid the stressor
For instance,  if I am not doing well with big gatherings,  I need to make a choice in attending a family gathering,  party or other social function.   Is it absolutely necessary that I attend or is it acceptable if I don’t?

Recently,   I made the choice not to join the youth to an event where 30.000 youth will be gathered.  As a youth leader,  it is beneficial for me to be there and experience it with the youth together.  Yet,   I don’t handle big crowds very well,  let alone thát big of a crowd!

Thankfully,  there are enough other youth leaders and/or parents who will go,  so I get to stay home.  Thus I am able to avoid the stressor.

Alter a stressor
On another occasion,   our church had organized a long weekend away to spend some quality time together as a church.  I really wanted to go,   but had a lot of stressors to deal with at the time.   This meant I needed a place to be by myself,  have time to rest,  be away from the crowd.

After explaining my situation,  it then was solved by the organizers and I was to share an apartment with a small family, together with a good friend of mine.  Normally those apartments are solely for families.   The normal situation being altered,  made it possible for me to join the get-away.   And as it turned out,  I did use the apartment when I needed it.

Adapt to a stressor
For this year’s church get-away I have considered to adapt and camp instead of being housed.  This would have worked well,   since I would have my own tent.  Together with my earplugs  (a lot of the families like to camp)   it would have had my own little place.

Unfortunately,   there are other circumstances that prevent me from going this year.  We are only going from Friday night till Sunday lunch time. That is a very short time to make so many changes,   especially as I have just started a voluntary job and have to be back at work on Monday at 10 o’clock.

Accept the stressor
When my father passed away last Summer,   I had to learn to accept that nothing was going to change between us anymore.  Up till that point,   I still had hope that some day,   something might change in our relationship (which was unfortunately very dysfunctional and necessarily distant in time and place).  With his passing,  I knew that was not going to happen ever.

Even though it robbed me of my hope,  at the same time it set me free.   I didn’t have to try anymore,  I could let go and simply be.   No more (false) responsibilities to carry about our relationship.   On this side of life it is all over.  I am still doing my grieving, but accepting?  It turned out that it wasn’t so hard.  Surprisingly to me.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,  courage to change the things I can,  and wisdom to know the difference.

Serenity Prayer

Good read:

Stress management ~ How to reduce,  prevent,  and cope with stress.

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Coping with stress

Meaning of the word stress

According to the dictionary,  stress is:

  • a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense
  • a difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension

Suspense, according to the dictionary,  is apprehension about what is going to happen.  Synonyms for suspense:

  • apprehension;  dread
  • doubt;  uncertainty;
  • anticipation;  expectancy

Consequences of stress

Our body is designed to deal with stress like it deals with a (perceived) threat.  You are probably familiar with the three responses:

  • Fight
  • Flight
  • Freeze

Our body is pumped up with adrenaline and other hormones to prepare us to be able to either fight or flee,  whichever is needed.  When we feel overwhelmed,  we freeze.  Once the (perceived) emergency is over,  our body has to work hard to deal with the fall out and to calm things down.

The effects of stress on our overall health is well-known.  Our immune,  cardiovascular,  neuroendocrine and central nervous systems suffer.  Where it only takes a moment for our body to be ready to fight or flee,  it takes much longer to reach the equilibrium we need to be and stay healthy.

When stress becomes a chronic feature in our lives,  just imagine what damage this will do to our body.  A lot of the damage we might not notice at first,  but we are sure to notice it later.  Arteries thicken,  brain cells die,  blood pressure raises,  risk of heart attack and stroke increases and the list goes on.

Recovering from stress

Our body wants to obtain the state of homeostasis.

Homeostasis is the state of metabolic equilibrium between the stimulating and the tranquilizing chemical forces in your body.

If the stimulating chemical forces are tipping the scale,  we are in trouble.  So are we when the tranquilizing chemical forces have the upper hand.

Those of us with bipolar disorder are pretty familiar with balancing the scales of our emotions.  Adding stress to the mix can easily tip one of the scales to a position we definitely don’t like.  When that happens,  the time it takes us to ‘recover’ and obtain a measure of equilibrium is what tells us how well we are doing.

Did you hear that?  The deciding factor on how well we are doing is NOT the fact that our scales are tipping either side.  The deciding factor is the time we need to recover and obtain some measure of balance.

In order to recover faster we are learning tools to handle our bipolar and everything else that comes with it.

Stress is not all bad

Photo credit:  Rick

Both stress as well as suspense do not necessarily have purely negative connotations attached to their meaning. Stress can cause tension and strain,  but it can also cause anticipation and expectancy.

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain OR a state of mental or emotional suspense.

What or who decides which it is going to be: strain or anticipation?

Stress is a difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension.

What or who decides what stress is going to cause?

It seems to center around what is going to happen. Meaning that the actual event is in the future.  So we don’t know yet what it is going to be.  It could be bad OR good!

One of the things it (stress) does is to release norepinephrine, one of the principal excitatory neurotransmitters. Norepinephrine is needed to create new memories. It improves mood. Problems feel more like challenges, which encourages creative thinking that stimulates your brain to grow new connections within itself. Stress management is the key, not stress elimination.

Stress management

Managing stress is finding a strategy to deal with it that works for you.  Since we are all unique,  what works for you might not work for me.  But rest assured that there is always a way we can learn to deal with stress and whatever else life decides to throw at us.

You see,  what is really important here is how we respond to stress.  Remember how stress can relate to dread (fear),  doubt and uncertainty?  But it is also related to anticipation and expectation.

What is it gonna be for you?  Being stressed or enjoying dessert?

Follow-up blog post:  To stress or not to stress

For further reading:

Understanding stress

Renew ~ Stress on the brain

Mama’s Losin’ It

If you really knew me, you would know that…

I love to pick words apart by using the dictionary!

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