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Are you stressed? Saturday July 26, 2014

The clearest thing I remember the psychiatrist saying to me when I was diagnosed with type II bipolar disorder in 2012 was 'you MUST keep stress levels down'. Easier said than done as we all know, but it's something that I've taken with me and tried to live by ever since, although almost impossible at times with a busy life, two very energetic young boys and recently, an even more energetic puppy!

Yet I think we would all agree that the psychiatrist has a very valid point. The impact of stress on us all in the modern world is huge and can lead to all sorts of problems with physical and mental health. The bipolar episodes I'd been experiencing on a virtually non-stop cycle for at least 2 years when I saw this psychiatrist were in no small part linked to stress – work stress, family stress and a lot of relationship problems that had been ongoing for a few years, thankfully now resolved. I was mentally burnt out, totally exhausted and very frightened about what was happening to me and from what I have read since my diagnosis, bipolar and stress have a very common - and strong - link.

In trying to take the psychiatrist's advice on board since that time, I have learnt that I have to do certain things in order to keep well, whilst I cannot do other things now.

Getting enough sleep and fresh air, good diet, medication at the right time and watching alcohol intake are all a must (boring at times – the 20 year-old party girl of the past would be horrified!) whereas very late nights or drinking-only nights out are a no-no now, it's just not worth the fall out for the next few days. Of course it all slips now and then (and it's bliss to relinquish that control sometimes, like on holiday!) but on the whole, life stays happier, calmer and more stable trying to stick with what I know helps.

And on the subject of saying no, it's another thing I've learnt can be a powerful tool in stress management and reduction, but I'm sure that's another blog!!

A Moodscope member.

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Julia Sat, Jul 26th 2014 @ 6:48pm

"saying no!" Thank you for reminding us all, Rachel (one time party girl!) that it's OK to say no. Also stress is so pivotal to my low moods and avoiding it pivotal to feeling better but most of us are drawn to stress like there's no tomorrow. I wonder why?

Anonymous Sat, Jul 26th 2014 @ 9:42pm

Yes, I wonder why? Because it's fashionable?; because we would be seen as lazy & unproductive if we didn't live 24/7; the protestant work ethic? (big one!); we have to be lively, attractive, clever, ? we are worthless if we are not seen to be busy?; seeking to be loved & unsure that we are loved?; We could go on and on! No wonder the Eastern religions are beckoning with mindfulness and meditation! Well, I believe I was created for a purpose and that I am loved. I do not have to earn that love. That love is unconditional. I am not perfect - never will be this side of heaven, but I am forgiven! I do not bow to the stress anymore of having to say 'Yes' when it suits me to say 'No'. Hurray! Enjoy the freedom folks! Gillxx

Julia Sun, Jul 27th 2014 @ 7:54am

Hi Gill.Yes I am sure your answers to why we are drawn to stress are absolutely correct. Interesting! I am glad since your diagnosis Rachel, you are learning to handle stress better and things are improving despite 2 very energetic boys and the puppy! I am wondering why the response to your very interesting blog was minimal yesterday. It could be the nice weather, holidays etc. This has happened to my blogs in the past.Maybe there were so technical issues but I actually was so busy yesterday I only read it in the early evening. Depending on what Caroline thinks, perhaps you could re send it for another day and write more about saying no?

heather Sun, Jul 27th 2014 @ 2:30pm

Hello Rachel (and Julia), I was out and about yesterday (Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary in Shere, it was their Summer Fair - wonderful day).
I was glad I did not delete your blog today as I was about to, as I am Bipolar 2 (for 40 years) and had never really connected it with stress (strange). I though stress was just a bug bear that affected everyone similarly but I shall be more watchful in future. Don't forget that very many people have read your blog but maybe didn't have time to comment. Love Heather

Julia Sun, Jul 27th 2014 @ 4:13pm

Hello Heather. Rachel's blog was interesting the more one thinks about it, the more intriguing it is. I agree many people will have read her blog but didn't have time to reply. I am a firm believer that stress build up in childhood does or can lead to mental health problems (and physical ones too) in later life.I suppose what you are saying Rachel is that stress which is prolonged can eventually be a trigger for bi polar. We seem attracted to stress for the reasons Gill says above. I used to think my life would be very boring without it in fact. Oh well..back to the French sunshine and a lazy stress free day. What a change that makes..

Anonymous Wed, Jul 30th 2014 @ 11:27am

Hi all and thanks for the nice comments, I probably didn't make it fully clear in my blog but I have always taken the psychiatrist's comment to mean differentiating between 'normal' stress so to speak ie the everyday stresses we all go through and allow us to function as opposed to the unhealthy type stress that can have a hugely detrimental impact on our mental and/ or physical health. From what I understand bipolar stems from a whole range of physiological and external factors and episodes can often be or appear more randomly but 'bad' stress can be a trigger so I think his point was to try and keep that at a minimal level could reduce the frequency/length/severity of future episodes! Medication helps too of course but he emphasised its not a cure all. I think in a nutshell it's a case of prolonged or severe stress = feeling life's out of control = moods out of control = risk of episode of hypo mania or depression being triggered - hope that makes sense! Keeping life on as calm and even a keel as possible helps and I think that does work, when able to do it! Rachel

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